Mother or Friend? Mother First, Friend Second

March 25, 2018

Being a mother is one of the most beautiful things in life. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. The process of creating life and giving birth is more than just biological. Feeling that warmth and that protective, loving instinct is hard to avoid.

It’s like embarking down an unknown road. We know we won’t just come across beauty, but also uncertainty, huge changes in routine, pressure to make the “right” decision. And then depending on when we were born, we may get conflicting parenting advice.

In today’s world, mothers have to deal with a mess of outside opinions about what a mother should be like. Practically every week we run across articles and books about how to parent. How strict we should be, whether to breastfeed or not, if it’s ok to sleep in the same room… And these debates just scratch the surface.

There is only one mother, but many different kinds

The book “Perfectly imperfect moms” (Mamás perfectamente imperfectas) gives us five types of mothers:

  • The controller: the mother who tries to be the best at everything. She has to control all areas: her children’s academic life, the family, and their social lives. She makes decisions for them and does not understand the concept of privacy.
  • The perfectionist: she is always thinking about the results. That is, the most important thing is that everything be perfect, according to her expectations. She doesn’t leave any room for difficulty, fear, or doubt.
  • The accomplice: this mother ends up also taking ownership of her children’s schedules, habits, vocabulary and even friends.
  • The competitor: she can’t accept that her children are better than her in some aspects of life. She condescendingly corrects them. She doesn’t lead her children and instead competes with them.
  • The appropriator: this is a mother with emotions that don’t distinguish between what happens to her children and what happens to her. Everything affects her.
A mother and her little daughter hugging on Mother's day.

And these are just a few examples. Although we could catalog and label the types of relationships mothers have, the fact is that there are as many mothers as there are women with children. Plus, people change. Mothers may go through times of doubt or go from controllers to perfectionists as their children grow up.

Mother or friend? Mother first, friend second

So many mothers want to be friends with their daughters. The function of a friend is to listen, entertain, support, be an accomplice, punish, advise or accompany. Granted, all of this at first glance sounds like something a mother would do.

However, there’s a difference. A mother figure must be an example, a role model and a guide. She is who her children primarily develop an attachment to. The relationship between parents and children comes from love, protection and support in the early stages of life — when we’re the most vulnerable.

Mother or friend? Why your children needs a mother first

Normally, mothers start desiring to be friends with their children once they become teens. Adolescence is when our children start becoming more independent and looking for their place in the world.

A mother and teenage daughter.

Afraid of losing control, or wanting to show they trust their kids, many mothers start acting like their friends. It’s true, there comes a time when children have to make their own mistakes. We can’t always control them.

Children need to have secrets, they need to argue, they need to hear “no.” They must be told what to do and have limits set for them. So when we wonder if we should be their mother or friend, we have to remember that a friend doesn’t do that. That’s why we choose our friends and are able to leave them when we want. A crucial part of friendship is disinterested affection.

But a mother does have interest, a personal, pure interest in instilling values, teaching and guiding her children. At the same time, she has to give her kids space when they need it. Knowing how to leave the door open so they know they can count on you and you’ll be there for them if they fail, instead of breaking the door down and interrogating them. No one said it was easy! Hence the beautiful challenge of raising children.