Mothers and daughters have been written about, criticized, publicized, condemned, and praised for a long time. As more and more material becomes available on mother-daughter relationships, it becomes apparent that being a mother and being a daughter means different things to different people depending on race, economics, social status and blood type. This paper will explore the meaning of being a mother and being a daughter by combining all of these independent variables. A definition of motherhood and daughterhood will be clearer, however, as experience will tell us, not everyone can be categorized, or even explained.
In "Choosing Consciousness", Elizabeth Minnich describes mothers as:
".The people who take day-by-day care of children, the ones whose lives are intricately involved with their children, the ones who keep the children safe, who wrestle with their souls and fight with them and love them and try to heal them and give up on them and give in to them" (Minnich, 195).
In her opinion, as well as many other authors we have read, a mother does not need to be blood related. She only needs to care for her child, be there for her child, and love her child. She is the dominant woman force in her child's life, influencing, teaching and setting an example for her child.
This idea is reflected in other cultures as well. In black communities, especially, a mother is not necessarily one who gave birth to her daughter. She is the person who sets examples for the daughter and is there to help coach the daughter through the trials and tribulations of life.
"Biological mothers or bloodmothers are expected to care for their children. But African and African-American communities have also recognized that vesting one person with full responsibility for mothering a child may not be wise if possible" (Collins, 47).
Collins believes that in order to be a mother, you only need to care for a child, and this idea has been central to African and African-American motherhood. Community outreach and the caring of adjacent women have been very important to the raising of daughters in black communities.
Although being a caring and nurturing force in a daughter's life is central to becoming a mother, other pieces we have read have supported the idea that a mother needs to teach her child to grow, and then let her go to off to find herself and her own understanding.
In "Annie John", by Jamaica Kincaid, Annie is stunned when her mother suddenly turns her cheek on her in order to let her go and become a "lady". It is not until the end of the story that Annie realizes that her mother was only acting on what her conception of motherhood embraced; once a daughter reached a certain age, she was to start her own life, evolving into her own identity.
Susan Walters also discusses the concept of mothers enabling their daughters to grow into women, while sending them off to experience independence and break ties with their family. Her article emphasizes societies need for daughters to emerge from their mothers' care and create their own lives, instead of keeping close ties with each other. In this case a mother is only a notch on the totem pole of their daughter's life.
The existence as a daughter has been explored in depth as well. Is a daughter just an extension of her mother or is she an individual paired with someone to facilitate her emergence into the real world? Is she a friend or is she a student?
This central idea is explored in the Walters article as well. A story included in the article suggested that a daughter not be afraid to become affiliated with her mother. She said that "the sacrament of 'separation'" from her mother was based on society's perpetualization that a daughter must become independent from her mother and that a fondness for her mother was simply a clinging that wasn't natural or healthy. However, a kinship with a mother is the most natural occurrence ever. The...
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