Mother-Daughter Workshops: An Interactive Encounter

Vignette I

Mother: “Your strengths are that you are independent, self-assured, and very

loving.

Daughter: “You see, you are doing it again, you don’t think it’s strength that I’m independent. You hate that about me because you can’t control me.”

Mother: “What I want to understand most about you is why you push me away all the time, why don’t you tell me what’s going on in your life? Why are you so distant when I call you up and ask about your day? I feel like I’m trying to have a closer relationship and you don’t want anything to do with me. I would do anything for you.”

Mother: “I’m trying to rebuild my life after your father left me. I know I might depend on you for companionship but I don’t mean to overburden you. You have good ideas and are fun to be with and I just want to spend more time together.”

Daughter: “Mom, your strengths are that you are giving, intelligent and sensitive.”

(Mother gets tearful.)

Daughter: “”Why are you so hurt by my independence? Sometimes I’m willing to share with you, but when you call me 3 times a day and ask what I ate for dinner, that doesn’t feel like you are about me or my life. It’s superficial and feels controlling. Ask me how I feel about things, and do it at a time when I want to talk. If I always feel pressured to spend time with you, I’m not going to want to. Trust that I love you and care about you and I’m not rejecting you if I don’t want to talk to you or see you for a week. It’s not a friendship we have. It’s a mother-daughter relationship and I want to keep it that way.”

Daughter: “I have a good life, a job, friends, and a boyfriend, and these things take up most of my time. I care about you but you have to get your own life and stop living through me. Also, I want you to understand that I don’t always tell you if things aren’t going well for me because you take it on as your problem and then I end up having to make you feel better about it. I don’t want the stress of worrying about myself and the impact my problems will have on you.”

Vignette II

Daughter: “Since you got remarried a year ago, [her brother] and I aren’t

important to you anymore. We used to be so close – now you criticize whatever I do. Just last week, I got my hair cut and you told me, ‘How can you do that, you were so beautiful with long hair’.”

Mother: “It’s true, I just got remarried and I’m very happy being married now, I have made changes and I want to be respected for those changes! This is the first time in my forty-seven years that I’m finding my own voice. I got so angry with you about your hair because I felt you cut if off because of your boyfriend, and that’s what I did for many years. I react to things in you that I don’t like about myself. I act protective so you won’t repeat my mistakes.”

Daughter: “I had to stop talking to you (for the past seven weeks) because I couldn’t stand the pressure you put on me.”

Leader: “I notice tears (to another daughter). Can you tell us how this is

resonating for you?”

Another daughter with an impassioned plea: “You should feel lucky that you can have this communication. My mother can’t be here because she is mentally ill. I don’t have a mother that I can talk to about this stuff, because of her illness. Don’t even close off this opportunity. Look at the two of you, at least you are here. You care enough about one another to be having this communication.”

Another tearful mother (whose daughter did not attend the workshop): “I feel like I keep knocking and knocking on the door and you (to the daughters) keep slamming the door in my face. I feel like I’m a doormat. If I have to keep knocking and there is no answer, at some point, I’m going to stop because it hurts too much, and I’m afraid that will be the time when you really need me.”

Another mother (towards the daughter with the mentally ill mother): “I’d like to share something personal that can help you. Not all of us are blessed with being born to a mother who is adequate as a mother. It’s natural to want a mother as a part of your life.”

Daughter (who began this dialogue): “I really appreciate hearing mothers and daughters and this gives me courage not to break off the relationship with you (to her mother), but to try to mend it. The other voices in the room really help me to value this relationship and not to feel so defensive. I can begin to think about why my mother might be angry with me and not just why I’m angry with my mother.”

Vignette III (Towards the end of a workshop)

Daughter: “I’m feeling very anxious about leaving today. (To her mother) I’m

afraid you’re going to want to discuss this and analyze it. I see you even taking notes. I’m telling you right now, I don’t want to talk about it. I want to go to the gym. This is very valuable but I want to process it and make sense of it for myself. You are going to say it was a waste of time if I don’t talk to you about it.” (The group laughs.)

Mother: “I do want to talk about it.” (A lot of nodding in agreement from other mothers.)

Leader: “The idea is that the daughter feels an intrusion with mother’s wish to discuss the workshop and mother feels controlled by daughter refusal to talk about it. How is this going to get resolved?”

Mother (to daughter): “You are wrong, I would not say it’s a waste of time. I just want some assurance that we will talk about it in the future.”

Daughter: “Agreed, but not right now.”