Mother and Daughter Relationships in the US “In the Oedipus myth, the son murders his father in order to replace him. Contrastingly, in the new woman's myth, the daughter "kills" her mother in order not to have to take her place” (Giorgio, pg…
Michele Citron’s “Daughter Rite” and British movie “Bred and Born” are examples of such portrayals. In the 1900s, there was a lot of disillusionment concerning the institution of marriage and especially family life in America. People had long working hours and children worked in mines and workshops, leaving little or no time for a family life, good relationship between parent and child and working out of marriages. Stephanie Coontz argues that since women could not vote and they had low wages, many turned to prostitution, there was widespread abuse of children by parents as reported by childcare services, and men who divorced their wives gave them no child support. Compared to this, the 1950s were a glorious decade when these trends reversed. The divorce rate fell and the nuclear family emerged; there was a consensus on family morals, values and norms that helped individuals integrate more in their families. This phase was known as the “compassionate” one in which women were supposed to be homemakers and loving mothers (Thomas, 2012). It is interesting to look at mother-daughter relationships in the US in this era because for the first time in 100 years, issues with family life and problems of parenting dissipated (Coontz, 1999). However, compared to the 1930s, representations of mothers and daughters changed drastically especially after the wartime years between 1950s and early 60s “from an idealized dream of the mother as sacrificial lamb to her daughter's social ascendancy to a much harsher nightmare of the mother as malevolent force on her daughter's struggling psyche” (Walters, pp. 69-70). Since the post-war, 1950s came after the Great Depression, and the World Wars, the stresses and turmoil took their toll on mother daughter relationships because there was immense strain on kinship and family networks for support. This period saw communication between the mothers and daughters to become informal and a general role reversal took place where daughters provided emotional care and comfort to their mothers (Forman-Brunell, pg. 197). Many mothers took on the tasks to groom their daughters and marry them off to a rich husband to achieve upward mobility and bring about a change in their economic conditions and so this maternal job was more deterministic than affectionate (Forman-Brunell, pg.197). A psychological phenomenon known as “mom-ism” soon emerged which caused mothers to be seen as overbearing and smothering and when in post-war 1950s, women were forced to return to “the cult of domesticity” daughters rebelled and developed hostility towards these suffocating mothers (Forman-Brunell, pg.197). This set the stage for mother daughter relationships to deteriorate further. In in 1950s, it was common for daughters and mothers to wear matching dresses and to dress alike, according to Patricia Beard. This phenomenon highlights the kind of relationship where the girls wanted to be more like their mothers and tried to be close to them, act like them etc. However, as they grew older they tried to dress unlike their mothers to establish their own personality and this led to them adopting new fashions. This either caused the mothers to be overprotective and forbid them to wear what “all the other kids” were wearing or incited a sort of competition in which they began to try looking like their young daughters. (Beard, n.p). Beard describes the “push and pull nature” ...
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