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by Monojit Lahiri May 8 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins, 12 secs

On Mother’s Day, Monojit Lahiri  chooses a provocative and informative path - he explains why a little distance kept by mothers from their daughters should be termed maturity, and help to normalise things.

Things are a bit different in the West. A report identifies five distinct mother categories: The Perfectionist, the Unpredictable, the Me first, the Complete, and the one that is winning, the Best Friend.

Pinky Behl is a young, 19-year old college going kid who lives in London. She smokes, drinks, dates, parties (“No big deal, yaar! All my friends do”) and wants to be a model upon graduation.

Doesn’t life in the fast lane affect her studies? Doesn’t her edgy lifestyle impact her home life? And what do her parents have to say? “Well, Dad is hardly around, busy as he is with a heavy-duty corporate job. Mom? Gosh, Mom is a darling and totally cool. I tell her everything. She’s my closest confidante and best friend!”

Mrs. Behl agrees. “Absolutely! We’re friends more than mother-daughter, yaar! C’mon, I am only 40 and totally clued into my daughter’s world. That’s the only way to understand this generation and bond with them if you want a good thing going. The age of the traditional parent-child divide is over. You can’t be authoritative, judgemental and rigid anymore, jhadoo-ing your parental status to ensure approval or obedience. Today’s kids just won’t take it. They are made differently. They are post-modern creatures, educated, more aware and exposed to a new world order that has embraced both globalization and consumerism. This has to be understood and respected by today’s mothers…if they want good chemistry with their daughters.”

The hip-hop, post-modern Mrs. Behl, confesses that at times, without her hubby’s knowledge, she even goes pubbing with her daughter’s gang. “It’s amazing. We have so much fun. They all love my spirit. Age really is a number, in the head, not heart!”

That is Mrs. Behl. Then there’s Mumbai–based Mrs. Reddy who does the hawk-eye number with her 19-year-old, college going daughter. She contemptuously dismisses the new-age (Mom-as-Best-Friend) thinking: “How can a mother ever be her daughter’s best friend, for god’s sake? There’s a very complex and difficult role to be played here, demanding affection, understanding, direction and discipline in equal measure. If you believe, as some silly new-age mothers do, that being a buddy with your daughter is the simplistic solution, you are living in a fool’s paradise. It’s not so simple.”

Mrs. Reddy, a post-graduate in chemistry, believes that “distancing is of critical importance. You have to establish and re-establish the fact that you are the parent and she is the daughter - not the other way around!”

She is of the opinion that once this basic blueprint and commandment is shared and executed both, in letters and spirit, everything else falls in place. She adds: “However, I have to admit that in today’s world it’s easier said than done. They are young, at an impressionable age, confronting a never-ending barrage of glamorous distractions and constantly up against fierce peer pressure. We lived in a different era. None of this existed and the divide between a parent-child was a traditionally conditioned one. It was a given. It’s tougher today, yes, but if tackled early and properly, it can be achieved. Both my daughters, the elder one is married and has a 4-year-old son, share a wonderful bond with me. There is love, affection, caring and mutual respect, but there is also a tacit understanding of the line between us which should never be crossed. They respect it and I don’t think our relationship is any the poorer for it.”

Wow! It takes two to tango, right?

On the one hand, among middle and upper middle class families in metro cities, there has been a paradigm shift in terms of looking, orchestrating and living out a mother-daughter relationship. There is certainly more informality, closeness and hearing, and many barriers have been broken. There is greater maturity from both sides, more give and take and a recognition of what’s good for them and how far the lines can be stretched.

However, the transition is not necessarily smooth and past baggage often intrudes. One needs time, patience, realization, understanding and acceptance. It cannot be a switch on, switch-off thing. No wonder there is so much turmoil, turbulence and chaos in the re-invention of the mother-daughter relationship.

“Earlier, once women got married and had kids, they didn’t think it necessary to pay great attention to their looks or figure. It’s different for the millennial moms who want to look attractive and yummy and definitely don’t want to be put on the shelf, ignored or passed-over in the company of their daughter, daughter-in-law and nieces,” said skin specialist Dr. G.R. Ratnavel. This has led to a boom in cosmetic surgeries in the 40-50 age group, with a focus on skin-tightening, wrinkle-elimination (with Botox) and weight reduction. Cosmetologist Dr. Jayaraman says: “Facelift has become one of the most common surgeries for the 40-plus women. They believe it will revive the youth factor and bring them renewed confidence, which will in turn lead to a fresh, exciting connection with the young environment they reside in”.

Things are a bit different in the West. Seems moms are desperate to cosy up and befriend their daughters. Great, but does it work?

Nonsense, insist experts, because partying with your kids’ friends, wearing fancy haircuts, listening to young music and using their lingo, even getting breast implants and surgery to blur boundaries, is, at best, faking truth, which is that you are the mom. So, if mom is a pal, who cares about looking after and guiding them in a nurturing “Don’t-worry-kid-I am there-for-you”, fashion?

Clinical psychologist Stephan Poulter (who specializes in family relationships and has authored the five categories report that I have alluded to earlier in this article) suggests that Hollywood is a disaster in this area. He cites the tragic case of actress Lindsay Lohan, whose mom used to go drinking with her and wonders what kind of role-model she was to her daughter? Lohan’s troubled, scary, scarred and haywire history reveals that she was bad news. Nonetheless, the “Mom-as-best friend” model accounts for almost 40% of all mother-daughter relationships in the USA. Poulter blames it on stress and anxiety, and says moms simply follow the path of least resistance and give in. They don’t want unpleasantness, fights or conflicts. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”

Mercifully, however, most Indian parents recognize that kids need us as parents, not friends. And, kids basically want the time-out from their parents. They need to hide harmless things from them to be normal and it’s those memories that they make while growing up, which give them the confidence in their children after they transcend from being daughters to becoming mothers as they grow older.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.