Love, loyalty, hurt and anger – the powerful world of mother-daughter relationships

I am so honored to be contributing to the wonderful writer D.A. Wolf’s series on mother-daughter relationships. This was by far the hardest piece of writing I have ever done, and more than once I asked myself why I had promised to contribute a piece. But I’m so glad for this experience writing and collaborating with D.A., which literally changed me.

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I’ve just spent my fourteenth holiday without my mother. In the years since I packed up two suitcases and moved from the States to Japan, a defining event in our relationship, we have been a long distance family, missing milestones and special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and the birth of her only grandchild.

There have always been reasons: the distance (even now that I’ve moved back to the States), her health, my work. I try to see her once a year and when I do I realize how much I miss her… how for so many years we knew the daily rhythms of each others’ lives and now that’s no longer the case.

For many years I had been the dutiful daughter. I acted as my immigrant parents’ interpreter from the age of seven when they moved from Peru to New England, and I helped them to navigate life in America. I attended college ten miles away from where they lived, and I moved back home after graduation. It was a shameful admission to my American friends that I was choosing to live with my parents, and a slap in my mother’s face that I was wishing I had chosen otherwise.

To continue reading this piece please click here to go to D.A. Wolf’s blog Daily Plate of Crazy.

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17 thoughts on “Love, loyalty, hurt and anger – the powerful world of mother-daughter relationships

  1. Your piece reminded me a lot of my ex-partner who has a mother like that. It was not something I had ever heard of, being loved too much. I didn’t realise that the moment I first said “I love you” to my partner, was probably the beginning of the end. To her, being loved meant obligation. Whereas for me, for someone to express that they loved me, after a childhood of not being noticed or explicitly loved, was an amazing ideal.

    It’s interesting how a culture of high expectations, especially in Asians, can be so differently manifested!

    • Oh Denise, I’m so sorry. Because I see myself in how you described your partner and I know it’s not fair. Yes, to this day I have to fight my first instinct or reaction when someone pays attention to me or does a lot for me because I feel suspicious. What does this person want in return? Am I not going to have room to breathe? My husband sounds more like how you describe yourself. He had the exact opposite experience with his mother. When I was reading my post drafts to him he reminded me of the time that I rejected him when he showed up on my doorstep (while we were still dating) with a bag of oranges. He was hurt that his gesture had scared me off.

      Yes – our culture is certainly loaded with so much. Thanks so much for reading my post!

  2. Oh the Mother-Daughter Relationship – not an easy topic to talk about for sure! Thanks so much for sharing your relationship:) It has been a rocky one between me and my mom since I was 17 and it has taken steps forward and steps backward. I decided to get married, turn 30 and move Out West in the SAME YEAR. Then my brother moved South a year later. It has smoothed out since then and try to see each other at least once a year. Happy Thursday:)

  3. Beautifully written. I am still working out my relationship with my mother… I get annoyed when she asks too many questions, but then get upset when she seems disinterested in my more meaningful accomplishments. It’s a bit of a mess, but we do care about each other.

    • I know what you mean…there are so many contradictions and so many extremes. It’s reassuring to know that others go through similar experiences. I hope things gradually smooth out for you and your mother. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Your essay brought tears to my eyes, and reminds me of how lucky I am to have such a great, uncomplicated relationship with my mother. Not many people can say that. Beautiful essay!

    • Hi Naomi, I’m just now catching up on my comments. Thank you so much for what you wrote here! I think it is really wonderful and special that you have an uncomplicated relationship with your mother. I’m sure it impacts greatly your own way of parenting as well. Happy new year!

  5. Cecilia,

    I enjoyed this piece and was greatly moved, to the point where I would not do it justice with my words right now. I’ll simply say thank you for sharing your beautiful writing.

    • Thanks so much for reading, Kay. I’m not sure if I will ever express those words to her…just simply because of the way our family communicates and their comfort level with words. But I’ll try and find a way to show her someday.

      • So, she doesn’t read your blog? I understand what you’re saying because I’m from the Midwest, where we don’t talk about personal things. But your article has a nice balance of love and reasons for your distance. I thought it might be helpful for her to read it.

        • My mother has some vague idea that I write but she’s older and isn’t computer literate, and so I never bothered to explain to her the whole concept of blogging. Hmm…maybe someday I will share my piece with her…

  6. I totally understand what you said on my blog about writing this making you feel exposed. I had that same experience with my piece about my mom. It is so hard to write stuff like this, and even harder to share it publicly. I’m proud of you for doing this and for being able to look at your mother with some forgiveness. I see hope there, and I love how you ended the piece. Beautifully written!

    I also identify with your thoughts on being like your mother but recognizing it and then having a hard time coping with that. I see that in myself all of the time, and it makes me hate those parts of myself. I’m still working on separating being like her in good and productive ways and not being like her in ways that are destructive. I want to reject everything, but not everything was bad. It’s so complicated!

    • I’m so glad you can relate, Emily. I really think that mother-daughter relationships (or at least the complicated ones) defy description and it is often hard to explain to others who did not experience similar tension. I really struggled with this piece, and if I didn’t have the blog host pushing me to write it I am pretty sure I would have given up. The initial version was rather negative, and I didn’t realize that until I saw the blog host’s reaction, and then I changed the ending, which now shows hope as you pointed out. Ultimately I did want to credit my mother for all her good intentions, and not judge her for the mixed ways in which her love was shown. We are all imperfect products of our own mothering I guess.

      I remember your piece about your mother and feeling very grateful that you had written it. Interesting, isn’t it, the way we struggle with guilt and fear of vulnerability when writing it and yet I think a lot of people find comfort when they finally read it. I know I felt that way when I read your post.

      It sounds like you are very self-aware when it comes to parenting your own children, and that’s huge! I am trying too, though I know that often it’s one thing to “know” and another to actually do.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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