Podcast: Hello Mother, Hello Daughter
Hosts: Drs. Allison Alford and Michelle Miller-Day
Guests: Allison's Mom!
Title: “Daughtering Matters in the Mother-Daughter Relationship”
Hello Mother, Hello Daughter is a podcast where hosts, Drs. Allison Alford and Michelle Miller-Day explore contemporary issues of adult mother-daughter relationships. In this episode, Allison and Michelle discuss how they met and what brought them to the field of mother-daughter relationship research. Then, Allison shares her research on adult daughtering, defining what it means to “daughter” one’s parents and what that looks like in real life. We meet Allison’s mom and hear her stories of daughtering and modeling daughterhood. Categories of daughtering work such as thinking, doing, feeling, and being work are discussed, as well as why the invisibility of this labor is problematic. Michelle and Allison answer a listener’s question and offer tips for mothers and daughters to better recognize effective daughtering in listeners’ lives.
Alford, A. M. (2021). Doing daughtering: an exploration of adult daughters’ constructions of role portrayals in relation to mothers. Communication Quarterly, 69(3), 215-237. https://doi.org/10.1080/01463373.2021.1920442
Alford, A. M., & Marko-Harrigan, M. (2019). Role expectations and role evaluations in daughtering: Constructing the Good Daughter. Journal of Family Communication, 19(4), 348-361. https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2019.1643352
Alford, A. M., & Miller-Day, M. (Eds.) (2019). Constructing motherhood and daughterhood across the lifespan. Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b10841. Purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/Constructing-Motherhood-Daughterhood-Lifespan-Communication/dp/1433165716/
Di Leonardo, M. (1987). The female world of cards and holidays: Women, families, and the work of kinship. Signs, 12(3), 440-453. Access here: https://anthropology.northwestern.edu/documents/people/TheFemaleWorldofCards.pdf
Miller-Day, M. (2004). Communication among grandmothers, mothers, and daughters: A qualitative study of maternal relationships. Routledge. Purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/Communication-Among-Grandmothers-Mothers-Daughters/dp/0805839798/
Produced by Michelle Miller-Day
Graphic Design by Malia Niell
Question from Emily (thanks!)
Social Media management by Ella Kodjababian
Music by Happy Summer by RomanSenykMusic
Hello daughter. Just
like any relationship. The adult mother-daughter relationship takes work. I'm your host, Dr. Michelle Miller day.
And I'm your host, Dr. Allison.
In this podcast, we'll discuss the experience of mothering and daughtering in adulthood. We'll explore the topics that matter most to women using both a scientific perspective and an everyday relational lens.
Be sure to listen till the end of the podcast, to hear our pro tips for both mothers and daughters, our goal for this podcast is to help women have better relationships and better lives.
And of course, don't forget to like, and follow us on social media.
Hello, welcome to our first episode of the podcast. Hello mother. Hello daughter. I am one of your hosts, Dr. Allison Alford, and I'm Dr. Michelle
day. Now, Michelle, I'm really excited to be here with you today to talk about mothering and daughtering. Uh, and, and this is a topic that we've both been fascinated by. A long time, a long, long time. You, you know, I remember where our story started. It was about 10 years ago and I was a, we grad student who was very, uh, much admiring of your research on, um, motherhood, across the lifespan and a, and a, um, excellent book that. Had written and I reached out to you and said, could we work together? I'm like, sure. yes, you were so gracious to, uh, bring me into the fold. And that began our journey working together. I mean, I got interested in this
topic a long time ago. Uh, I mean from media and watching films, and I noticed that, you know, moms and daughters are always represented. Best friends, Gilmore Girls, or these angry opponents, and reality is most relationships are somewhere in between that. Um, and so I just started talking with mothers and interviewing mothers and daughters and grandmothers and people across generations and trying to learn more about mother-daughter communication
specifically as, uh, communication scholars with our PhDs in, uh, human communication studies. We interview and have interviewed hundreds of women about their relationships. And then we write these academic articles that get published in academic journals that have audiences of academic readers and this very important information then tends to stay right there. But you and I had this vision that we wanted to take that academic work and we wanted to start making it more accessible to different audiences. Our first foray into that was to create a book that we could use in the classroom in a college or university setting. So talk more about the book that we came out within 2019. Well, I think what was
exciting about that book is that most of the research up until then has really been focused on mothering and mothering is incredibly important and motherhood is incredibly important, but. The freak is the role of this adult daughter, right?
I mean, she's absent,
she's there, but she's absent from almost all the academic work. And so we brought together a bunch of scholars who are doing work on the adult mother-daughter relationship. And bringing daughters into the front and center
of that. Yeah. So, so, you know, we really do focus on what we call midlife, which is when, uh, women are in adulthood and both women as daughters and their mother and or father are also, um, you know, in a good place, meaning that they're healthy and well, and they're not in a caregiving situation. A caregiving situation is where someone's ill or needs elder care. And we talk about mothers and daughters in that middle life, um, and the everyday things that happen between them. And that's really the focus of our podcast today about daughtering and daughterhood and what it means to be an adult daughter and to shine a light on this very important family role. So
Alison, tell us about it. Daughtering I've never even heard that word before. Right. You know, I hear people in there listening, saying doting, what the heck, Allison, what is this thing called?
Doting? Yes. I'm excited to talk about it. Daughtering includes the intentional efforts that daughters provide toward their parents or parents. In this case today, we're talking. Adult daughters and their mothers. And so daughtering in this sense is these micro provisions of support that are enacted these things that are really, uh, work. If you wanna call it that, to keep a relationship going, daughtering includes the important things that daughters do in a relationship with their mother to maintain, build, and grow the relationship. I love
how you said that. So it's effort. You know, we all say, you know, in romantic relationships, oh, it takes work. You have to put something into it. I, I teach these 21, 20-year-old students and they're like, "well, my mom's my mom. I don't do anything really to maintain that relationship. She mothers me, what do I do you know?", and part of my role is to say, no, you are part of this relationship and like any relationship it's effortful. It takes effort. It takes work to maintain that too, to repair it if
necessary. Can, can you imagine though, if anyone ever came to you and said, I'm dating someone, but I don't work on it at all. Or I'm in a marriage, but we never work on that marriage or I'm a mom, but I don't try hard. I mean, can you imagine if somebody came to you and said that about those, you either would not believe them, or you would think red flag. Exactly. You know, because relationships take. And that's really what, uh, the research about daughtering shows as well. And, and it's kind of twofold of something you just said, it's first that daughtering takes work. And second, that we don't recognize that society doesn't recognize that daughtering takes work and even daughters themselves are often oblivious to the amount of effort they're putting in. And so, you know, what do we mean by. Daughtering work. What are some of the efforts that daughters do? Uh, well, daughters put in a lot of time into their relationship with their moms. That might be something like calling on the phone. Okay. And when you're on the phone and you are deciding, okay, it's, it's time to, to give my mom some time you have to set that aside. You have to, to not do something else. You have to deny something else. So you're putting in the time, the intention, the effort into your mom. Now, Michelle, I had a conversation with my mom recently and, uh, and so I think we're gonna play it here. Um, and she talks about how she did daughtering with her mother and phone calls and time. So let's play that here.
I came from a single parent family, and so my mother was the most important person in my. And for me to keep up with her meant I wanted to talk to her frequently and she wanted me to talk to her frequently. I loved being able to call her back when we were young, we didn't have the internet. And so we had a, a Sunday afternoon after five, it was cheaper, long distance to call. So every Sunday. Mother could look forward to a call from me when I was out of town. And that way we kept up with each other, I could know what's happening in her life and she could know what was happening in my life. Are there any specific ways that you trained me or, um, encouraged me to daughter you, I believe when. I would call mother, you would be in the room. I would include you sometimes handing the telephone to you. Uh, but as you aged, I would point out I'm doing this with grandmother. I'm going to see grandmother now. And this is what we expect.
Oh my gosh, Alison, you and your mom are so adorable. I obviously respect each other an
awful lot. Thank you so much for saying that about me and my mom. Everybody loves to be complimented on their relationship and the work that goes into that relationship. And, uh, you know, so another form of work is, uh, love labor, and that's important to talk about because it does, it's kind of an, an oxymoron, right? Love labor. How is it that love can be labor or, um, if you love it, that it can be considered work. That really is a hallmark of many mother-daughter relationships is that you're putting in the work, but you're getting a lot out of it emotionally. It's emotionally fulfilling to you and it's emotionally fulfilling for your mom. And that can kind of contribute to why daughters often don't know that they're doing something that's work because they're doing it because they enjoy it or they love it. And, and so love labor really is any effort you put into loving the other person. For the outcome of that person feeling good for increasing closeness in the relationship for bonding and supporting the longevity of the relationship. I know that that's something that you're familiar with as well. Yeah. And there's
two things that you said in there, I think are really important. One, those things like time and energy and effort, there's called relational currencies. We do this with all of our relationships, our friends, our best friends, right. The idea that we have these currencies things that we can give and take. I give my time, I give my energy. I give my love. I give my affection. Sometimes I can take those though too. And they give, or you give them to me. And sometimes there's this give and take these relational currencies that we give and take to maintain this relationship. But the other thing that you said it, you know, which strikes me is this notion of, well, I don't mind at all. What if you do mind, what if you feel like this burden of.
Yeah. Yeah. That's such a great point. You know, the research that, uh, I've done on daughtering reveals it. You don't have to be enjoying it or liking it to be doing it. Okay. So we don't wanna go into this stereotype of thinking that all mothers and daughters are happy and pleasant and that everything goes well all the time. And certainly we heard one tiny clip between my mom and I, but you know, there's a lot that we didn't hear because, uh, being in a relationship with someone is, has, you know, positive and negative aspects to it. And, um, sometimes relationships have more negative than positive or they're characterized by feelings of obligation and duty, but you're still daughtering and you're still doing that for the purpose of supporting that other person. And growing the relationship or supporting the relationship, uh, at its current state.
So, so we have this work, this maintenance work that we're doing with our mothers and our daughters. I, I wanna hear still a little bit more about the different kinds of work or what are some of the
nuances here? Yeah. Yeah. The first thing that I wanna start with. That we have to change the picture of the way we imagine daughters behaving. Right? So we're not thinking of just a, a sort of a cup that's waiting around to be filled up with mothering. Uh, but really, maybe there are two cups and they're filling each other up with mothering and daughtering and so daughtering is not a passive activity. It's it's uh, it's. And it's active work. So let's talk about different types of work. And this is coming out of some of my recent research, um, with daughters, adult daughters asking what are the ways that you do work, um, in your relationship with your mother? And so the first type of work is thinking work. Okay. And thinking work is the type of work that we do when we're thinking about our mother and how to care for. Or we're thinking about our mother's future or we're thinking about past events and monitoring, what would I change or what would I do differently? So thinking work, it lives in our head, but it takes up some of our resources to do that work. And that's why we would call that, uh, work. Um, and so there's kind of a concept that I wanna introduce and it's related to. What one scholar called meta parenting and meta parenting is this idea that we're often parenting, even when our kid isn't right there. And I think mothers can relate to this. Right? So any of you, mothers who are listening, you're thinking about your children, even when they're not with you, you're planning for them. You're anticipating. And we can think of the same with daughtering meta daughtering is a type of thinking work that occurs even when our mothers are not with us in that moment. So the work of daughtering, isn't just being on the phone or with her at the mall or cooking Thanksgiving dinner, or taking her to a doctor it's thinking about her needs, her future needs and the, like, what do you think about that first type of work? Thinking
about her as a person? That whole idea it's called fill comprehending. Right? That I comprehend my mom as somebody other than my mom. Right. She's a person, not just a role in my life. That is probably one of those turning points. And we're gonna talk about this in a future episode two, a turning point where you actually see your mom as a person with individual needs and. And not just as your mother, so starting to think of her as a person and what her needs are. I think that's a huge step
daughtering. Yeah. Yeah. And, and that step happens of course, a lot around the launching time, which would be early adulthood, emergent adulthood, and we're in college and, you know, uh, early twenties. And we are thinking about our, our mothers as different from our. But that other type of thinking work is really about planning for future interactions with her. We could even talk about imagined interactions if we wanted to in the literature about that. Um, but, but, um, there's a lot of work about anticipating when our mother will need care. Or when we financial plan for when she will need, uh, more financial support. And so, uh, thinking work can take a variety of forms, but if we're in our head about our mom, we're working we're daughtering okay. That was number one. Okay. Okay. Now there's four of these. So I'm gonna go on to number. The, and this is the one we've actually kind of talked about a little bit already, but the work of daughtering is also doing work. So we had thinking work and now we have doing work and doing work is when we embody the role when we perform as a daughter. And so this might be, I, I know, um, one of the things that I do as a daughter, Is bring some groceries. When I get to my mom's house, I just start cooking and start doing things. And sometimes I even leave meals in the freezer. Is she capable of cooking? Absolutely. But is it something I do for her because of love and kindness? I sure do. Other examples include, um, times when we are maybe talking to a different family member about our. And we embody the role of daughtering O of, of an adult daughter. And we act on her behalf, maybe we protect her, or we champion her, or we explain her behaviors, you know, think about talking to aunt Sheila on the phone. And you're like, well, mom didn't really mean that, you know, when mom gets this way and we act as a daughter by embodying the role of a daughter. Does that make sense? The way I'm saying that? Absolutely. Yeah. So the doing work is really the most common, um, form of daughtering that when we think of it, we picture doing, doing daughtering because it is where we do the phone calls, the grocery pickups, um, doing work includes, uh, creating access to our family. Uh, especially if we live in independent households, when we create time for our mom to come to our house, or we go to hers, access to the children, Doing work includes things like, uh, fixing her cell phone. I like to fix my mom's cell phone every time I'm around, you know, there's always something she wants me to fix or change or clean up for her. So doing work also really involves these instrumental support tasks. And again, these everyday little tasks, they're not because your mom is incapable or incompetent they're because we care. And because we. Okay, I'm gonna move on to number three. And number three is the feeling work that we do. Okay. And feeling work or emotional work is, um, this, this type of labor has been described for quite a long time, and it does include love labor. Um, but emotion work has sort of two facets, emotion work and emotion, labor. And this is, um, from ho ha child's work in 1970. That emotion work is the act of trying to change what we're feeling so that we can behave in the way we think we're supposed to behave in that moment. And emotional labor is slightly different, which is sort of the deep acting that we sometimes do to put on the correct emotional display. Okay. So the differences there is emotion work is I'm actually trying to change my emotion, emotional labor, as I'm trying. Perform the emotion. I think I'm supposed to perform whether I'm feeling it or not. Can you imagine scenarios where daughters are doing emotion work and emotion, labor?
I think I performed emotion, labor. Most of my adolescent life.
with my mom, to be honest. In what ways, tell
us when it was what was expected of me, right? What she wanted me to be, how she wanted me to present to the world. What I thought she wanted, you know, and I, I, I thought
not that long ago. And my, my mom has been passed on in 2017, but I'm still trying to make her proud. Mmm. Mm-hmm, it's really
interesting. And it's, and we're gonna get to that in the next type of work in just a moment but many of us can agree that there are times when we, uh, do emotion work. We try to change our own emotion for, for me, sometimes that is when I'm annoyed. Right. And that emotion work does also have to do. Uh, respect. You mentioned respect at the beginning of the, of the episode. And I also often think of emo performing emotion work when my children are around. So let me just say it in, you know, like this, if, for example, if I'm there visiting my mom and my children are there. Even if I get annoyed with my mom, I want to respect her in front of the children. And I want the children to respect. And I want the children to see how to daughter, a mother, so that my children, I have a young daughter so that they learn to daughter. Okay. So I might try to change an annoyed feeling inside of me into something different, or even if I can't, I'm gonna do the emotional labor of performing. The, the face of the daughter in that moment, because it's, what's not just right for the family and what's right for my mom, but it's also, self-serving, mm-hmm, I'm trying to perform in a way that shows my children how to perform in the future. Right? Yeah. So we really got into a few things there, but I would like to ask you in that one now, before I get to number four, but I wanna stop and ask you about intergenerational training. For mothering and daughtering, can you talk about what that is and how we pass on or train, uh, the, the people in our family about how to do family roles over time? Well, a
lot of it, as you just said, you just gave the example was modeling, right? So, so modeling behaviors and what we see, how we see one generation treating the other generation and learning how to do that dot. Her observing and noticing how I don't want to do that. Daughtering, I've interviewed several women whose own mothers treated their grandmothers very poorly and articulate. I learned how to treat my mom from doing the opposite of how she treated my grandmother, but a lot of it also is socially constructed. And what I mean by that is films. Media. My pastor, you know what others are telling us we should be and how we should perform this daughtering role or this mothering role. Um, so again, intergenerationally, we learn, we model, we listen, we try it out. And it's a process of trial and error, I guess you would say you get sanctioned when you don't get it right in a certain way, or whether it's from disappointment. We learn through trial and error as well as through model. Um, I don't think there is inherently one way of daughtering or mothering. We look cross culturally, and there are a lot of similarities with how women, daughter, and mother, but there are also a plethora of differences, you know, from our culture, from our families, from our mothers. Um, and it's through trail and
error. Well, and I'll add one more, right. Which is that we learn from other daughters as. Right. Uh, and that's something that, uh, we can talk about another time in the future. Um, but this idea of a daughter hood and that there are other daughters that we learn from those other daughters could be in our family. They could be our sibling. I have a sister, you have a sister. Uh, so they could be, you know, daughters that we learn from in that way. Or we can see. Or talk to a friend. Right? So for instance, before I got married, I had other friends who got married and I talked to them about how they behaved with their mothers at their weddings. And so I was accessing the, the sort of collective knowledge of the daughter hood in that moment. Um, and so that's a little rabbit trail. We can go down and we don't need to, but I think that it is one of the places we forget that we learn from. Is from other daughters who are modeling things. So without going too far and down that path, I wanna go to number four. And the fourth type of work that daughters do is called being work. Okay. So if you're keeping track, that's thinking, doing, feeling and being work okay. And being work is where we. Negotiate our identities, our intersected and multi-layered identities. And this really has to do with, uh, a shaping strengthening or repairing our own self-concept. About our social identities. Okay. And social identities are a hot topic in psychological and communication research. So if we have any, you know, researchers or scholars listening, they're like, ha Yeah. We finally get to talk about identity. Um, so identity work is happening in the present, but it's also formed by past remembrances and it's also strongly connected to future projections. Can you
repeat again, for me thinking, feeling, doing,
being, being, thinking, feeling I like acting though that could work
thinking, feeling, doing, being okay. So that's a lot of work. That's a lot of types of work. How come this has been ignored? Why haven't we acknowledged this up
until recently? Yeah, that's a great question. And you know, the, there are lots of potential reasons why it's been ignore. And we, we see it, not just being ignored by pop culture, but daughters, ourselves we're ignoring it. And it can happen because, um, there's obscurity because we have a lack of language to talk about it that sometimes happens particularly, um, work that's related to women's lives. Many of our listeners will be familiar with the term invisible labor. And the invisible labor of maintaining relationships, maintaining households, um, and parenting has become a hot topic recently. Uh, but it's not a new topic per se. You know, we know from de Leonardo's work in the late 1980s, she described a term called Kim keeping. And what she said with Kim keeping is that women do all this work, like sending holiday cards or, um, prepare, you know, planning for an extra person at the holiday event by bringing in extra gift. And the social reproductive labor that women perform is often hidden or devalued because it's not considered to have a high value, right. Uh, for economic or market labor. And I think the tide is turning on that. What do you
think? Absolutely. And then the first step is awareness, right. And talking about this and giving it a label. So I love we are, we are claiming doting here and now that's right. And moving
forward. That's right. When we name it, when we give voice to a phenomena, we make it matter. And mattering helps people to feel that the work that they've done is important and to see also where their efforts are going. If you're exhausted at the end of the day, it might be because you haven't noticed all the work that you've been doing and the ways that it's mattering. And, and so we can apply that throughout our lives. Um, and, and notice that work is a lived experience that we're it's happening all day. And daughtering is a lived experience and it changes over time. There is no one way to daughter and the way a daughter today is gonna change tomorrow because my mom and I are both people who are changing over that is that's kind the big picture of daughtering.
Yeah. And that's such an important point that we change over time. So when I ask you, listeners, what kind of work do you do to manage and repair and maintain your relationship with your mother? I'm asking you today. What are you doing today? I'm not asking you about how you did it or how you're going to do it. Think about it, stop. Think. How are you currently? Daughtering
your mother. Yeah. And you know what? I think we have a great question from one of our listeners that also is about daughtering. So let's hear that question.
Hi, my name is Emily and I'm 29 years old. And honestly, daughtering is really hard work. I was wondering how I get my mom to acknowledge the work I do in our relationship.
Thanks for your question, Emily. It's now time for our hot tips and these hot tips dress. The question we've got today. So hello daughter, how do you get recognition for daughtering number one? You have to ask for it. Okay, daughters, go to your mom's and say, Hey, can you tell me when I'm doing a great job? Can you say good job daughtering today? Or that phone call really was, uh, such a, a, a great way to daughter me today. And tip number two daughters, you have to provide that language. So if you ask them to recognize daughtering, you need to tell them what to say, because this isn't in our vernacular yet. So ask for it and provide the language. Okay. Moms
here's for you. Hello mothers, identify three things that your daughter does for you that are significant contributions to your relationship. Okay. At least three. And I want you to think about how can I recognize her for this again, like what Allison said is we have to have the vernacular, right? What is daughtering? So we know kind of what it is now. Now observe it in your own life. What does she do? How can you recognize her for it? And how can you celebrate
that together? All right. So that's all about daughtering and we can't wait to hear your feedback and comments, so like, and follow us on social media. And of course, come back next time, improving mother-daughter
communication by starting with you.