By Dr. Laurel Schwartz
How would you feel if you were a stay-at-home mother, and when you’re daughter was asked who was her role model, answered, “My dad”? I recently came across a 2009 article in “Newsweek” where a mother wrote about just this experience. She described how she did all the million and one things a stay-at-home mother does for her children and family: “I cook. I carpool. I volunteer.” As any stay-at-home mother knows, she did a lot more than that. She probably cooked the meals. She planned the birthday parties, helped with the homework, did her daughter’s laundry, went clothes shopping and the list goes on.
So why would, in this case, a 13-year-old girl, with a devoted mother, identify with her dad? First of all, no matter what a daughter verbalizes, there will always be a part of her that identifies with her mom. Indeed, how a daughter feels about herself is in no small part, determined by how her mother feels about herself. That’s why, if a daughter asks her mother if she thinks she’s smart, the mother – even if that day, she feels like she can’t tell her right hand from her left – should answer, “Yes.” If her daughter asks her, for example, if she thinks she’s pretty, even if the mother hasn’t had a chance to shower and she’s wearing overalls, she should again answer, “Yes.”
However it’s because mothers and daughters can be so close, that perhaps this daughter identified with her father. By doing so, it may have been an attempt to strike out on her own. In other words, it was a way of separating from her mother and establishing her own identity.
Another reason behind this identification may have been a wish to please her father. Her father, as compared to her mother, due to work demands may have been absent from the home. She may have felt by identifying with him she could capture his attention. In addition the parent who is “missing” often becomes idealized. She may have seen her dad’s activities as more exciting and adventuresome. The mother, on the other hand was always present and involved in the less exciting business of daily living.
Fathers also have their own unique sphere of influence. Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician who writes on the father–daughter relationship states, “Studies show that fathers have as much – or more – impact on their daughters in many areas especially their daughters’ relationships with men, their vocational achievements and their self-confidence.”
There is one other way of looking at this. As in other areas of life, no one person can provide everything another person needs – and this goes for moms too – no matter how great they are.
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