Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | February 4, 2010

Is Your Daughter Your Mortal Enemy?

I saw a parenting “expert” on the Today Show this morning. (Full disclosure, I didn’t actually see him on the show but saw the segment online after it aired.) One Dr. Sophy, a person of the male persuasion, was advising mothers and daughters about how to get along. Simply put, it just pissed me off. First, REALLY PRODUCERS? You couldn’t find an actual mother or daughter who knows something about the subject? Yes, he’s a degreed and trained professional and no, I’m not a person who likes to gender stereotype and contend that men can’t understand women’s issues and vice versa. (Because I know they can. I am sometimes married to one. Well, I’m always married to one and sometimes he gets everything right.) But, in this case, where the issue is the gossamer-like (re: fragile and beautiful) relations between mothers and daughters, PLEASE bring in someone who has “been there and done that.”

Here’s how I know this guy wasn’t the real deal. First, he described mothers and daughters as sometimes “mortal enemies.” Yes, he said they go from that to friends quickly but he used the term “mortal enemies.” Okay, folks, I admit it — I have fought with my offspring. When they were little they frequently got on my last nerve. Truth be told, even in adulthood we’ve been known to drive each other crazy. We’ve raised voices, we’ve hung up the phone mad, we may have even spoken none too politely about each other to anyone who would listen. BUT, we would not, could not, should not, categorize ourselves as mortal enemies. Fight to the death with your child? I think not, and don’t think there are too many women who’d describe their child in that light.

Next, he said that moms and daughters are both “estrogenic.” Yes, I get it and I understand what he meant but I can’t stand the implication (inference? I can never remember the difference.) that it all comes down to hormones. I have no patience for men who think every up and down in a woman’s life is hormonal and can simply be explained away by the time of the month, and not getting to the heart of the matter to fix it.  If your boss at work said that you were “estrongenic” when you voiced an opinion or asked for a raise or questioned a policy, would that be okay? No, and it’s not okay to say the mom/daughter dynamic — the complex, intertwined, gorgeous, deep, abiding, and mysterious bind — owes its being to the fickle finger of hormones.

Nope, I’m afraid it’s going to take more than that to counsel mothers and daughters through the deep waters in which we wade. I’m going to start here with my top 3 suggestions for seeing your girls successfully into adulthood. Then, I’m going to ask the experts — my actual daughters — to weigh in with their thoughts. Then, I invite readers, again, actual mothers and daughters, to add to the list. Perhaps we can develop something more in-depth than “estrogenic” and maybe longer-lasting than hormones.

1. Unconditional love has to be exactly what it says. Love them because they are. Do not fill in the blank. And, make sure they know the love is unconditional. They may not grow up to be who you want them to be. Their definition of happiness may not match yours. Let that go and have some faith in the core you planted inside of them.

2. Listen more than you talk. Yow, that one’s hard. I’m still working on it. I know I have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Sometimes I have to repeat that inside my head while I bite my lip.

3. Be the mother you wish you had.

Oh and a bonus one. If your opinion of what’s right is not the same as an “expert’s,” go with your gut. It got you this far.

How cute are we?

We communicate in healthy ways here, hug, smile, lean to the right. (yes, normally we lean left)

Alexis Writes

Can I have another wedding? God I love the way I look in that dress. Anyway, I am so tired of men trying to say tha women are hormonal or annoying because we actually have opinions or the nerve to speak up for ourselves. I am capable of things that no man can do-hell- no other person can do. I am so sick of men out there trying to tell me what I can and can’t do. I once had this extremely tooly guy complain to me about how he worked in business. He proceeded to tell me that he hated working with women because all they did was cry. Not only was this an ignorant thing to say, but it was also a bad pick up line. I wanted to tell him it was no mysetry to me why he was single. But I digress, three things it takes to be an amazing mom.

1. To know what I want even when I don’t. I don’t mean telling me what to do, I mean having the ability to help me sort through my feelings to get my own conclusion.

2. Loving me no matter what, whether I am fat or thin, happy or sad lost or found.

3. Always being willing to listen and only hanging up on me 10 percent of the time.

It’s not rocket science but it’s what I’ve got so far.

Ned writes:

I saw that guy on the Today Show online and I wasn’t impressed. I think my wife has better ideas about raising kids and so do I, plus we have the kids to prove it. Where’s our Today Show interview and book deal? I think the hormone thing is a big cop-out and I lived with four females. They all seemed kind of level-headed and I’m moodier than all of them. He did say that there is a competitive factor between mothers and daughters (and it probably holds for fathers and sons as well) and that is an interesting point. I don’t see that in my family but that might be something to discuss in another post. Here’s my three important points for parents to keep in mind when raising their children.

1. Make sure your children know you love them and support them. That’s obvious. Each one of my girls thinks they are my favorite and they are all right. That’s a state secret.
2. Be honest with your kids. I don’t worry about it if my kids are mad at me for speaking the truth even when it hurts a bit and when I’m wrong I apologize. But believe me that’s rare. And see point number 1 above.
3. I try to parent from my children’s eyes. What do they think of me as a parent? Am I a good role model for them? I hope so. Their opinions are important to me especially now that they are adults. I think am a much better parent now than when I was younger probably because I’m more patient. Right kids?

Now I have to shower and wait for the call from Meredith Viera.

Tamra Writes:

My eye is twitching from a lack of sleep, so this is going to be short. No, I do not think daughters are anyone’s mortal enemy. You’re lucky if you have one that’s half as good as I am. Also, boys are moodier than girls, I don’t care what anyone says, they just mask it with their low voices and lack of crying.

I’m certainly not a parenting expert. I am not a parent, nor an expert, but here are my 3:

1. Never hang up on me. It is annoying and you know I’m going to keep calling back until you answer, so it’s a lose lose.

2. Have a sense of humor, even when things suck. It definitely helps.

3. Be a parent. I have a large circle of friends (haha), but we only get 2 parents (if we’re lucky), so be them, even if it seems like it would be more fun to be friends. It’s not supposed to be fun necessarily, it’s called “parenting” not “fun times with your pals”.

Shira Writes:

1. Find a balance between being a friend and a parent. There are a lot of things I do with my friends that I don’t do with my parents, but as an adult, I’ve found there are a lot of things I can share with them. My father and I like to share music, and have serious discussions about education and politics. My mom and I have come to share recipes (which I never thought would happen), and of course shoe shopping. Yes, I do get annoyed when my parents call me 4 times in one day just to say hello and to ask if I’m shoveling the walkway, but I’m guilty of calling them for no reason myself, shhh.

2. The unconditional love thing is pretty important. Make sure your kids know that even though you might get angry, you’re always going to love them even if they got in a minor car accident (in your car), or throw a high school party (in your house), or even have a run in with the law. All hypothetical situations of course.

3. Finally, stop posting ugly pictures of them on the internet. Why do I have such a huge head in the photo above?

P.S. I am definitely Dad’s favorite.

P.P.S. No Alexis, you cannot have another wedding. We all barely survived the first one.



  1. Interesting post — now I have to go find that Today Show clip!

    I assume, though, the expert used the term “mortal enemy” imprecisely. I don’t think he meant that mothers and daughters are enemies to the point of killing each other any more than people who describe folks as “morbidly obese” mean that they’re already dead.

    And I do love your 3 rules for mothers and daughters getting along. Oddly, I think that the “unconditional love” rule just might be the hardest one to follow. You can force yourself to listen; you can force yourself to stop and remember mistakes your own mother made that you don’t want to make yourself. But getting rid of all the conditions we tend to put on the people we love the most, even the ones we think we love unconditionally, is hard. I think I do that with my own grown daughters — but I know I also occasionally worry, when my 85-year-old mother is angry at (or worse, disappointed in) me, that maybe she’s unhappy with the person I am at some basic level. Is there a chance my daughters sometimes have this same thought? Chilling.

  2. Okay, I may have overreacted to his “mortal enemies” thing but the guy just annoyed me. I totally agree with your thoughts on unconditional love. It is hard. We want so much for our kids and I think it’s those intense desires for their happiness that result in conditions. I like what you said about “forcing yourself to stop and remember.” I think the ability to slow it down, to stop and reflect is key. Key, but, again, not easy. I hope, hope, hope, that my girls never question that I am happy with the people they are but I guess if you still question that sometimes, it may just be human nature. My mom is no longer with me. She died when I was just 24. I can only wonder if she would have been happy with the person I became. I’m not all that she would have wanted me to be. She loved me, that I know but, unconditionally? I’m not so sure. I want my girls never to question that in me. Thanks for writing. I enjoy your insights.

  3. Instill a sense of self respect and value….which I think holds true regardless of gender.

    Just reading about that ‘expert’ makes me edgy. I might have to go kick something :O)

  4. Definitely belongs in the top five rules. And, you’re right about boys and girls both needing this. And, feel free to kick something for me, too. Thanks for reading and especially for writing.

  5. Great post and valid thoughts.

  6. I totally loathe men like that!
    My mother and I had a horrible relationship while I was growing up. However, while she was dying 3 years ago, she told me I was her song and her poetry. Relationships between mothers and daughters can get better with age. My 2 year-old granddaughter is already giving my daughter a hard time. I just smile and say this too shall pass!

  7. Yes, and we learn a lot from our relationships with our mothers about what we do and do not want with our daughters. I know my relationships with my daughters are due, in large part, to what I lacked with my own mother. I thought a lot about the relationship I wanted and how to get it. I tried to be the parent I wished I had and still do. Mostly, it works, but, you’re right, it’s not easy. Tell your daughter to hold tight, she’s in for a wild ride!

  8. I applaud you. You nailed right on the point. I, too, don’t get how the producers hired a man to be the so-called “expert” on women issues. Like they would know? I wonder how many negative response they received from this segment.

  9. I was wondering that too. I wrote to them to ask for more information, but, alas, they ignored me. Guess I was too much woman for them! Thanks for reading and especially for writing.

  10. Another tip might be tempering or qualifying your opinions….When my oldest asked what I thought of her boyfriend – I told her…she asked. Now, I ask her what she thinks of him before I respond to that type of question. That way I can comments on her thoughts instead of my gut reaction.

    My youngest asked what I thought of her brand new tattoo that covers a quarter of her mid-section from bra line to hip…I was smarter this time, I told her it is beautiful (and it is) …I just wished it wasn’t painted on my beautiful baby girl.

    And I thought this mothering thing would get easier when they moved out of the house.

  11. Love the plan. Ask her what she thinks and then mirror it. I’ll have to try that. Could save me from a lot of heartache. As to it getting easier when they move out… somehow it’s not. I think it’s because the interactions don’t happen as often but the bad ones come with much more serious problems once they’re old enough to move out. Still, the good times improve, too so I guess it’s worth it… some days.

  12. This seems to be for mothers who actually are that; mothers. Mothers are supposed to be comforting and loving. What do you do if you never felt that love and comfort in your whole life? What if she never bonded with you as a child. This is my mom. No matter how hard I try in life, and I do it for myself only other people are proud and tell me positive things whereas my mother will barely sweek out a goid and be stone cold. She is notorious for turning people against me. I am just so tired I do not even want to answer her call anymore. Oh and forget the holidays I am so done.

  13. I all the time used to read paragraph in news papers but now as I am a user of web thus from now I am using net for posts, thanks to web. bfecebaddkce

  14. The Ships’s Voyages

    I think technological innovation just causes it to be worse. Now there is a channel to never treatment, now there won’t be a opportunity for them to find.

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