Being a mother can be difficult. It is hard enough to just get through the day-to-day cooking, cleaning, running errands, bathing, dressing, etc. without adding in the stresses of what type of life-long impact we might be having on our children.
We can't be ostriches in the sand, however. Mothers have a huge impact on their daughters, and that will remain true whether we face it or not. It is better to acknowledge it and be aware of it so we can do our best to have a positive impact on our daughters rather than a negative one. We as mothers can be instruments in the hands of God if we only tune ourselves and be ready.
The biggest single impact that comes to mind when I think of a mother's impact on her daughter is that of self-image. Experts agree time and time again that the way a woman talks about and treats her daughter has a profound effect on what she will grow to think of herself. Girls are impacted by our talk younger than we might realize.
"According to a Wall Street Journal report, one study found 80% of ten-year-old girls had already dieted to lose weight, and another found that girls as young as five have a preoccupation with body image. " source
It isn't just about how we talk about our daughters; it is also how we talk about ourselves. Women get all up in arms about Barbie or the media giving their daughters complexes. Those things have very little impact in comparison to the impact of a mother.
""Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter's body image," said Dr. Leslie Sim, clinical director of Mayo Clinic's eating disorders program and a child psychologist. " source
What is a mother to do? Don't talk about weight. Don't do it. Not at all. Don't talk about your daughter's weight or your neighbor's weight. Don't let your mom or your husband's mom talk about their weight and need to lose weight in front of your daughter. If you are like me, then the generation before you ALWAYS talks about their weight and their latest diet. I have expressed to my mother and my mother-in-law that I am absolutely not okay with them talking about those things in front of my girls, but it is a rule I have to remind them of time and time again.
Here is the thing. Much of how we look is genetic, right? Yes there are lifestyle changes that impact things, but there are many genetic components to how we look that we can't control much. Some day, your daughter will start to have those same genetics impact her. And what will happen? She will remember you or grandma talking about how terrible that trait is, and she will either succumb and hate that about herself or she will fight herself every day to not succumb and hate that about herself.
We must be intentional about not criticizing ourselves and our weight. I know for many of us, we grew up with that talk and the inner voice telling us how terrible we look is strong. The cycle must be broken at some point. It might as well be you.
For more on this topic, see:
Number One Role Model
A mother is a girl's number one role model. From her, she learns how to be a woman and mother herself. She learns how to treat other people. She observes how to respond in social situations. She is an apprentice to become a mother herself one day. She will learn how to view everything in the world of a woman, from make-up to menstruating.
“Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” David O. McKay
The phrase "I'm turning into my mother" exists for a reason. The emulating is usually not even intentional. Women act like their mothers, even when they don't want to.
You have a huge impact on who your daughters will become. Take that responsibility seriously and do your best each day to be a woman your daughter will hope to be like.
I came across some articles discussing the literal physical impact mothers have on their daughters, specifically their daughters' health. Read How Mothers Influence Their Daughters for more.
With all of this said, I do believe there is a great amount of grace that is applied to being a mother. We don't need to be perfect; we just need to be doing our best.
"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children." M. Russell Ballard
Be aware of the real impact you have on your daughter. Strive your best to be a positive impact on her, and in instrument for good in her life.