Your roles are switching, whether it’s due to age, health, finances, or culture, and daughters are better equipped to take care of moms.
Why it’s good: “As mothers age, even as they develop health problems, we’re seeing the mother-daughter relationship improve,” says Karen Fingerman, an associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the author of Mothers and Their Adult Daughters: Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds ($21, amazon.com). Daughters feel needed, mothers feel loved. “Both sides come to accept the other for who she is,” says Fingerman.
Why it’s challenging: Passing the baton of authority is hard work. “There’s tension, as daughters are faced with demands and uncertainties, and mothers may feel they’re getting help they don’t need,” Fingerman says. These dynamics can be marked in first-generation immigrant families, or if mother and daughter grew up in dissimilar eras or circumstances. The daughter encourages the mother to navigate the culture or times, which can cause friction, says Sharkey.
Improving relations: Sharkey suggests that daughters make mothers feel more valued as they become less dominant. Spend time thinking and talking about the traditions and the values that you share. This encourages daughters to see their identities as critically and positively linked with their mothers and can help preserve the mothers’ sense of importance.