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The beauty and pain of mother-daughter relationships

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

A mother is a girl’s very first best friend. Many of us learned how to navigate this world based on the lessons our mothers gave us. The love we give others often stems from the love we know from our mothers, and it is understanding this relationship that allows us to understand ourselves. We recently celebrated Mother’s Day – a day that tends to affect different people in different ways. Emotions can range from sheer pain to pure joy, and as someone who has stood on both sides of the spectrum at some stage, I thought it would be fruitful to look at mother-daughter relationships and how some of us can begin to heal inner wounds we carry from this relationship.

Today, I can truly say that my mother is my favourite person. She is my teacher, my support system, and my inspiration. This, however, was not always the case. Like any other teenage girl going through changes, I used to view my mother as my biggest enemy. The combination of her battles with menopause and my battles with puberty was a recipe for disaster. As a teenager, I felt as though she did not understand me, which in turn saw me viewing her “harsh rules” as repression rather than protection. Growing up, I never acknowledged my mother as once having been a young girl herself with her own coming-of-age struggles. I now know that if I had considered this at the time, it would have completely changed the nature of our relationship.

Now, as a woman in my twenties, realising how hard it is to go through this world, I have a newfound understanding of my mother. Growing out of my self-absorbed teenage brain has helped me realise that it is also my mother’s first time living, and she deserves grace just like I do. I have been hurt by her, but I have come to realise that none of it was intentional. Coming to this understanding not only allowed me to heal my mother wound, but it also laid the foundation for our friendship and love today.

The minute I realised that motherhood and girlhood stem from the same tree of womanhood, I healed the wounds I carried from my relationship with my mother. Looking at our commonalities instead of differences allowed me to realise we are on the same side. As women, we are often dealt certain cards which see us having to work harder to enter certain spaces, and today, I understand that the guidance my mother gave me all those years ago was a tool gearing me up to succeed in this world. The mother’s perspective is one where mothers express their desire to see their daughters surpass them.

In a world where women are continuously fighting to have their womanhood celebrated rather than viewed as a hindrance, I now understand why my mother was so hard on me. The cards she was dealt as a black woman growing up under apartheid led to her projection of concerns and pain from her experience of womanhood and girlhood. Understanding this has allowed me to extend my forgiveness and grace to her. The start to healing the mother wound begins when we choose to look beyond our perspective and to forgive wholeheartedly.

I now understand that some relationships are complicated, and it might feel like too much has happened for forgiveness to mend it all. Some experiences with our mothers might feel as though they were intentionally harmful and painful towards us. There are daughters who are estranged from their mothers, daughters who will grow up and decide what kind of mother they will not be. This is normal and sometimes needed, however, I believe that without healing the mother wound, we might find ourselves being the mothers we refused to be. That is why taking steps to forgive and processing that mother-daughter relationship is important.

This process can be healing independently, having an open conversation with your mother, or seeking professional help. Whatever works best for you will be fruitful and worthwhile. Letting go of any pain and anger to embark on a journey of healing and forgiving will allow us to be the next generation of mothers who do not project their hurt and pain onto their daughters. It will change the nature of most of our relationships and allow us to better understand ourselves. In view of all of this, I believe it is a difficult and bumpy journey, but a journey undoubtedly worth taking.

I am a final year student doing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History, Politics & Media Studies. I enjoy reading, writing and have an obsession with podcasts. I truly believe learning is a privilege we should all rush to take a hold of and I seek to have my platform embody this belief.