Elsewhere on this site there is information about how sharing feelings helps to relieve stress, especially for women. We all know how we women share every detail of every situation with our girlfriends but when our men get together, they can sit in silence watching a ball game or chat about mundane things while working on a project together and think they are bonding. Maybe in their own way they are, but women are different. We need to talk.
The same is true when we are dealing with the stresses of our mother-daughter relationships. When we have frustrations, challenges, annoyances and problems, we need to share. But is there a difference sharing with our friends versus family members?
We’re not all lucky enough to have siblings who can share this burden with us. My friend, Laurie (yes, the same Laurie who co-founded this site with me!), is an only child and, therefore, has to bear this burden alone, unless an aunt or uncle becomes involved. I, on the other hand, have two older sisters. I certainly talk to my girlfriends about my mother-daughter issues, as I talk to them about other issues in my life (romantic relationships, career dilemmas, living situations, etc.), and I know that they can certainly understand, as they all have their own mother-daughter issues as well. But when Laurie asked me if it was more helpful talking to my sisters about the situation with my mom than talking to my friends, I had to give it a little thought. I wasn’t sure.
I do think that talking in general to anyone who might understand and sympathize or, better yet, empathize, is helpful and I don’t think I’m really that picky about it. But I do guess that talking to my sisters does give me something different. They have known me for my entire life and my mom for the entirety of theirs. They totally “get it.” And not just mother-daughter relationships in general, but this mother in particular.
While I might also be more hesitant to be fully honest with a friend (even a really good one) about a fight I’ve had with my mother (not wanting to make my mom look particularly bad, since, of course, the story is coming from my point of view which may or may not be a little skewed in my favor), I don’t really have to worry about that with my sisters as they are family and they already “know.”
Also I think it takes some of the pressure off of me by having my sisters around (even if not physically, as one sister lives far away). It can diffuse the situation. We can all take turns being the “good daughter” versus the “bad daughter.” It doesn’t always have to be me. And, in fact, I now have more of a chance to be the good daughter more often. That wasn’t always the case.
As I don’t have any brothers, I’m not sure if this would be true if I didn’t have sisters, though. It seems to usually be the daughter who is put in the position of responsibility with aging moms and the mother-daughter relationship is so different from the mother-son relationship, that it may not be particularly helpful to a daughter when dealing with these issues if she only has brothers.
Recently, my oldest sister had an issue with my mom and she was beside herself. I have been there so often myself and for really the first time I had the opportunity to talk my sister “down off the ledge” after this fight. As the baby sister my whole life, this was a new experience for me. While I liked being able to shed some perspective on the situation for my sister, help calm her down, and then handle the situation in the best way possible, I especially liked the feeling of now being more of her equal. It gave me a new sense of adulthood with my sister that I don’t think I had really had before.
Overall, I do believe that being able to talk about your feelings, gain some objective perspective and bounce things off another person is helpful no matter who that person is.