For those of us who have watched our baby girls grow, dreaming of the days when we'd be best friends – lunching and laughing, well, get over it. There's a lot of parenting that has to happen before we become "friends" with our daughters and Susan Shapiro Barash tells us how to go about navigating the treacherous shoals of teenage years in her newest book "You're Grounded Forever ... But First, Let's Go Shopping" (St. Martin's Press 2010, $24.99).
"Mothers have to act their age, not their daughter's jean size," said Barash, the mother of two grown daughters and a gender–studies professor at Marymount Manhattan College. "All too often mothers make excuses for their daughters, fail to set limits and that in turn holds their daughters back, even though mothers have the best of intentions. Daughters, meanwhile, learn early to manipulate the situation and sneak in that extra pair of shoes at the end of the shopping trip or a whole lot worse."
Sadly, many mothers invest their own dreams in their daughters rather than letting them have their own. Barash said many of the mothers she interviewed want their daughters to be the ones with the power –– the alpha girl.
"They're very ambitious and competitive for their daughters," Barash said, mentioning that mothers are much more lenient than they were a decade or more ago. "They push their daughters into staying thin, dating the right boy and hanging with the right friends."
If Barash has answers and guidance, it's because she's learned the hard way.
"I, like most mothers, have caved in to their needs, jumped through hoops and wished I had a magic wand to set the world straight for them," Barash said. "At the same time, I was hearing mothers everywhere voice their anxieties -- asking the haunting question, had their decisions and guidance been helpful or a hindrance in the long run?"
According to Barash, 70 percent of mothers feel that they haven't set enough limits with their daughters, a majority of mothers feel more burdened raising daughters than sons and many also find it hard to reason with daughters between the ages of 13 and 17. To make it even more complex, she said mothers are the first and lasting role models for daughters. So that means we'd better get it right.
With this much pressure, what's a mom to do?
Barash said mothers must set limits and be in charge. "Don't be critical of your daughter's weight or looks," Barash said. "Be sure to foster independence. Mothers often hold their daughters back even though they have the best of intentions. Don't overindulge or center the mother and daughter relationship around material things."
And finally, heartbreakingly, Barash reminded mothers, "Know that daughters consider their mothers sexless and clueless."