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Can Mothers and Daughters Be True Friends, or Just Peers?

Some mothers and daughters have a perfectly fine peer relationship, but they never quite advance to the level of real friends that is differentiated by a genuine affinity for one another and a sharing of spirit and soul.

Dr. Lucy Rose Fisher, who studied successful peer-like mother-daughter relationships, identifies five qualities that are characteristic of this type of friendship. These pairs of mothers and daughters…

  1. Are realistic and objective with respect to one another.
  2. Are significantly involved in one another's life.
  3. Are able to maintain their separate boundaries.
  4. Value their own independence and are respectful of the other's.
  5. Are conscious of not being too dependent on one another.

Candidates for Heartfelt Friendships

Researcher, Karen L. Fingerman, Ph.D., makes a valid point when she says that mothers and daughters will never be at the same stage at the same time. While this affects aspects of their relationship and distinguishes intergenerational pairs from friends who are chronological contemporaries, there are many women who have significant, true, and meaningful friendships with older and younger women. In that respect friendship defies the boundaries of age.

Woman to Woman

Now here is an interesting discovery. While we noted that daughters who became mothers suddenly reconnected with their moms in a way that daughters without children didn't, we must also note that parenthood does not appear to be a significant factor in mothers and daughters forming adult friendships with each other. In fact, some say that the arrival of children actually dilutes the importance of a daughter's mother in her life because her own system of support has widened.

Furthermore, there are a number of other factors that effectively bridge the generation gap. Other researchers believe that mothers and daughters have a natural affinity to become friends because they share the same history and biology, know each other very well, and overwhelmingly express the desire to become friends. These pairs have the luxury of being their naked selves in a relationship without having to be concerned with social pretense or chatter just to fill spaces of silence.

But the women who have the best capacity to be friends with their mom, according to a study by Jane B. Abramson, author of Mothermania, a Psychological Study of Mother-Daughter Conflicts (Lexington Books, 1987), have been well-mothered, lead rich lives, have self-esteem, are successful, and express psychological well-being.

Friendship Blockers

Elements that block the formation of friendships between some mothers and daughters include…

  • The inability by daughters to tolerate or accept Mom's bad, as well as her good, qualities.
  • Their inability to give up the rigid confines of mother-daughter roles.
  • A lack of natural affinity or love that encourages true intimacy.
  • The unwillingness or inability to give up old gripes or poor legacies, create better patterns of interaction, or change.
  • A lack of emotional and supportive reciprocity.
  • The absence of mutual interest in all aspects of each other's lives.

These are the most prominent blockers. Significant others reside with pairs of mothers and daughters who have not yet reached a level of autonomy and equity.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mothers and Daughters © 2001 by Rosanne Rosen. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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