Mother and Daughter Switching Roles

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

So, the thing is I haven’t been living with my mother for long years. She left when I was about 11. She was supposed to come back but she never did. We did, however meet occasionally and talked on the phone so, thanks to my hopes that she was soon coming back, we maintained very tight relationship.

She wasn’t there for me when I was a kid and teenager and that made it hard for me. Now she acts as if she’s not my mother, when she’s visiting me, she wants to hang out with me and my friends, etc. The worst thing is she wants some sort of emotional support from me. She is telling me about how hard her relationship with her mother was and how she is now building up a mother-daughter relationship with her aunt. So she is always staying at her aunt’s place and acting like a cute little daughter and I can see that. And that doesn’t feel right to me. If my mother is so preoccupied with her own bad relationship with her mother, can she be a mother at all? I am starting to think she never came back because she didn’t want to be a mother and not because of all the half-reasons she’s ever told me.

I don’t want to give her emotional support, I don’t want to be her friend and, even less, a parent to her. I am the daughter but what can I do in this case? She told me she wanted my approval and support for the things she does but I don’t approve and I don’t want to care anymore. She’s made bad choices in regard to me, I’ve been hurt, I’ve been angry and still am and it is not right for her to ask from me for things she never gave to me. It’s like she simply wanted to raise a parent to fill the gap inside her.

A: If ever there was an opportunity for therapy between mother and daughter this would be it. The problem you’re describing is tough to solve when you are part of the interaction. You need to work with a therapist to help you untangle yourself from your mother and for her to understand more about the dynamic she is bringing into the relationship. I highly recommend you look at the find help tab at the top of the page and find a qualified therapist in your area. This is a generational as well as personal issue and having  knowledgeable and sensitive person help would be invaluable.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Aug 2012

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Mother and Daughter Switching Roles. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/08/29/mother-wants-to-be-the-daughter/