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Michele Hunt Headshot

A Mother: A Parent, and a Friend -- A Powerful Combination

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My mother and daughter are my best friends. We are three grown women who share a beautiful, unshakable bond. Our life journey is a testimony that a mother can be a parent, and a friend. I have never understood the rational that mothers should not be friends with their daughters (or their sons). Who else can our daughters trust to have their best interest in mind? Who else will tell them the brutal truth, knowing the wrath that will follow? Mothers are in a unique position to create safe, inviting environments for our daughters to share their fears, troubles, and mistakes, as well as their hopes and dreams -- if we choose to do so.

My mother lost her mom when she was only seven; she had to learn how to be a mother, and contrary to most of her peers, she made a conscious decision to be a friend to her daughter. Mom is a quiet, reserved lady. She grew up in an era when women had few rights and they were expected to serve and obey their husbands. In spite of the social norms of her time, whenever my mother observed a man disrespecting a woman, even a little, she would take me aside and whisper -- "never let a man treat you like that." Her words are embedded in my soul. She gave me the self-confidence to walk away from all unhealthy relationships in my life.

Mom taught me about my body when I was a toddler, and about sex when I was seven -- I had a box of Kotex in my closet by the time I was eight. She also created a space where she and I could discuss anything and everything, and believe me, I told her everything, even things that I know were hard for her to hear. I have been given the gift of a mother, who was courageous and vulnerable enough to become her daughter's best friend, how could I do less for my daughter.

I raised Nicole as a single mother. Looking back, she and I overcame tremendous obstacles. We laughed a lot, cried a lot, often laughing and crying in the same moments. We argued daily and made lots of mistakes -- but most of all we grew together and developed a deep, trusting friendship. Patterned after my mother and my relationship, we dared to defy the myth that mothers and daughters should not be friends. We broke down the façade and pretense that prevents the magical mother-daughter connection from blossoming into a loving, trusting, learning relationship -- my definition of friendship.

My mother and my daughter Nicole expressed this sentiment in a writing project we are working on:

My Mother: "I have heard and read that you cannot and should not be your children's friend, you must be their parents. Why can't you be both? Why can't we be both parent and friend, setting boundaries and limits for their well-being and engage in real honest and open dialogues. I believe we cannot wait until our children are grown and suddenly decide we want to listen to them, be their friend, and grow with and from them. Growing together and growing close together is an ongoing process."

My Daughter, Nicole: "Why can't mothers and daughters be friends? What law was ever written to say such a thing? As a single mother, my mom had two choices, well actually three. She could have taken on all the responsibility of our family's growth, left me blissfully ignorant, and then taken it out on me when things got too rough. (I have seen this occur even in two parent homes). Second, she could have pressured me to take on more responsibility for the family, which I would not have been prepared for and in turn would have resented her. Her third choice, the one she thankfully chose, was to be honest with me. This choice is possibly the hardest, because what boundaries should be set, if any, on this foreign idea of honesty with a daughter. My mother constantly kept me abreast of what was happening in her life, at work and even our financial situation. I was never in the dark. From this knowledge I was able to decide what responsibilities I should take on to help make our life and relationship work. I have learned from her mistakes and her triumphs. My mother is my best friend."

To see Nicole evolve into a compassionate, intelligent, confident woman, is the most beautiful gift a mother can be given. Nicole is fearless. She is not afraid to fail, nor is she afraid to soar high or go deep, in the pursuit of her dreams. I love who she has become and I am blessed that she is my best friend.

The mother-daughter relationship is a powerful energy connection. It is very complex, can be highly volatile, and is extremely delicate. It has the potential to create great beauty, love, and confidence. It also has the potential to do tremendous harm. In most mother-daughter relationships, it does both. Unfortunately most of our cultural conditioning has led us mothers to resist telling our daughters the truth about our past -- the good, the bad and the ugly. This has often times resulted in our daughters feeling isolated, afraid, shameful and confused about the life decisions they make. They often feel alienated from us, frustrated with us, and even resentful. We mothers often feel unappreciated, disrespected and also resentful. Most importantly this relationship may be the greatest contributor to the questioning of self-worth for both mothers and daughters.

Mothers are powerful! We enable or block our daughters' potential to contribute as mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, leaders and as individuals. Daughters are powerful, and if we are open and wise enough to learn from our daughters, our lives will be greatly enriched. I believe the ripple effect of the mother-daughter relationship has an incalculable impact on girls and women -- and ultimately shapes how the world relates to women and girls. Through our actions and words we teach men and society how to treat us.

On the deepest and broadest level, I believe the mother-daughter relationship profoundly shapes our world. A woman's self-worth and self-confidence determines her ability to participate and contribute to the development of our families, organizations and communities. Ultimately, I believe the mother-daughter relationship is at the heart of how the world community unfolds. She/we are that powerful!

We are in a new era where we have the opportunity to relinquish the unhealthy norms, attitudes and behaviors that have shackled women in most cultures in our world. It is time we evolve. We now have the conditions in society conducive for creating a brand new positive future. I believe mother-daughter relationships are at the heart of liberating women to help make our world a better and more nurturing place for all.