The pairing of mothers and daughters is such a good idea, it probably keeps the species in business. What woman who wants children doesn't yearn for a daughter -- at least until a lovable son shows up? A recent issue of Elle explored the lengths to which some women now go to try to make their babies girls -- and the "gender disappointment" that sets in when the techniques fail -- "Girl Crazy," by Ruth Shalit Barrett.
At the other end of all this longing is this: the knots in mother-daughter ties keep shrinks in business too. In her fiction, Jamaica Kincaid writes better than anyone I know about the anguished love-hate-hate-love chords that define so many mother-daughter connections. In my own case, I am startled every time I go to my sister's house and see framed photographs of our mother hung here and there with no other photographs of anyone else nearby. Just Mom. I nearly freeze when I see the pictures. She's been dead for six years, and she was a good mother and good person -- no Mommy Dearest she -- but whatever warm, fuzzy, daughterly connection I had to her ended when I was very young.
I often think that if she had lived longer and not spent the last years of her life with dementia, the ease and intoxication of email, cell phones, and Facebook might have given us another kind of relationship. With email and a cell, my mother would not have been so lonely; it was her loneliness and neediness that felt like such a burden to me, that made me feel guilty whether I was with her or not.
If we'd been able to communicate with the ease of a finger, we might have had a less tense time of it. I might have found a way to express my affection for her in a way that did not feel so much like the unbearable heaviness of being. How many admissions have I written to people in emails that I would never have had the gumption to say in person? If I could have written my mother a line of X's and O's every day or two, it would have made her feel more loved, and made me feel more loving.
If email and Facebook aren't enough to untie some of the knots between mothers and daughters -- and other such connections, including stepmothers and mothers-in-law -- cutting-edge telephone technology brings us something brand new for this Mother's Day: an international phone session with two relationship coaches, Deena Kolbert and Susan Peterson.
The HEART Workshop invites pairs of women -- mothers, daughters, steps, and in-laws -- to call in on May 1st or May 4 for 90 minutes, from anywhere in the world, to refresh and build connections, and to work with two seasoned, certified relationship coaches. They will facilitate all exercises.
Here's the technological genius of this: Through a company called Maestro, the pairs need not call from the same phone or same country. There's no limit on how many people can sign up. The work of the sessions involves group exercises followed by mothers and daughters going off in pairs to "private rooms" to do work more deeply. Afterward, each pair returns to the larger audience to exchange lessons learned. Best of all, it's $25 a person.
I wish my mother and I had had a chance to give this a whirl. For more information contact HEART Workshop.
- Elizabeth Benedict is the author of five novels and the editor of Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives.