“Mama Said,” 2015 and Beyond: What Mothers Should Tell Their Daughters

_MDRemember the 1960s, song, “Mama Said?” Remember the lyrics, “Mama said there would be days like this?” And what exactly did “days like this” mean? A not so new book by Christiane Northrup, published in 2005, called “Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health,” does a good job explaining “days like this.” One question I had after reading the book was whether her advice was “good for the ages,” or generation specific. What did mothers need to tell their daughters in, let’s say, 1900, or 1950, or 1980, and now 2015? Would the advice from mothers from each of these eras change, or would the simple advice to “cherish yourself,” and “don’t give yourself away to any old Joe Blow” be sufficient for daughters of any generation?

Northrup’s book begins with daughters in the womb and proceeds through year-segment “rooms.” “Room One” covers three months to seven years. “Room Two,” seven to fourteen; “Room Three” fourteen to Twenty One. Northrup offers age specific advice for each of these mother-daughter relationship periods. But Northrup’s primary purpose is for mothers to prepare their daughters to live healthy, independent, fulfilled lives—financially, emotionally, sexually, intellectually. Northrup includes aspects of her own life in which she knew that she had not lived up to the advice she gave her own daughter. After twenty-four years of marriage Northrup got a divorce—for a number of “self-growth” reasons.

If you are an adult woman, what would you now wish that your mother had told you—about lots of things? What do you wish your “mama had said.” Or would it have mattered. Many mothers know that no matter what advice they give their daughters that their daughters will “pooh-pooh” their advice and opt to “make their own mistakes.” Still it a mother’s primary job to prepare her children for independent living—to live successful lives after they leave the nest. No mother worth the salt would tell her daughter, or son, for that matter, starting at age five or six, to “just do whatever you think is best.” This is bad parenting. Northrup is blunt in her advice to daughters about matters of sex, such as answering the question: “Is oral sex really sex?” The answer is yes and Northrup, a medical doctor, gives plenty of examples of young girls who have fallen for this myth and ended up in her office with herpes of the mouth and other serious mouth and throat diseases. What we know is that in 2015 children are exposed to more “sexual stuff,” than children of previous generations. Sex is everywhere these days, so much so that parents are now being advised to start talking to their kids about sex when they are as young as seven or eight.

So what should mothers tell their daughters in 2015? Is the advice race specific? Do black mothers need to have a different conversation with their black daughters about how to navigate the world compared to the discussion white mothers have with their white daughters? Do all mothers need to remind their daughters that women bond when they have sex so it is wise not to give one’s self away to “any old Joe?” Do mothers still need to explain to their daughters that their sexual being is different from men? Men can take out their “thangs,” shoot it off like a pistol and then put it back in the holster and never get emotionally involved with the target they just hit. So should mothers still warn their daughters about casually “hooking up?” Is the issue of self-esteem and dating as vital 2015 as it was in 1890? And what about the whole matter of mothers breaking the same old behavior pattern that did not serve them well, and not pass a whole lot of emotionally crippling baggage on to their daughters? If you read the book “Ugly Ways” by Tina McElroy Ansa, published in 1995, you know the story of the three Lovejoy sisters who returned to Georgia to bury their mother. The book was both hilarious and sad as each daughter relives their “messed up” lives through their mother’s advice.

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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