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Mother Trumps Friend
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Tears blurred my vision as I held my daughter for the first time. Instead of tears of joy, my tears came from fear. I assumed all mothers and daughters had a contentious relationship like my mother and I had, so I wanted a son. Those were my thoughts, but God had other plans. And the daughter I held that day has been such a blessing and has become a good friend in the process – but I’ve stopped short of calling her my best friend. Authors Linda Perlman Gordon and Susan Morris Shaffer agree that that has been a good idea:

“There is an old Chinese proverb that states ‘One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade,’ and this is how it should be with mothers and daughters. The intimate nature of the relationship between a mother and daughter is sometimes confusing. If close, the relationship can simulate friendship through the familiar characteristics of empathy, listening, loyalty, and caring. However, the mother/daughter relationship has unique characteristics that distinguish it from a best friendship. These characteristics include a mother’s role as primary emotional caretaker, a lack of reciprocity, and a hierarchy of responsibility. This hierarchy, combined with unconditional love, precludes mothers and daughters from being best friends.”


At one point, I allowed those lines to blur when going through a divorce from her father. I tried to pull her into my sorrow. Tried to get her to understand the intimate details of why there was a divorce and asked for advice. She was not my best friend. She was not a confidant or my therapist. And she let me know where the boundaries were.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, “Ironically in our culture, as our daughters need to feel safe now more than ever before, mothers consider the friendship role as an option, and to this end, they blur the boundaries and confuse the relationship. If you are busy being your daughter's friend, you certainly aren't protecting her, whether she is 10, 20 or 30 years old. It takes guts to stand one's ground on this topic; it takes courage to be a mother, to be harsher, stricter, tougher.” Being a mother always trumps friend.

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By Dee Litten Reed. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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