bessie-fletcher.jpgAt an early age, girls often dream of being just like their mothers, playing dress-up in Mom’s make-up, clothes, and high heels.

A mother is, after all, the person from whom we first experience the blessing of affection.        

But sometimes during a girl’s teen years, Mom can become Public Enemy Number 1.  With luck, when daughters reach their twenties and thirties, mothers enjoy the rebirth of the friendship.

Ethel Edwards, 59, raised two boys and a girl as a single mother. She and daughter Latricia are now best friends.  But, when Latricia was younger, Edwards said, her daughter considered “Mom” her worst nightmare.

“My daughter was just giving me havoc and there was not a lot of resources out there to help me make sense of what was going on,’’ said Edwards, of Lauderhill, who on May 3 attended a forum titled, Help! I am Turning Into My Mother! “I went to the school board and was able to get a social worker to work with me and her. Ultimately, I started going to counseling and I found some support groups so I was able to understand and deal with some of the things my daughter was going through.’’

The forum was sponsored by the National Association of the Mother & Daughter Bonding Network, a social network that addresses mother-daughter problems, and seeks to provide opportunities for moms and their daughters to give and learn.

Edwards and some 60 other women who attended the forum reflected on that important bond between mothers and daughters.

Edwards in particular expressed gratitude for the forum.

“Not wanting to attend school and getting low grades are some of the serious kinds of problems that parents are going through right now and if they don’t get the support and resources to assist them through those tough times, it will be very detrimental,” said Edwards.

Today, Edward’s daughter, who came with her to the forum, can appreciate what her mother endured. Now 30, Latricia is herself a mother of two and a student at the University of Phoenix.

The lifetime bond between mothers and daughters is special: Every daughter contains all that her mother has inherited from all the women who went before her, said psychologist Bessie Singletary Fletcher, Ph.D., the Mother & Daughter Bonding Network’s creator.

With the exception of Dianne Williams, manager of multicultural marketing for Royal Caribbean Cruiselines – who said she aspires to be like her mother – most women at the forum feared becoming like their mothers, and repeating their mothers’ mistakes.   

“Being like your mother is not necessarily a negative thing. You can’t get around certain core things about you that you’ve picked up from your mother, because it’s just in you,’’ Fletcher said. “It transfers into the daughter and once you have a child, all that you have is what you remember from your mother and that’s how you’re going to raise that child.’’

In 1996, Fletcher launched a campaign to heal the nation through nurturing mother-daughter relationships and strengthening families. The Mother & Daughter Bonding Center in Hollywood offers resources such as therapy, one-on-one coaching, group sessions, workshops, seminars, and other developmental programs such as movie-nights-out and networking events.

Fletcher and her daughter, Angela, also publish Mother & Daughter Bonding Magazine, which has featured mothers Michelle Obama; Tracy Mourning, wife of Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning; U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston; and TV anchor Lynn Martinez of WSVN-7, among others.

Through her nonprofit organization, Fletcher teaches communication strategies aimed at strengthening the bond between women and their children and enhancing relationships.

“The Mother/Daughter Bonding Network goes beyond mothers and daughters to the entire family. Because families no longer eat at the dinner table, we no longer have quality time talking and listening. We’ve got to figure out how to communicate. Communication is number one,” said Fletcher, who specializes in counseling mothers and their daughters.

Because the mother-daughter relationship is one of the most intimate and complex, it can generate strong emotions, including anger.  A mother can become envious of a daughter who wins her father’s generous attention, or who is attractive and able to participate in life in ways the mother never could, Fletcher said.

“I believe all of us have our mothers inside of us. We accept what we want and change what we don’t like,’’ said Mara Giulianti, the former mayor of Hollywood, a panelist at the forum who talked about her relationship with her mother. “Work on it and recognize that those characteristics help us to be who we are, otherwise we’ll fight all of our lives against those things.”

Conflict occurs because mothers and daughters are not listening to one another.   Each of us has an ongoing intra-conversation—a conversation in our head—that we are constantly listening to, said Fletcher, who teaches mothers and daughters how to manage their inner dialogues.

“Regardless of your issues and your disappointments, she is still your mother and there’s nobody else like her. Even though she didn’t do it right, you have to look at what she got from her mother, and what her mother got from her mother, and understand that she’s just doing the best she can,” Fletcher said as she cried about the loss of her own mother.

Through the tears and the conversations, the mothers and their daughters at the forum found love, healing, and a reason to start a new, more open relationship.


Mother/Daughter Bonding Network

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Dr. Bessie Fletcher encourages mothers and daughters to listen to each other.