Confession: I find it bizarre when women say that their mom is their best friend, because for me, that ain’t in the job spec. How am I meant to mother my daughter if I’m too busy being her best buddy? While the roles have similarities, they are poles apart.
Yes, I want to be a great role model for my daughter: to be positive in my outlook, to encourage her to do anything she wants in life, to show that hard work and determination pay off, and to model the importance of being confident in yourself no matter what people say. But that doesn’t mean we have to share every single secret and be best buds.
That is a dangerous territory to get in, because in my mind, to be a great mom I need to use discipline; I need to maintain the status of “mom” to make sure she obeys house rules and is raised to have a standard of morals. I have to be the one who makes sure she does her homework, tries to fulfill her potential, turns up for school on time, keeps her bedroom tidy, remembers to respect herself above all else, and has empathy for others. I can’t do that if I’m too busy trying to keep her on my side.
Where would the line be drawn if I’m over-sharing about the too many martinis I had with my girlfriends or discussing ex-boyfriends of my youth? Do I have to try and be “down with the kids,” like the mom in Mean Girls did with her daughter — allowing her to have sex at home and offering the gang alcoholic drinks? Or would that make me slightly tragic and desperate, like an old has-been trying to cling onto my own youth? Also, wouldn’t that embarrass my daughter a tad, to know her mom was more fixated on being “one of the gals” than being a mother figure?
As our kids grow, it’s really important they gain their own independence, and part of that is distancing themselves from us (to a point). While I want my daughter to be able to talk to me about all aspects of her life — school, friends, social issues, sex, boyfriends (or girlfriends), etc. — I also know that in order for her to grow up, there will be things she does that I don’t need to know every detail about. I know that the only way she will become independent is to pull away from me and make her own decisions. It’s normal for kids to try all kinds of things unbeknownst to their parents — it’s part of the ritual of becoming a teen.
Moreover, there will always be a generational gap between my daughter and me. When I grew up, there was no Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter, so while I can try to understand, I will never completely relate to the pressures young women face today in a society that’s obsessed with body image, selfies, and emulating the Kardashians. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that I’m a mom in an era where sex before marriage, masturbation, and being gay or transgender are all subjects that are no longer taboo. But I don’t need to be the “cool mom” to discuss these things with her.
I’d much rather be the disciplinarian figure, because to me, that is the role a mom should fulfill. Do I want to know if my daughter has had a one-night stand? Should I confide in her about my own sexual life with my husband (her father)? I think not! There are things that she will tell friends that I definitely don’t need to know. That isn’t saying that if she had a problem, I wouldn’t want her to come to me — of course I would. I really hope we can have an open and honest relationship, but at the same time, I think it is really important (for both of us) to have boundaries.
Isn’t it unhealthy for a mom to rely on her daughter for advice on all things? After all, we are the parent, not the child. I’ve watched friends struggle with their own moms’ tendency of sharing too intimate details. Their moms thinking they’re “bonding,” when in reality they’re just creating a gulf between themselves and their children. Our parents are people we look to for guidance and support, and we shouldn’t be expected to change roles just because we come of age.
There will come a time when my daughter will want to cut the apron strings, move out of the house, start her own life, and hopefully one day have a family of her own. Of course I will want to be there for her in every way I can, but if I’ve done my job right as a mom, she’ll be great at making her own decisions. She’ll have her own tastes and opinions, and she’ll be her own confident person. I hope we’ll always be close and that we continue to share adventures together, but I don’t have to be her best mate to do that.