Mothers and Daughters.


by Leslie Morgan Steiner


You’re Grounded Forever, But First…Let’s Go Shopping.


Do you understand the gist of this book simply by reading the title?


I assumed I did. And then, if there was any doubt, the subtitle cleared it all up: The Challenges Mothers Face With Their Daughters.


Ahh, yes.


The author, Susan Shapiro Barash, writes smart, insightful books exclusively about women. She’s got a knack for apt titles: Tripping the Prom Queen (inter-female jealousy), Toxic Friends (abusive female friendships), and others exploring sisters, female infidelity, and marriage. She also teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College. I recently had the pleasure of being on Michel Martin’s National Public Radio show, Tell Me More, to discuss mothers and daughters with Susan Shapiro Barash.


I like Susan’s work tremendously. Almost as much as I like her catchy titles. So I didn’t expect to be surprised by her book.


But I was.


Here’s the revelation that up-ended me: her research showed that women are afraid of their daughters. At first I thought sure – me too – I’m afraid of my daughter every day.


She’s a great kid, but one of those that embodies Plutarch’s quote, “The wildest colts make the best horses.” I’m afraid that my daughter will scream and pout in the morning because I might have woken her up “wrong.” I’m afraid that at 7:08 she will start bugging me because I’m taking too long grinding my coffee and I’m going to make her late for school (school is 10 minutes away and doesn’t start until 8:10). I worry she is going to yell at me, slam doors, tell me she hates me, and that she’s getting her own apartment in Manhattan (she’s eleven and we live in Washington, DC). My daughter has threatened, pushed and bossed me since she learned to talk nine years ago. She regularly raises her palm inches from my face and says things like, “Mom, calm down. YOU need to listen to ME.” I’m used to her attitude, her vociferous volume, and the hand gestures that make me grind me teeth in frustration that occasionally verges on rage.


Frankly I don’t pay attention to any of it. If a day passes that she’s not screaming at me, it’s probably because she has food poisoning or I’m on a business trip 500 miles out of range.


But no, Susan’s book was not about THAT kind of afraid.


Turns out that other women are afraid every day – of their teenage daughters not liking them.


Hence the need to take them shopping after grounding them.


I get it now.



We are caught up in identity issues and femininity when we encounter our mothers. It will be uncomfortable. I believe that psychologically healthy people resolve this well enough to be free of angry impulses.

Cultural/societal structures devalue women, especially mothers, so that the type of bullying the author receives from her daughter comes early and naturally, and quickly becomes a lifestyle of emotional abuse directed toward mothers.

Some mothers do "well enough" by their daughters that the young women are able to save their abusive impulses for mom alone and thus succeed in the world, by all appearances.

If a mother has abusive people around her, especially men who are father figures to her child, she can pretty much count on getting the same treatment from her daughter as the child seeks to individuate from mom and aligns psychologically with the father figure.

I think it is a crime that children are manipulated away from the natural nurturance and affections of their mothers. The process of individuating by resolving identity and femininity issues with our mothers is extremely challenging for girls, and accepting that HATE is just par for the course sounds completely wrong to me.

Are we mothers too weak to stop the hate?


Thing is, I hate her most of the time too. But while hating her, don't stop loving her as well. Teenage girls are miserable, and if you aren't counting the days to college, you're not doing your job. They'll emerge a kinder, gentler being, but you need to survive this first!



Amen! My job is to make sure my daughters become great young ladies and responsible adults. It is not to make them like me. I'm not their friend, but their mom. If that means they don't like me, then so be it. I know they will always love me.


Love this article, LMS! If I could high-five you, I would. Thumbs up.
My mother lives with us and we love each other, but still, we don't always like each other!


First of all I'd like to say that you are doing a great job being so optimistic. Your daughter puts her hand in your face and screams at you??? Who taught her this behavior in the first place. My daughter knows her role in our family and loves me to death! No - I don't please her all the time but only because I have raised her to hold herself accountable for her own actions. I have taught her to respect others, just because she don't like something- that doesn't give her the right to disrespect my house or anyone else in the house by slamming doors and screaming! I do not want to be her friend, she has plenty at home but she knows I am her best friend by setting her boundaries and giving her limits. Good luck with your daughter, I hope she isn't telling you when shes allowed to go out and for how long when shes 16.


I seem to have a different look at all of this than practically anyone I know. My relationship with my 'mother' is null and void now, I'm 40. I was adopted at 2 days old and it's been downhill ever since. 4 years ago, I decided to not involved my daughters in the dysfunction that surrounds my family. I never worried about my daughters liking me or hating me. It seems that I raised them the way I wanted to be raised. I'm the kind of mother that I didn't have.
My girls and I are friends, their friends find a sanctuary of sorts in our home, and I'm their mom. Groundings happen. Sass talk is a norm at times. But I'm not worried about if they don't like me. I know what it's like to hate a mother. They know what it's like to have conditional love from a grandmother.


I remember having a conversation with some friends about the best age to have a baby. Now I know there is no best age, there's good and bad with any age. I do remember thinking, after talking to a friend who was dealing with her teenage daughter "what difference does it make? They hate you when they are teenagers no matter how old you are." I think that's just part of growing up and trying to make them like you isn't going to help. Besides, if your kids aren't rotten to you sometimes as teenagers, then you never get to experience the joy of embarrassing them on purpose.



I wish that I had had a mother like you. I might have not liked you very much at times...but never hated you, because I would have known you loved me.

My mother hated me from the time I refused to come down the shoot in a short enough time to suit her. I was born dark-complected, with a mop of black hair that covered my forehead, and extended down my spine, and enormous, sloe eyes. My mother is blonde (with some help from the bottle), green eyed and fair. I was...unexpected. Furthermore, I added insult to injury by requiring very little sleep. I didn't cry, or fuss, or colic, I simply slept in one or two hour increments, 24/7. Could have been the amphetamines mom took to keep the weight off while she was pregnant...or maybe it was just me. I am still an insomniac.

Anyway, according to her, I was a lousy baby who wouldn't let her sleep. Who was mistaken for her mother's child. Who grew up into a fat, unattractive little girl who looked just like her daddy's unattractive (O, hell, ugly), unsophisticated, Italian family. And walked like a farmer and was built like a peasant (I have shortened Achilles Tendons and a mesomorphic build). She dressed me in cheap cotton dresses and saddle shoes (we were solidly middle class). She dunned me constantly for being too fat, then bought donuts, cake and candy, and whined and complained that she did she was unappreciated if I wouldn't eat them. When I got my period and simultaneously blossomed from nothing to a full B cup (no training bras for me)at 10 and a half years old, she bought me the cheapest, ugliest bras she could find, and refused to get me any dresses that would fit. I had to safety pin my blouses and dresses closed until they tore from stress before I received any new clothing.

No, this was not the case for my two younger sisters. My mother insisted that I was fat when I had a 22 inch waist, a six pack, and rock hard arms because I have a classic Mediterranean figure, which means a big chest and a big butt. After I married the first time, my mother would call and give me hell because I wasn't cleaning her house for her anymore (never mind that I was working full time and had my own sorrows). My mother accused me of abandoning her when my unemployed bum of a husband finally found work in another state and I had to move. When I had my first child, via emergency, and I do mean emergency c-section, my mother came for two weeks. She didn't help...she spent the entire time complaining that she didn't get to hold the baby enough.

My mother. She is 78 now, a non-drinking alcoholic (but only because her body revolted and almost died and the physical craving went away), a hoarder, a narcissist and still occasionally attempting to make me miserable. I spent a lot of my early life afraid of HER, and emotional cruelty and abuse...trying to make her love me. I still love her, still call her once a week, have set boundaries that allow me to live in peace with my past (and yes I do. In my recounting of the past and the facts, don't give in to the misperception that I dwell there).

This article gave me pause, though. Has my mother feared me all of this time? She certainly in no way wanted my approval or love. Her view of me in the last 15 years has been this bizarre image of some wifty, sweet, gentle presence floating serenely through life...which is not anyone I know personally. Someone who believes in unicorns, with a Pollyanna attitude. She is constantly shocked, therefore, when she launches one of her sadistic attacks and I send a return salvo of, "O, no you won't", right back at her, and hang tough until she relents.

By the way, it isn't just daughters who hate you on occasion. My 13 year old son thoroughly detests me at times, because I am cruel, and don't understand, and I am, even worse, logical in the face of his emoting and drama. I'm not afraid of him. He's my son, and I'm here to love him, and affirm him, and also to set boundaries, and be the one to dole out consequences, and to provide consistency and stability in his life until he can do those things for himself. He knows he's loved...even when I am the meanest mom in the world.


Hear, hear!


Another great post; I have a 15 year old and agree with everything you've said here!