Michele Borba: Too Close for Comfort? New secrets of the mother-daughter relationship revealed by a great writer team

by | Aug 31, 2009 | Empowering Girls

Michele Borba

Let’s face it, is there any relationship more complicated than between mother and daughter? But understanding that the complex bond is a whole new subject — that is until now.

Linda Perlman Gordon (a clinical social worker, family therapist and mediator in private practice) and Susan Morris Shaffer (an educator and gender equity specialist and currently the executive director of the Maryland State Parental Information and Resource Center), are the coauthors. Their past efforts include favorites such as Why Boys Don’t Talk-And Why It Matters, Why Girls Talk–and What They’re Really Saying and Mom, Can I Move Back In with You? 

Their newest is an eye-opening book that debuts this week titled, Too Close For Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today’s New Mother-Daughter Relationship. 

I found their book fascinating, enlightening as well as even provocative. Linda and Susan take a new and close look at the mother-adult daughter relationship.  Combining testimonies and real stories from actual interviews along with thorough research from psychology, sociology and anthropology fields, the writer team presents a solid case that the mother-daughter relationship is much more comprehensive than even a best friendship. And provide insight, humor, and practical advice on one of the most significant relationships in a young woman’s life. Best yet, they offer what they call a “Baker’s Dozen”–strategies to guide mothers to parent their adult daughters.

I was most fascinated with themes they present about the unique mother-daughter relationship. Here are just a few that are guaranteed to be talked about among women  for years to come:

Too Close for Comfort?: Questioning the Intimacy of Today's New Mother-Daughter Relationship

  • Mother-daughter relationships are possibility the most satisfying and agonizing relationships women share.
  • A mother’s desire to be best friends with her daughter often conflicts with her daughter’s need to individuate.
  • A daughter’s job is to become self-sufficient, a mother’s job is to give her the opportunity to do this.
  • Rescuing your daughter when she doesn’t need rescuing gives her the message that she can’t survive without your help.
  • Parenting adult children is a new developmental stage.
  • Today’s prolonged adolescence brings extended dependence.
  • The lack of a generation gap creates opportunities for connection.
  • A mother’s discomfort with her body can influence her daughter’s discomfort with her own body.
  • Society’s emphasis on physical perfection creates anxiety for both mother and daughter. Mothers are coping with aging and daughters often don’t appreciate their natural beauty. 
  • Once a daughter marries and starts a family, a mother’s role must change dramatically, a mother cannot assume or direct anymore, but provide advice when asked, and cede the decision-making role to her daughter, demonstrating her support of her daughter’s decision and enabling a more conflict-free relationship.

Thought-provoking stuff! I also realized this book has multi-generational benefits: this resource would be just as relevant for a mother of an infant wanting to know how to create a lifelong bond as a mother assuming the new role of grandmother with her married daughter. 

But perhaps the most interesting tidbit for women at any stage of their mother-daughter relationship is this one:

Many mother-daughter rifts begin to be healed once the daughter is herself a mother.”  

I almost hear one collective sigh from women.  Shhhh….just listen. Bet you can hear their relief as well.

Whether you are a mother or a daughter, this book will resonate.


Get more Parenting Solutions by following Michele Borba @MicheleBorba on Twitter or on her website. 

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries–her complete reference for raising 3 to 13 years olds– is on sale now!