Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You're Wearing That?

If I had a book club like Oprah, I would recommend that all mothers and grown daughters read this book by Deborah Tannen. It explains so much about what makes the mother/daughter relationship so difficult and rewarding at the same time. The book asks the question, "Do we ever stop caring what our mothers think?" and suggests that even after our mothers are gone there will still be situations where we will find ourselves asking, "What would my mother think of this?"
"A daughter wants to feel that her mother is proud of her, thinks she's okay. So any evidence that her mother's approval is less than total can be hurtful, and hurt can swiftly convert to anger. But how could a mother think her daughter is perfect, doing everything right, every moment? All human beings could improve in some ways at some times, and people close to us are the most likely to see those ways. This means that the closer a mother is to her daughter, the more opportunities she sees for improvement--all the more because she wants to see things go well for her. But anything she says to help her daughter calls attention to perceived weaknesses, and that is the opposite of approval."
This book was so relevant for me right now as I can understand both points of view. As a daughter, I still seek my mother's approval while as a mother Katelyn and I are starting to clash on ideas about how she should act, dress and fix (or not fix) her hair etc. The author says that most daughters she interviewed for the book felt that the number one thing moms criticized them about was their hair! Why do we as mothers care so much about how our children(especially girls) look? She reasons that it is because one of the criteria by which we as mothers are judged is the appearance of our children-they represent us to the world. If they don't look "presentable", we are not doing our job as a mother. This was so funny to me because my kids have actually said to me..."Mom, we don't want to wear these clothes. We don't always have to look 'decent'."
Here is the catch 22 of a mother/daughter relationship:
The main complaint from daughters about their mothers: She is always criticizing me. The main complaint from mothers about their daughters: I can't open my mouth, she takes everything as criticism. THAT is why it's difficult!


Jenay said...

Hey Ria, I am a lurker on your site, via Bonnie Stafford's blog. I just had to comment on today's post. I'm going to run out and buy that book tonight! It's amazing how much I still rely on my Mom's positive feedback... It drives my husband insane, he just doesn't understand why I care so much about what she thinks. Great post, thanks for sharing!

TBRKO said...

I have to say, one thing my mom and dad never did was comment on my appearance...other than random comments that I had too much makeup on from my dad.
Even though we didn't bicker about that stuff, it's amazing how empowered we as women feel when we know we have our parents' approval.

Ria said...

Thanks for your comment Jenay. It's always nice to know who is reading our blogs. (I read yours too.)The thing I liked most about the book is that I always thought I was alone in feeling "overly-sensitive" to comments from my mom, but it turns out it really is a valid issue for many daughters!