Are You Afraid of Turning Into Your Mother?


You might find yourself spending a certain amount of your pregnancy thinking about what kind of mother you’ll be. And at various points in your imaginings,  you may find other mothers peppering the lens of your mind’s eye.

One in particular: Yours.

No matter how we feel about our moms,  the idea of “becoming your mother” is loaded like a ton of bricks. And it’s never more powerful than when we become moms ourselves. All that worrying and nagging you once rolled your eyes about is suddenly on the tip of your tongue. Becoming a mom can help you understand your own mother like never before. But it can also bring up a huge amount of anxiety about whether you’re following in her footsteps.

Why do we get so freaked out about the idea of turning into our mothers?

I was talking with my mother and daughter recently, doing that comparing thing that mothers and daughters do. The subject, this time, was teeth. My daughter’s got a big mouthful. Her teeth are much bigger than mine were as a kid (and debatably bigger than mine are now). Knowing the current cultural preference (fetish?) for oversized mouths, I told her so, admiringly. But she immediately got upset. “I want small ones like you!” As kids, all we want is to be like our moms. But once we grow up, emulation turns to differentiation.

Part of this is just the natural need to define yourself as an individual. But it also gets complicated by how we see our mothers, and how we remember them mothering us.  Thinking about the kind of mother you’re becoming yourself, comparing yourself to your own mom is pretty much unavoidable. Mothers are our original models. But maturity gives us the distance to think about them critically (sometimes VERY critically). Our memories of how we were raised are central to how we want to raise our children, whether they’re something we aspire to or are desperate to try to avoid. Either way there’ usually some self-imposed pressure involved—fear that you won’t live up to your mom’s ideal in your own way, or that you won’t be able to protect your kids from the stuff you hated in your own childhood.

Mother-daughter relationships are so damn complicated. Even in the best of situations, it’s almost impossible to get to adulthood without an issue or two. Or several dozen. If you’re not worrying about whether you’ll turn into your mom, you might be worrying about how to avoid becoming a mom your daughter won’t want to turn into. There are some great books on the subject that can help defuse any mounting anxiety. Resources, along with some quotes from the authors, can be found in Jezebel’s take on the issue.