The mom effect: how mother shaped us as women

One of the topics that I love is how our beliefs are shaped.

Most of us, myself included, have rules we live by that aren't necessarily our own. Or rather not originally. At some point we acquired them and have since come to believe that they are true.

I'm making no judgment here whether these beliefs are neutral, good or bad. It can be something simple like socks always get tied in a knot before going into the drawer. (My husband is a one-sock-fits-into-the-other person.) It can be much more complex than that too.

More specifically I'm fascinated by the role our mothers, or mother-figures, have played in shaping us as women. Sure my husband's sock conviction is from his mom, but you learn a lot of gender-specific information from the biggest same-sex presence in your life.

Things like:

  • Sexuality and sensuality – what is sexy?
  • Relationships, from choosing your partner to how you argue
  • The importance of female friendships, including how you make them and keep them
  • Being a 'good mom' –  does it mean being selfless?

Mom is not the only one who has shaped your beliefs about these things. She probably was one of the first though. My point is that we carry around these ideas sometimes without thinking about whether they are helpful.

I often work with my life coaching clients on making the right decisions for them (as opposed to what everyone else thinks they should do). The motherhood question is one of those.

When it's difficult for you to make a decision, it can be because several of your values are in conflict with one another. It helps to figure out what ones you truly value and which ones you've been carrying around because that's the only way you thought it could be. Mom, Dad, teachers or past events tend to be the culprit for their shelf life.

Back to our mothers and mother-figures. I would love to hear from other women about how your woman-ness was shaped by your mom. I'd call it femininity but it seems much broader than that (and a less-fun word :)).

In conversation recently with women in their 30's, we shared that cultivating self-esteem is something many of us had to figure out on our own. That moms of previous generations, with notable exceptions, went from adolescence to motherhood without really figuring themselves out so they didn't know how to help their daughters. Going to college, having careers, marrying later—not to mention women's lib—allowed us time to learn more about ourselves. In turn, some of us are role models for our moms in this regard.

How did your mother help you navigate being a woman? How did her beliefs hinder you? What other ways do you think mothers affect their adult daughters?

Please feel free to post thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you!