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Health & Parenting

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Are You As Good As Your Mom?

The new mother-daughter team continued...

"Daughters seeing their mothers as confidantes and best friends is a development that's unusual in the history of humankind," says Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and the author of the best-selling You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation.

Why are we seeing this new closeness right now? When women entered the workplace in force in the seventies, some experts say, they ended up living very differently than their mothers had, and a big generation gap opened up. Not so for the women we surveyed-they may find it easier to relate to their mothers as equals because 59 percent of their moms worked outside the home. Tannen believes that today's mother-daughter teams benefit from a cultural bias that values youth over age, creating a two-way street in which moms need their daughters' advice as much as the daughters need theirs.

Talk to me!

Technology is another reason for this strong mother-daughter connection, says Tannen. Cell phones and e-mail make it easier to stay in touch, and most of our respondents do, speaking to their mothers at least once a week. Four in ten are even chattier, talking once a day or more.

One of them is Jennifer Morton, 36, a stay-at-home mother of a 12-year-old son in Raleigh, North Carolina. The only thing Morton won't bring up with her mother? "Problems in my marriage," she says. "What if I'm the one who's wrong? I need a more objective view...and I don't want her to be prejudiced against my husband."
Morton's response isn't unusual. While 61 percent say they turn to their mothers for advice on life in general, and over half ask for parenting tips, only a third invite Mom to weigh in on their marriages or relationships.

Being a good mom gets tougher all the time

Almost three quarters of the women say that being a mother today is harder than it was when their own moms were packing the lunch boxes. Are they just feeling sorry for themselves? No, say the experts, who point out that today's tidal wave of parenting guides and must-have developmental toys creates intense pressure on mothers to raise little Einsteins. And popular culture plays a part. In follow-up interviews, many women said they needed to shield their kids from inappropriate music, TV, movies, and Internet sites.

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