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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mother-Daughter Relationships and Wellness

It took me three years, but I finally finished reading Mother-Daughter Wisdom by Dr. Christianne Northrup. It felt like a monumental achievement. The 700 page book is filled with great advise on mother-daughter relationships (mostly for the mother on nurturing her relationship with a daughter). The premise is that our relationships with our mothers deeply affect our health.

"So what does my relationship with my mother have to do with health?" was my first question after starting the book three years ago. The short answer is, just about everything! Dr. Northrup's advise, backed by personal experiences, documented studies and data, range from why it is a great practice to look at your baby girl in the eyes and talk to her as you hold her during her infant years all the way to how a daughter's health is impacted by a mother's emotional letting go of (or holding on to) her daughter in their adult years. By the way, Northrup explains that if you consistently talk to your infant daughter while looking into her eyes, her brain grows faster, meaning she makes more brain connections, thus making her smarter. This is quite the simplistic layman's way of explaining it. Dr. Northrup does a much better job of elegantly explaining what exactly happens in the brain. And the letting go issue, Dr. Northrup makes a clear connection between weight/obesity issues and daughters whose mothers will not go of them emotionally. Very interesting.

It takes a little to get used to the medical jargon used throughout the book, but anyone who took physio in high school, will find this book interesting and practical. The book moves through each "stage" in a daughters life, seven years at a time.

For those who are interested in wellness and do their homework, it's almost common knowledge that the health of our relationships deeply impacts our physical health, thus the mind body connection. I have personally found that my relationship with my mother, specifically, deeply impacts my wellness and it has done so in the past without me being conscious of it. In my adult life I have had times when my mother has been physically far away from me and also times when she has been physically close. At this time she is close by, thankfully. We have found a great balance in our relationship as adults. We have figured out ways to communicate as women, instead of just mother-daughter. I realize not everyone is so blessed and sometimes distancing from a maternal relationship seems to be the best option for someone whose relationship with their mom is highly toxic and irreparable. It saddens me to hear of such relationships, but it is reality.

If you have a daughter of any age, it is worth reading this book; even if your daughter is in her adult years, you can just skip to the relevant chapters. As a mother, this book changed my paradigm on letting go of children as they grow, the power of womanhood through menstruation as well as child birth and lastly, the incredible impact I will have on my daughter's health. I've learned how important it is that I mindfully train her and teach her. As a daughter I have become much more understanding of my mom and less critical of her parenting. I am much more grateful for my upbringing. Maybe that just comes from being a mother, but it sure has eased my heart into a place of compassion and conscious decision-making in relationships. I sleep better at night knowing I've done my best as a mother and a daughter. So goes my wellness.