“…the daughter is for the mother at once her double and another person.”
~de Beauvoir, 1965, p. 56
Mothers and daughters share a special bond, which can have profound implications for their breast cancer experiences. The mother-daughter relationship is both deeply intimate and tremendously complex. Many mothers and daughters experience “linked lives” (Fischer, 1986)—an intimacy that binds them together as “velvet chains—chains of security, love, and devotion” (Miller-Day, 2004, p. 4).
They can be each other’s crutch—their confidant and friend, their advisor and nurturer. Yet, even with an enduring connection that crosses generational boundaries, mothers and daughters can also feel worlds apart in the midst of complicated, mixed emotions (Fingerman, 2003). Their lives intertwine and tangle in unique ways distinguishing them from other relational ties as they learn to manage intersecting identities, giving birth to themselves and each other (Chernin, 1998). Many scholars and practitioners have argued that no other relationship in a woman’s life can encounter such “blinding closeness, overwhelming joy, and intimidating anger” (Lifshin, 1992). In essence, the mother-daughter connection is a persistent, eternal vine—a “blood hyphen” (Miller-Day, 2004, p.4) . Theirs is a colorful story of love and resilience.
Over time as their bond evolves, mothers and daughters often become closer and more emotionally connected (Fingerman, 2003). Even though mothers and daughters struggle with understanding one another and maintaining their complex dynamic across the life span (Boyd, 1989; Fisher & Miller-Day, 2006; Hershberg, 2006; Tannen, 2006), they can experience a special closeness that persists across social classes and generational differences (Fischer, 1986). Their closeness is naturally tied to their shared roles as women in family and as they identify with one another in a manner that is different from other kin relationships (Chodorow, 1978; Gilligan, 1982). Many argue that, in comparison to other kin bonds, the mother-daughter relationship has the highest potential for emotional bonding and connectedness (Fischer, 1986, 1991). Their support of one another is an important factor, regardless of culture (Suitor, Sequist, & Pillemer, 2007). Mothers’ and daughters’ enduring and complex connection, especially during adulthood, could undoubtedly help them adjust to and emerge from strenuous transitions like a breast cancer diagnosis.