5 Things My Mom, Unknowingly, Taught Me About The Mother-Daughter Relationship


“A daughter is God’s way of saying, ‘I thought you could use a lifelong friend.'” 

I’ve always wanted a little girl. Always. My family and friends can tell you that.  Of course, it started out superficially… someone to dress in cute outfits and to take to get her nails done as a special treat. Yet, as I moved through my later 20’s and early 30’s the reasons why became much deeper. I always felt that the bond between a mother and daughter was special, and when I came across this quote a year or so ago, it genuinely captured the relationship between my mother and me. I have many friends who have this type of relationship with their mothers, and I have some who don’t. In my line of work, I regularly come across mothers and daughters who would like to have a relationship like this, but due to past hurts and wounds, have a long road ahead of them. Needless to say, I have always felt blessed. When it was confirmed that we were going to be having a little girl, I knew that I wanted the same relationship with her as I have with my mom.

Yet, I realized that this isn’t always a given. Just because I have a daughter does not mean we will have a good relationship. So I began thinking and reflecting, trying to break down what exactly it was my mother did over all those years that helped to nurture and foster our friendship. As I move closer to Harper’s arrival, I feel that I’ve come up with a few answers. I guess I look at them more as a gift from my mom… one she probably doesn’t know she was giving me over the years… the gift of how to cultivate a positive mother-daughter relationship. Here’s what I gleaned from my most recent reflections and how I hope to grow my relationship with Harper.

  1. Accept her for who she is: My mother did a wonderful job at this. I can’t ever recall a time when my mom chastised me for what I was wearing, or made me feel silly about the way I applied my make-up. If Allison or I wanted to wear a Christmas sweater in July, she saw it as a way that we could express ourselves. If I wanted to wear a little bit of blue eyeshadow (oh man!!!), she showed me how to do it subtly. She never commented on my weight or my bleached blonde hair I surprised her with after a solo trip to the salon. She loved me and accepted me for who I was. Now, don’t get me wrong there were limits. Shorts on a rainy day were NOT okay… and if she said I needed to wear a sweater… I wasn’t leaving the house without one. Yet, I always felt accepted and beautiful in her eyes.
  2. There was always a line between being a parent and being a friend: In my work I see so many parents wanting to be their children’s friends. I tell them that they have 18 years to parent their children and a lifetime after that to be their friends. My mom did just that. She appropriately consequenced me, made parenting decisions when I tried to convince her that “everyone else is doing it….” (and yes, I received the response, “If everyone else jumped off of a bridge, would you too?”). She stood her ground when I slammed the door in protest of my parent’s decisions. She didn’t need a friend in me, she knew she was raising her child, and she knew what was best for me. Yet, she was also able to recognize when I needed a friend. I can vividly recall one difficult high school evening, where I was upset about some issue with friends. She took me to coffee, where we sat and talked through the problem. This was her seeing my need, and being flexible with her parenting role. As I moved through college and my later 20’s that parenting role (while it will always be present) was able to shift into a natural friendship.
  3. Forced time is not quality time: She recognized that making me spend time with her, was not the same as when I requested it… which in all honesty, was quite often :). What I mean by that is that she was able to move with me as I grew developmentally. She knew I didn’t really want to be seen with my family, at the movies, on a Friday night in middle school, and she was okay with that. Instead, there was a special breakfast  in the morning where we could catch up… or a day of manicures and shopping to connect. There were, of course, non-negotiables, like mid-week family dinners and special family occasions, but for the most part she held on with just the right amount of firmness so that I always came back. I guess I liken that to holding sand in your hand… too loosely and it all falls out. Squeeze too tightly and it all falls out. Hold it with just the right amount of firmness and it stays within the limits of your palm.
  4. She embraced my interests: I went through many phases growing up, all of which my mom openly embraced and explored with me. I went through a love of making bracelets out of beads, she helped me be the best bead bracelet maker there was. Softball, ice skating, swimming, golf… you name it, she supported it and took an active interest in it. In college, she came down for visits and took my girlfriends and me out to lunch, engaging in conversation. Now, as I move into a new role, she embraces how I want to parent and takes an active and supportive interest.
  5. She was always there for me: I guess this is the one it all ultimately boils down to… without this one, I’m not sure 1-4 can really even occur. My mom was always there. Whether it was a late night phone call consoling me after a breakup, leaving the middle of a meeting to take my phone call when I thought for sure I wasn’t going to get into graduate school, and being genuinely excited for me when I became engaged, and ecstatic when I shared the news that I was pregnant… she has always been a constant in my life. Someone I always knew I could count on, rely on, and fall back on. That’s the kind of safe base I hope to be able to provide Harper with throughout her entire life. To simply know that someone will always be there for her. No matter what.


  1. This was such a lovely read! I am blessed to have this kind of relationship with my own mother, but navigating that from the other end with my nine year old daughter can be challenging. These are great tips! Thanks for posting this!

    xo, Summer

    • Shannon&Allison says:

      Thank you so much! Mother daughter relationships can be so special, and I hope I am able to do the same with my little one!