My mom and I have always seemed to just get each other, speak openly and enjoy one another's company. In fact, every afternoon we had tea together to chat about our day. Because we were so close (and also pretty close in age — she had me as a teenager) we drew a lot of comparisons to another tight mother-daughter combo: The Gilmore Girls. We. Hated. That. Unlike Lorelai and Rory, we weren't and didn't try to be best friends. Now, there are a million reasons why I don't want to be my daughter's best friend, either. Sorry Lorelai and Rory. You're super adorable with your fast-talking, witty banter and charming Connecticut backdrop, but my mom and I are going to be here — also in a charming Connecticut backdrop — talking at a normal pace and not sharing clothes or having slumber parties or whatever.
While there are a million reasons why I want to try and emulate the same close-but-not-weirdly-close relationship my mother and I had (and have) with my own daughter, there are just as many reasons why I won't be actively seeking out a long-lasting "best friendship" with my daughter, either. I won't list them all here but will, instead, boil it down to one big one: at the end of the day, my girl will have dozens of friends, maybe even a big clutch of best friends (as Mindy Lihiri once said, "Best friend isn't a person, it's a tier."), but she's only going to have one mom. I was lucky enough to wind up this amazing person's mother. Why would I downgrade to friend, even best friend?
Mother-daughter relationships don't have to be stiff, formal, or adversarial in lieu of being chummy. They also don't have to be perpetually infantilizing for the child or emotionally exhausting for the mother (OK, maybe it's always going to be a bit emotionally exhausting for mom, but I'm told it gets better if you can accept change gracefully). It's perfectly possible to have a beautiful and fun relationship while still very much observing healthy parent/child boundaries on both sides. So, with that in mind, here's why I don't want to be my daughter's best friend:
Friendship Can't Really Be Friendship If The Friends Are On Unequal Footing
The whole premise of friendship is that you're on the same level, stick together, and help each other out despite having no formal obligation to one another. That last point is pretty clutch when it comes to friendship, I feel, and I can think of few more powerful formal obligations than those between a parent and a child.
The parent has control — legal and otherwise — over the child. I would posit, under typical circumstances, that a child can never love a parent as much as a parent loves a child. So from a friendship standpoint, one person is going to be way more invested in the other. So, unless a lot of major premises that define a parent/child relationship are suspended or drastically shifted, a true friendship between a mother and daughter is going to be awkward.
Boundaries Are Important
Again, this isn't to say that a mother/daughter relationship has to be stuffy or forma or devoid of humor. A mother can have fun with her daughter. Go ahead and have a movie night, or go shopping together, or even go away on a special vacation just the two of you. Hang out for fun all you want.
However, let's remember that first and foremost we're a parent and a child. Once you cross beyond the "mom/daughter" line and venture too far into friendship territory, it's sometimes hard to find your way back. Things get confusing (and, frankly, annoying) if one meanders between the two — it's inconsistent and might leave one or both people feeling like, "OK, are we doing the mom/daughter thing now or the friend thing now? Why are you pulling the mom/child card on me right now? I don't like that. Act like my friend! I don't want to be controlled/obligated." This is not an issue if you keep your roles clear and uncomplicated.
BFFs Aren't Super Good At Structure (And Kids Need Lots Of That)
Even when they don't want to do something, secretly and deep down (sometimes deep, deep down), children need and love structure. The rigidity of the structure, of course, will vary from family to family (#differentstrokesfordifferentfolks), but they do need some guidance as they move through the chaos of the world (both the actual world and the myriad of galaxies swirling about their brains).
Example: any parent who has a child who's fought a nap can tell you that the harder they fight that nap, the more they need that nap. Left to their own devices, they wouldn't nap (unless they passed out on the floor in the middle of a meltdown, which certainly happens), so it's up to us, as their parents, to know what's good for them and to make them do it (as we somehow maintain our composure through their shrieking protests).
Best friends? Not so great with creating and maintaining structure. In fact, it's a 50/50 success rate at best. (Just think about how many times they were unable to convince you not to drunk dial your ex. Point made.) And that's OK. They're your friends: they're not supposed to be the one structuring your life. So a parent trying to be a friend to her daughter might be stepping back on something that isn't always fun, but is very much necessary.
I Want Her To Figure Out Friendship On Her Own
As anyone who has ever been to middle or high school can tell you: figuring out friendships can be exhausting for a kid. Then again, it can also be a lot of fun. I don't want my daughter to worry about maintaining a friendship with me as she's figuring out all her other social ties. I want all that to be something she can navigate on her own, without me coming to her mind at all. I want her be completely self-absorbed in that.
Of course, I will want her to know she can come to me with questions, concerns, or anything else she wants to talk about, but I don't want her to think of me as part of this aspect of her life. I merely hope to be an independent entity she can come to as a sounding wall or outside consultant
I Want My Daughter To Feel Like She Has A Life Beyond Her Family
There's a great big world out there with lots of people in it. I want that world to play a role in shaping my daughter.
Of course I'm not giving over complete control: I'm her mother and I like to think I will be an important influence in her life. However, if I'm her only influence I'd worry about getting a clone or parrot back instead of a young lady who has heard what I've said, heard what other people have said, and shaped her own unique personality, opinions, and ideas.
I Want To Have A Life Beyond My Family
For real. Being a mother is one of the greatest joys of my life, but it's not the only joy in my life. I have (and want) an identity outside of my family. Keeping my friendships as their own thing outside of my family enables me to continue to develop myself as a well-rounded person with perspective beyond my immediate (and favorite) little bubble of existence.
I Don't Want Her To Feel Pressure To Have A Particular Kind Of Relationship With Me
Any kind of relationship takes some kind of effort, and sometimes that work can be difficult, even parent-child relationships. Add the pressure and effort of a friendship and, well, that's a lot of dynamics to juggle.
It's not that I don't want my child to have a relationship with me outside of the mandatory, "I am legally responsible for you until you turn 18" dynamic, but I don't want her to feel that our bond is reliant on us also being friends.
Kids Need Something To Rebel Against (Even If It's Just A Little Rebellion)
I mean, come on. That's just part of growing up. Even my sister rebelled against our very liberal, hippie, Earth Mama mother by declaring herself a Republican Christian in 6th grade. (It was a phase, bless her heart.)
Sometimes you don't know who you are until you test out a few personas, and sometimes the best way to do that is to be the opposite of what is expected of you. Rebelling against your friends usually just means the end of a friendship.
It's Important For Everyone To Know That You Can Still Love Someone Even When They Don't Give You Exactly What You Want
I think it's crucial to show a child that love — true, deep love — isn't always chummy. Sometimes love is telling you to wear a jacket even if it throws off the look of your outfit, or that you can't go out next Friday because we're going to grandma's. Love is making you work for the money to buy that new bike so that you learn the value of a dollar and hard work. Love is taking the bird's eye view of your child's life as best you can instead of traipsing through arm in arm, avoiding important challenges in order to keep skipping along.
It's essential for a child to know that a parent will do these things because they love them and that the same, profound love exists after the smoke from an argument clears. The bond between a mother and a child shouldn't be friendship because it's so much more than friendship.
I'm The Mom, Damnit!
I didn't go through nine long months, nine hours of labor, and the effort of pushing out a 9 pound 2 ounce daughter to be her friend. I'm her mother.
And there's nothing else I would rather be.