It hurts to fight with your mom.
All you want to do is get along. You want to be able to have a simple conversation without getting into an argument.
Maybe it’s too much to expect that you’d be able to support one another and celebrate each other’s wins—even though that’s supposed to be what family is for.
It can twist you up inside when you have to set strict boundaries around your relationship with your mother. It’s exhausting to keep your guard up all the time.
And who’s really at fault? You get triggered by her as much as she gets triggered by you.
You’re not the only daughter who struggles to get along with her mom. According to mother-daughter attachment expert Rosjke (pronounched Roshka) Hasseldine:
Mother-daughter relationship issues are epidemic around the world. And the reason for that is, actually, mothers and daughters are set up to fight.”
If you’re ready to look past your faults as a daughter and your mother’s faults as a mom … and you’re open to the idea that you might be caught up in an intergenerational pattern that CAN be broken … then this week’s YBTV interview is for you.
You’ll learn how Rosjke pioneered the field of mother-daughter coaching, why we feel so trapped by the need to make Mom happy, and why our mothers put so much pressure on us to follow in their footsteps.
We’ll discuss what we owe our elderly parents, what—if anything—our parents owe us, and why it’s easier to get mad at Mom than Dad.
You’ll also learn about a powerful exercise that has the potential to re-map your family relationships, setting you free to accept the mother you have rather than yearn for the mother she can’t be.
What You’ll Learn
When you look at a mother-daughter relationship … you see a window into how women are treated within their family, and particularly generationally, within the culture and society.”
It feels so personal.
Your relationship with your Mom is about you and her. It’s about your personality differences. It’s about how you rub each other the wrong way.
But Rosjke Hasseldine urges you to look at the bigger picture. Zoom out from the dynamics between the two of you. Think about your grandmother. Think about how your mother was or wasn’t supported by your father. Think about the world in which the women in your family live.
What was your mom’s relationship like with her mom? How are women in your family expected to behave? In what ways have your female family members been limited by gender roles and a lack of resources and support?
Those questions give you a context in which to place your mother-daughter conflict. They also point the way to healing.
There’s Not Enough to Go Around
Fundamentally, what mothers and daughters are fighting about is not what they think they’re fighting about. It’s not about what she said or what you did.
It’s about who gets the emotional support in the relationship.
When women’s needs are not met—or women don’t know how to meet their needs—they fight over whose needs get met in the relationship. It’s one or the other, not both, because we don’t have a concept that ALL women’s needs can be met.”
You may have never thought about your mother’s needs as a woman. We tend to see our relationships with our mothers through a transactional lens, in terms of what we do for her and what she does for us.
But your mother has needs. She needs connection, autonomy, friendship, community, status, security, achievement, purpose. The problem is, she may not be able to articulate those needs.
“Our mothers weren’t taught to know what they needed,” Rosjke says. “If you look at her mother’s generation, it was like a language was missing. What do you need? What do you feel? How can I support you? That is not a language that they knew even existed.”
So who does the responsibility for meeting Mom’s needs land on?
Not on her husband, occupied with earning a living. Not on herself, because she may not know how to fulfill her needs on her own.
Rather, the responsibility for meeting Mom’s needs falls on the daughter, usually the eldest.
The daughter’s role becomes “to listen for and fulfill Mom’s needs, but while she’s doing that, she’s not listening to her own.”
So this is a generational pattern that really needs to be ended, so that we don’t continue into the next daughter’s generation, and the next one and the next one.”
Rosjke knows this from experience.
She was the eldest daughter. She was expected to be her mother’s emotional helpmate. It was too much.
After she had a daughter of her own, she had an epiphany. She needed to understand her relationship with her mother, so that she didn’t pass down those harmful dynamics.
There wasn’t much information at the time on mother-daughter attachment. Rosjke went back to school to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology, with the goal of filling in that gap.
“I just got bitten by it,” she says. “I became so passionate. I knew then that this is what I was expected to do, called to do. This is why I have the mother I have.”
That’s not to say that Rosjke’s relationship with her mother became easy after that.
“I’ve had a number of people, including a minister of a church, say, ‘Don’t you feel guilty that your mom is not speaking to you?'”
But what she was able to do was release the guilt. It wasn’t her job to carry the weight of her mother’s expectations.
It’s endemic, that message that Daughter is supposed to make Mom happy. No, Mom is supposed to make Mom happy, and Daughter is supposed to make herself happy. We’re not responsible for each other’s happiness.”
Mad at Mom
What about Dad?
Today, fathers are expected to play a significant role in their children’s life, but that’s not how it’s always been.
In the classic housewife-breadwinner model, the father’s role was to earn a living, while the mother’s role was to raise the children. When things went wrong, it was her fault. She was responsible for socializing the children.
Even her children picked up this attitude. It was safe to get mad at Mom, because you were stuck with each other. She wasn’t going to walk out on you.
Dad, on the other hand, was never around. Getting angry at him wouldn’t do any good.
Those strict gender roles shaped how women felt about their daughters, compared to their sons.
When women experience “restrictive gender roles that limit our freedom, limit our choice, limit our power … mothers and daughters are set up to fight over their limited choices and their limited power,” Rosjke says.
Knowing that, is it okay to still feel angry with your mother?
If your anger is coming from the past, from triggers you haven’t healed within yourself, then it’s your job to do the work to address those wounds.
But if your mother is still hurting you with controlling, manipulative, critical, or emotionally distant behavior, then “hurtful behavior is still hurtful behavior.”
There is a cultural or societal expectation that mothers and daughters have to put up with bad behavior from each other. No, we don’t. If we don’t put up with it in another relationship, we should not put up with it” in this one.
What Can Mothers Expect from Daughters?
But your mother is getting older. She can’t do as much as she used to. She needs help.
Is it your duty to take care of her now, just like she once took care of you?
When elderly parents need care, the responsibility usually falls on the daughters. The sons are busy with their own families and lives. They get off the hook.
This is what’s known as the culture of female service.
It’s “the pattern of women or mothers or daughters giving up their boundaries, their work, their focus on themselves, their right to their own goals, their right to their own life … so that they then have to look after their husbands, children, elderly moms, whatever.”
That expectation gets passed down through generations.
“If Mom gave up her life to look after everybody … she expects the daughter then to follow in her shoes and do exactly the same thing. Actually, no,” Rosjke adds. “The daughter should not.”
She calls these mothers payback moms. “The payback is about everything I never got that I am now going to get from you, which is attention, love, affection.”
If your parents need care and your male siblings aren’t stepping up to the plate, Rosjke recommends invoicing them for the time you spend caring for your parents. “Start making them realize how much time we’re spending here,” Rosjke says.
And don’t be afraid to set boundaries around your availability to your elderly parents. “You have the right to set that boundary where you need to set it, so that you don’t then become another payback mother when you’re elderly.”
Healing the Mother-Daughter Wound
We’re wired to be loved by Mom, to be seen by Mother. There’s an equation I write in The Mother-Daughter Puzzle: being heard + being understood = feeling loved. Of course you want Mom to see you, to understand you, to be there with you… It is so hard to always be standing on your own.”
No matter how bad your relationship with your mother is, you still want her admiration and affection, even if you know there’s no way she can give it to you in the way you need most.
For Rosjke, the goal is to “embrace the mom we have, rather than trying to get her to be the mom that she can’t be—that she isn’t.”
That’s where mapping your mother-daughter history comes in.
You can do this exercise yourself with the instructions in Rosjke’s book The Mother-Daughter Puzzle.
“It helps you understand your mom’s life: who she is, why she is the way she is,” Rosjke says. “It’s not just the life stories but the emotional reality in which she lives or has lived. Was she heard? Was she silenced? Was she supported? Was she neglected? What gender roles limited her choices and power?”
Those insights can help you spot the patterns that keep you in conflict now. Understanding your mother won’t change her, but it will help you “see Mom with soft eyes.”
For more information on how to heal your mother-daughter relationship, visit Rosjke’s website.
Rosjke also trains therapists, counselors, coaches and healing professionals in her mother-daughter coaching methods, through an online Certified Mother-Daughter Coach Training Course.
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:37 The epidemic of mother-daughter conflicts
4:10 Rosjke’s calling to work with mothers and daughters
6:06 We are not responsible for Mom’s happiness
7:56 Generational patterns that set mothers and daughters up to fight
10:24 The language of emotional needs missing
11:20 Why we get angry with Mom, not Dad
12:29 Why Mom still can hurt us
14:09 Looking after elderly parents
16:56 What do our moms owe us?
18:19 Understanding Mom
20:22 Claim your needs
Roskje teaches therapists, counselors, psychologists, coaches, and doulas how to empower their female clients to change harmful generational patterns, claim their voice, heal mother-daughter relationship conflict, and achieve personal and career goals. Her books The Mother-Daughter Puzzle and The Silent Female Scream describe her two decades of work with thousands of mothers and daughters around the world. Find out more.