At the instant your baby daughter is born you are not likely to be thinking about how one day you will need to consider adjusting and improving your adult mother-daughter relationship. My experience was that I quickly immersed myself in the day to day tasks involved in raising my daughter to be honest, kind, resourceful and loving. Sooner than I expected, my infant daughters morphed into teens, then college grads, advanced degree holders and women in their own right ready to deal with the world. For me there was no escaping a question that surfaced each time we got together. How does one go about improving adult mother-daughter relationships?
Over the last 15 years I have learned, quite gradually, that one starting point for improving and maintaining satisfying relationships with my adult daughters is the honest recognition that they are in fact adults. It was uncomfortable and somewhat shocking to acknowledge that somehow my “little girls” had managed to become grown up people just like me. Once I began to appreciate my daughters as full-fledged adults I knew I had set the cornerstone in place to support the building of treasured lifetime bonds.
Seeing my daughters as adults meant that I had to break my ingrained habit of taking an authoritative tone in every conversation. Yes, I am still the oldest one in our conversations and my senior status may earn me a degree of respect, but I discovered that doesn’t mean I get to put everyone’s life in order. My adult daughters may still ask me for suggestions,ideas,even a little direction now and then, but their lives are their own now. They are responsible for their actions and for the results that follow. What I have learned is that this changed arrangement is not so bad after all. From here on in I don’t have to take personal responsibility for the actions of other human beings. Stepping back and settling into a new supportive role isn’t always easy, but it produces much less friction than the alternative.
You’ll find that not being in charge of every conversation generally improves the conversations you have with your adult daughter. For example you can actually benefit from advice your daughter will likely be more than willing to share. Your daughter, as an adult, may enjoy enriching you just as you have enriched her. You may find that you are quite content to rely on her to help you through the maze that is the modern technology-centered world. Seeking advice from your adult daughter as you might from any other adult friend validates her maturity, gives evidence of your trust and expands the kinds of things that you can talk about with one another.
No matter what topics come up in conversations with my adult daughters I still try to remember something I learned in conversations with my own mom. I try to talk about the present as much as I can. It’s natural for moms to want to reference the past from time to time, but your adult daughter is living in the fast moving world of the present. Keeping a solid conversational connection with her requires some effort on your part to have at least as much interest in her daily living as in sharing your own memories.
Perhaps the most important step in improving adult mother-daughter relationships is to replace even constructive criticism with compassion, caring and love. Adult daughters are generally not looking to their moms for a better, faster or easier way to do something. Those kinds of responses come from their laptop or their contemporaries. What I have found is that when my daughters turn to me more often than not they are in search of the simple warmth and acceptance that only comes from parental love. Your limitless compassion is just as important to your adult daughter as it was for your infant daughter.
Improving your adult mother-daughter relationship takes time, patience and a willingness to change. Sealing the deal always relies mostly on love.