ICYMI – Recap of MOTHER/DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIPS: What Are They? (June 21, 2015)

“She died right after I left. I laughed and cried. Mom had gotten the last word.”

Julie Roberts

“She was depressed at home, but otherwise the life of the party.”

— Carla Nigl

“I didn’t think of her as a woman. Her fuss was understated – and ignored by me.”

— Elizabeth Marsh

“I understood more of what she went through when I had my own kids.”

— Elizabeth Gomez

Stories of daughterhood were as paradoxically unique, yet universal, as the women who shared them onstage on Tuesday, June 16. Part of the ABOUT WOMEN conversation considering what it means to be a woman shaped by the influence and love (or lack thereof) of another woman, the evening offered an open, judgment-free forum for reflection on the complexities – the joys, sorrows, pain and pleasure – of the mother/daughter relationship.

Although the vignettes shared by Carla Nigl (who also happens to be ABOUT WOMEN founder Nikki Nigl’s beloved mother), Eli Marsh, Julie Roberts and Elizabeth Gomez differed in geography, ethnic culture, socioeconomics and other variables, it was a truth universally acknowledged by the women in attendance that there is no size fits all interpretation of the bond. Although Roberts acknowledged, “Our mothers are often the first loves of our lives,” several of the speakers spoke of the scars the manifold experience can leave behind. As Roberts continued, “You never forget watching your father cry.”

Sometimes, as Nigl and Roberts attested, a daughter is prematurely forced into a parent role by the ravages of mental illness. In other cases, girlhood serves as rigid and mystifying experience. Gomez was raised by an immigrant mother “who worked hard but shared little.” Yet what struck me about the stories was the unifying lack of bitterness. To a woman, the speakers confessed gratitude for the challenges they endured as a part of their upbringing. As Marsh said, “Even if the experience was terrifying, preparing for tonight was an exercise in healing.”

Despite the unique features of each speaker’s reality, the event’s attendees found much solace in shared experience. One of the strongest messages from the ABOUT WOMEN community has always been this: “You are not alone. We are not alone.” That truth was reinforced by the mother/daughter relationship conversation. Nigl offered an appropriate summation: “I wanted a mom like my friends had, but I found out later that no one’s family is perfect. No one’s mother was perfect.” Echoed Gomez, “She did what she thought was right. How can you be perfect when you’re always learning?”

As is completely appropriate with relationships so layered and diverse, there was no resolution. The vibrant dialogue about mothers, daughters and the personal implications of that bond is as old as womanhood itself. Yes engage it we must, in order to learn grow, and as ABOUT WOMEN founder Nikki Nigl proudly asserts, “Prepare to take over the world.”

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