Like Mother, Like Daughter
Usually, girls are likened to their fathers, “daddy’s little princess”, as they are often called. However, the bond between a mother and her daughter is also not to be undermined. The equation not only evolves with time, but has several deep psychological implications as well. A profound insight into the intricacies of this relationship can be quite fascinating.
When a mother gives birth to a baby girl, she sees her own reflection in her. Her childhood days, her repressed urges, her unresolved conflicts, her subconscious desires, all resurface in the form of her baby. While she unknowingly wants the daughter to become like her, she also feels insecure about the survival of her daughter, as she dreads her daughter too will have to go through the same ordeals that she has confronted in different stages of her life. Mothers are often disappointed when they realize their daughters are in fact, quite different from them. She feels vulnerable with her unfulfilled wishes that she had intended to project onto her daughter.
Daughters on the other hand, look up to their mothers as their role model, and in their growing years, often experience an identity crisis when they fail to relate to their mothers completely. Thus, the dynamics of the relationship matures and undergoes several complications in due course of time. The mother-daughter relationship from an early stage is a crucial factor in determining her self-esteem, mental health and psychological well-being. Free communication and easy exchange of ideas will ensure that the daughter grows up with higher life-satisfaction and is able to form healthier and long-lasting relationships. As she herself grows up to be a young woman, she comes to view her mother not simply as her mother but as another woman with similar problems and experiences. In fact, studies have revealed that daughters continue to follow the footsteps of their mothers and seek their approval till later stages of their lives.
Thus, mothers are the closest friends for their daughters. There is an immense level of interdependence and exchange of opinions and sentiments between them, that in turn affects the different facets of their lives. Be it career choices or the men they choose to date, mothers influence their life-decisions to a great extent. Mothers see their daughters as extensions of their own selves, and the high level of identification leads her to transfer her own values and ideals onto her daughter, which she often easily internalizes. Not only is there a huge level of expectation from each other, but a daughter comes to form her autonomy and identity from the fundamental things she learns from her mother. The latter aids the daughter to understand the various ambiguities and socio-cultural implications of womanhood. Research on mothers and daughters have shown that mother’s experiences and perceptions affect daughter’s perspectives and her sense of the self. The latter derives a sense of nourishment, tenderness and security with her mother.
Psychoanalytic theory claims that a daughter’s primary love object is her mother. However, in her early years, she also develops an unconscious feeling on envy and rivalry with her mother as she vies for the sole attentions and affection of her father. This is termed as the Electra Complex. If a daughter experiences conflict between differentiations, developing self and maintaining the attachment with her mother, the relationship between mother and daughter can be ambivalent. However, this ambivalence is itself significant in a girl’s life. How she resolves this conflict and the role of the mother in helping her cope with these complex inner mechanisms, is the source of strength for the daughter. Both need each other’s support and encouragement as they fight their individual battles of preserving their self-worth and quest for healthy relationships, in order to feel fulfilled as women.