From the time you're pregnant, your bookshelf grows. And those shelves aren't straining from Dr. Seuss or board books either. Books on pregnancy and parenting fill up your home, and if you're having a little girl, books to build a stronger mother-daughter relationship are probably stacking up, too.
I don't have a little boy, so I can't compare the differences in raising the two, but I do know that raising a little girl is hard. And mine is still a toddler. There's this force inside of me that wants to raise her to be confident and strong, but I also want her to be humble and eager to help others. It's hard raising her, knowing that one day she could be harmed, and someone might blame her for it because of the way she was dressed. And the thought that she could be hired for the same job as her male colleague, but receive less pay simply because she's a woman, is heartbreaking. But putting too much pressure on her to be the best she can be? That can happen, too, and it can seriously affect our relationship.
I think any kind of parenting is hard, no matter what gender you're raising. But as a mother to a daughter, I feel like our relationship has so many layers and nuances that it's easy for it to falter. These 17 books can help ease those pains of a mother-daughter relationship while simultaneously making it stronger. Read them with your daughter, read them alone, or buy her a copy to read on on a special day. Because, sometimes, books say it better for our children than we mamas can.
1. 'Little Women' By Louisa May Alcott
You can't write about the relationship between mothers and daughters without mentioning Little Women. With Marmee raising her four wildly different girls alone as their father fights in the Civil War, she is the glue that holds their family together and is her daughters' stability in very trying times. This is the book you need when you worry that your daughter will no longer need you as she gets older. Spoiler alert — she will.
2. 'The Secret Life Of Bees' By Sue Monk Kidd
After her own mother is killed, Lily's entire life is affected in The Secret Life of Bees. Although it sounds like a tragic way to bring you an your daughter together, the book is really an incredible story on loss, faith, and how our mothers are part of our beings as much as we are part of ourselves.
3. 'Home Safe' By Elizabeth Berg
After the death of her husband, Helen begins to rely heavily on her daughter Tessa, causing a strain on their relationship in Home Safe. But when Helen learns of her husband's double life, the two women have to navigate the changes in their family and faith together.
4. 'I Am My Mother's Daughter' By Iris Krasnow
A non-fiction choice filled with wisdom, I Am My Mother's Daughter is a book on the hard parts of a mother-daughter bond, and how important it is to let go of your own ego, guilt, and anger to keep the peace in your relationship.
5. 'Olivia' By Ian Falconer
If you haven't read Olivia, you're missing a great mother and daughter relationship. Olivia is an imaginative, feisty, creative pig that is, "very good at wearing people out." Her own mother tells her the same as she tucks her in at night, but reminds her just how much she loves her. Perfect for the days when your little girl has pushed you to the brink, and she needs a reminder that your love will never fade, no matter how impatient or frustrated you may be.
6. 'What I Had Before I Had You' By Sarah Cornwell
After leaving her hometown at 15, Olivia is back two decades later with her children in What I Had Before I Had You. While there, her son disappears, and the search for him leads Olivia to take a look at her own relationship with her mother, and the way it contorted her future.
7. 'The Girl In The Red Coat' By Kate Hamer
It's every parent's worst nightmare to discover your child is missing, but that's the storyline of The Girl in the Red Coat. Single mom Beth is frantic when her daughter Carmel goes missing, but the novel doesn't grip you because of the mystery. Instead, it's seeing the bond between mother and daughter, no matter the distance, and how the two of them endure their separation that will leave you lightheaded and aching.
8. 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' By Maria Semple
Where'd You Go, Bernadette recently swept the nation and book clubs, but its popularity doesn't take away the draw of the novel. While others see Bernadette as a disgrace, her daughter Bee sees her only has her mom. The story of Bernadette disappearing and Bee trying to find her is humorous and sweet, but the bond between the two is what will keep you turning pages.
9. 'White Oleander' By Janet Fitch
Narrated by a teenage daughter, Astrid, White Oleander is the story of a girl who has to learn who she is and how to navigate the world without her mother's domineering spirit. As she bounces from foster home to foster home, Astrid pieces herself together, as her imprisoned mother becomes a feminist icon, eager to make her daughter into a viking-like woman. The book elegantly explores how sensitive this bond between mothers and daughters can be, and gives all of us mamas reason to look again at the way we speak to our daughters and how we mold their minds.
10. 'The Rules Of Inheritance' By Claire Bidwell Smith
A beautiful memoir about the loss of parents, The Rules of Inheritance has an even bigger story to tell — the love of parents.
11. 'Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book Of Wonders' By Julianna Baggott
The bond between mothers and daughters spans all the way down to granddaughters in Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders. It's a beautiful tale of how secrets in a family may harm us, but they can also create us, protect us, and help us to grow.
12. 'Where We Belong' By Emily Giffin
Telling the same story in two different perspectives, Where We Belong is a lovely novel about family secrets, the dynamic of mothers and daughters, and how our choices follow us forever. It has a charming twist that really makes this a mother-daughter relationship book, and is a great one to read together because of the subtle threads underlying each relationship story.
13. 'Little House On The Prairie' By Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie, the story of Laura and her family, is one to share with your own little girl. There's no stronger mom in literature than Ma Ingalls, and her bravery, strength, and heart is what Laura needs to help survive the life the family has created together.
14. 'A Tree Grows In Brooklyn' By Betty Smith
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn may center around the life of little Francie, but it's her mother Katie whose heart, courage, and work ethic makes this a book you'll weep through. Katie is fierce, protective, and the realistic mother in a partnership that includes a dreaming, unstable, alcoholic father — whom, of course, Francie worships. But after his death, Katie continues to help her daughter grow with a little bit of toughness, and a whole lot of love.
15. 'Ramona Quimby, Age 8' By Beverly Cleary
It can be hard to understand why your little one is having such a tough time as a kid, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is just the book you two need to help understand each other. With Ramona's mother working so her father can go back to school, Ramona's having a tough time adjusting to being eight and all of the responsibilities it entails. But her parents aren't having an easy time of it either. It's a great way to let your girl know she's not alone, and to discuss big life changes and how they can affect both of you.
16. 'What A Girl Needs From Her Mom' By Cheri Fuller
Full of questions that will resonate with you, What A Girl Needs From Her Mom is a great book to have on your shelf when you're feeling like you'll never get the hang of that mom-daughter relationship.
17. 'Everything I Never Told You' By Celeste Ng
An incredibly emotional novel, Everything I Never Told You is the story of a daughter that goes missing and is found dead in a lake. But it opens up more than you could possibly imagine about the relationships between mothers and daughters, the pressure of hoping your child doesn't follow in your footsteps, and how all of it can culminate until it destroys the entire family.