Mother-Child Attachment

The other day I was thinking about how close I am with my mother. Being an expectant first-time mother you are apt to reflect on what aspects of your relationship with your mother you want to replicate with your child.

My husband can’t relate his relationship with his mother to my relationship with mine, and that made me wonder if maybe part of why I was so shy growing-up and struggled to find fulfilling friendships stemmed from my very close and attached relationship with my mother.

Feelings of doubt and fear happen when in your reflection you start to notice aspects of your relationship that might not be healthy to carry into your impending motherhood. But I also know that self-diagnosis can be dangerous. Having been a psychology major in college I have found more harm comes from self-diagnosis than good. Objectively speaking, my mother and I do not have a co-dependent relationship. Ours is not a mother-daughter relationship in which we look to each other as our emotional partner. When I’m uncertain about something or if I need a second opinion, the first person I think to ask is my husband. It used to be my mother that I would go to first, but like all relationships, my attachment and need for her changed.

Like the Gilmore Girls

The mother-daughter relationship portrayed in “The Gilmore Girls” is very much us. Like Rory’s character, I always prefer hanging out with my mom. In fact, sometimes I feel like someone her age because I like so many of the same things a person her age would like, and consequently I have found it easier to make friends with older women rather than women my own age.

How Attachment Can Alienate

It was very easy for me to make my mother the center of my world growing-up because I was an only-child. I had a habit of being shy and cautious, with a tendency of holding back because I was teased a lot early on in school for being very tall and very thin. I was complimented by adults for being very pretty, but I didn’t believe them because the teasing instilled insecurity and doubt in myself. I was afraid of making friends, so my mother was my refuge for a while.

I of course figured out how to deal with teasing and became well adjusted, made friends and do what typical young girls do, but friendships always seem transient. As you go from grade to grade in school the class roster shuffles, people move, you move and you get tired of being the polite one who reaches out all the time. I got tired of putting effort into friendships that felt one-way streets. With my mother it was always a two-way street, it was hard to find that among girls my age.

Friendships never seemed to live up to the friendships I read about in books or saw in movies and tv shows whereas my friendship with my mother did. I came to like the same music, movies and things as her, but couldn’t find others to share them with. Although I was into the same things as kids my age, I felt alone in my knowledge of cultural references of older generations. I felt split between two generations, always preferring the older generation’s things.

Seeing the Patterns

I’m not exactly a mini-me of my mother, but no one knows my mother better than me, so safe to say I have started to catch myself doing things she would do as the woman of a household. Maybe it’s true that you do become your mother unknowingly, but what I want to avoid is being too extreme one way or the other with my attachment style with my children.

The best I can do is be observant of myself once my baby enters the world and try my best to instill a sense of strength in them to be social and to look to me as a parent and not as a surrogate girlfriend. It starts the moment they are born the special mother-child bond, but the mother-child relationship as time goes on shouldn’t get to the level of enmeshment and co-dependence.

My mother was trying to raise a strong woman, I know because I saw the books she read during my adolescence. She was very conscious of how close our relationship was growing up, but being a shy and compassionate woman like me, I think pushing me to hang out more with kids at school was hard for her. When you know your child is having trouble relating to or finding their support system outside their family, you want to be supportive, but some times being too compassionate can lead to your child having trouble leaving the nest or worse, never finding a support system outside their family.

The only way to break the pattern and ensure a healthy mother-child relationship is to observe, journal and learn from your mistakes.

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