Your Turn

What's Your Mother/Daughter Relationship Like?

Alice and Rebecca Walker

Alice and Rebecca Walker photographed in 1992, before the two were estranged. Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Corbis

On tomorrow's show, Farai Chideya will speak with author Rebecca Walker — daughter of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker — about Rebecca's new memoir, Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence.

In it, Rebecca expands on her estrangement with her feminist mother. Here's part of how Publishers Weekly sums up her book:

"[Rebecca] Walker tells of her physical and emotional journey toward motherhood, poignantly reflecting on the ambivalence that has delayed her dream of having a child for years. Like many 20- and 30-somethings, she was raised to view partnership and parenthood as the least empowering choices in an infinite array of options. This tension comes to the fore as Walker's mother, Alice Walker, opposes her decision to have a baby and challenges her account of their relationship in Black, White and Jewish. Alice ends their relationship and removes Rebecca from her will, and Rebecca endures a tumultuous pregnancy, estranged from her mother as she prepares to become one herself."

The conversation with Rebecca Walker — given context by Dr. Phyllis Chessler (also on tomorrow's show) — raises a host of questions about feminism and the dynamic between mothers and daughters.

For our women readers, how would you characterize your relationship with your mother and/or daughter?

Listen to the segment.



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I am very blessed that my relationship with my Mother is great although we live thousands of miles away I still talk to her every day sometimes twice a day. However, I think my Mom is disapointed becuase I have never married, do not have children and never plan to. It is a constanst adjustment but when you think about how short life is does it all really matter?

Sent by Kimberly Coleman | 1:20 PM | 7-9-2008

I have an excellent relationship with my mother that has strengthened over time. I lived 12 years away from home, and now that I'm back I love that I have this time with my mom as an adult. My mom is up in age, and has a degenerative disease that will eventually take her from me. Moving back home was the best thing that I could do for myself and my mom. She is near and dear to me.

Sent by ernise | 2:11 PM | 7-9-2008

Call me crazy, but isn't denying the importance of a woman becoming a mother as misogynist as it gets? I'm for feminism, as long as it stands for women becoming fully themselves in all aspects of their splendor, not by imitating men, or JOINING men in devaluing what is important about being a woman. One can see how the feminist pioneers missed the boat.

Sent by Sandra | 4:55 PM | 7-9-2008

Thank you, Sandra. I was waiting for a woman to say it first. Now I can cosign, LOL!

Seriously, as a man, I respect a woman's choice to be a Senator or a stay at home mom. Each woman should have the freedom of determine her own way. We need stay at home mothers and female Senators. Let's celebrate them both.

Sent by Taiwan Rogers | 5:58 PM | 7-9-2008

I second your comment Sandra, I don't understand why women don't want to validate who they are instead of trying to validate themselves as wanting to be equal to men. Why does feminism have to strive for the extreme side of wanting everthing that men have? I wish there could be a movement where we could begin to discuss an ideal way of balancing a career/ambitions with motherhood without the guilt or regret. I think feminism and how society views motherhood sends a negative view to women that motherhood is burdensome, hard and that you'll loose a sense of who you are as an invidual with dreams and desires that one would like to accomplish while raising children.

Sent by Nadine | 6:12 PM | 7-9-2008

Sandra, wasn't this about mothers & daughters? How did blanket notions about men get into this? You know there are millions of women as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, cousins, friends, etc. who have the ABILITY to COEXIST with men in wonderful human relationships.

AND as for devaluing what's important about being a women, you don't have to join anyone, women do a good enough job of that themselves.

Sent by Jon J | 6:56 PM | 7-9-2008

How about stay at home dads? Is that a CHOICE for men..or the better question is that a choice of women?

I'm for equality too if it means that redefining/reexamining gender roles isn't one-sided. If it isn't holistic (since we don't live in gender isolated silos or vacuums) it's all convenient lip-service.

The womens movement (equality) predates feminism (power construct).

And save the knee-jerk accusation of hating women; I have a wonderful relationship with wife, daughter, mother, niece.

sister--ahh, not so much

Sent by Jon J | 7:14 PM | 7-9-2008

If you've done a good job parenting, you hope you give your children the strength and the opportunity to acquire the skills to become themselves and then be there for them if they need to be recharged. Many of the feminist issues of the past were cured by good law re community property, choice, equal access. We missed on some, but I found a lot of the feminist matras, not experiential records, non-productive and I didn't pass it on. (That was for then and it is now)I didn't know many successful woman who were strident, but then some of that view may have come from male reviewers. Since its the time for our daughters to shape their environments, we woman of Alice's generation need to celebrate their approach, respect their spirituality, learn from them and celebrate our ability to grow. I particularly admire how the men in the lives of my daughters are enjoying partnerships in all of these aspects of the new way. I hope I am around to enjoy the successes of my granddaughtersm and to see how my daughters grow with theirs.

Sent by Lynn | 10:30 PM | 7-9-2008

Having had my mother choose to "farm me out" after a debilitating illness when I was a toddler, I am blessed not to have made that choice in how my relationship with my daughter began. Where my mother was cold, emotionless, unavailable for the most part all my life, I'm only a cell phone call away from my adult, soon to be married daughter. I've worked hard not to repeat my mother's lack of nurturing. I'm pleased to be a mom of a great daughter.
I've also made my share of mistakes, modeled sometimes unhealthy qualities of being too ready to come to her rescue perhaps. I've done a lot of sacrificing my own dreams, career goals and lifestyle choices to keep my promise to raise her well. For the most part, I'm content that she will be okay. She will in some way, take a part of what is good in me with her as she shapes her own future.
There is a duplicity in being female in this world. I've been both a stay at home mom who was a caretaker for children whose mothers worked away, and a working mom who worried about not being the mom my daughter needed. I've come to the conclusion that it's not about being a perfect parent, but rather, the "good enough" mom whose first promise was, and is, to "show up" every day, in whatever form that takes on any given day.

Sent by J Look | 12:13 AM | 7-10-2008

As for mother and daughter relationships...

The relationship with my mother is, and has always been turmoltuous in nature. I was refreshed to hear about Rebecca's book expressing her feelings for her maternal background. The "Stepford Wife" lifestyle many people attempt to achieve does not allow for the possibility of poor mother-daughter relationships.

When I give people only a glimpse of what my childhood was like with my mother, they try to make me feel as though I am inhuman toward my mother. I do find it interesting that people can believe that a young mother can be apathetic toward her child. Sadly, this type of behavior is displayed on the evening news on a regular basis. But many never stop to think what type of relationship that same mother will have with her child 20 years later.

If left unchecked, the apathetic mother or father for that matter, will gradually become estranged from the child. At this point, not having constant communication with my mother allows me to breathe. I pray for a better relationship, but our existence "is what it is".

Sent by Quincey | 6:21 AM | 7-10-2008

Wow, a beautiful topic. Women need to be more of who they are and release the pressure of "feminism" which these days equates to acting like a man. Parenting relationships and marriages struggle because of that new imbalance. The harmony in relationships is lost because of this new pressure on women. Women should be everything they want to be, not try to meet standards that movements or media portray. Great work.

Sent by Chris | 1:06 AM | 7-11-2008