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Perfectionist Daughters, Controlling Mothers: Binge Eating

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

My Toronto Globe and Mail had an interesting article on this topic this morning:


Oh, my. I know that this research is not meant to be about blaming. But . . .

As a daughter who is an admitted perfectionist and had an uber controlling mother . . . gotta avoid using this as a new justification for out-of-control eating. What was past is past. I am responsible for who I am now.

As a mother who doesn't have a perfect mother-daughter relationship and worries about being uber controlling . . . here's more to feel guilty about. My daughter has definitely inherited my metabolism. She's not a binge eater. But although she is a vegan and yoga instructor and exercises daily, it's a struggle for her to maintain a healthy weight.

I'm 33 years older than my daughter. I can remember telling her from a very young age that she didn't have to be perfect (like me!!) for at least another 33 years. Till she was as old as me. She thought that was funny from a pretty young age. And in many ways we do have a good relationship. Way better than the relationship I had with my mother.

But the mother/daughter relationship is a tough one. Maybe the toughest one. We tend to mother as we have been mothered (or not). We tend to fall back into the familiar patterns without meaning to or wanting to. We fail to sustain conscious awareness about the kind of relationship we want to build with our daughters.

There are certainly many moments when I feel I've been hypercritical with my daughter. Attempted to be too controlling. Have just been less kind, generous and plain nice than I should be. Would wish to be. In the past, even in the present. Thank goodness there is still the future. Starting right now.

Gonna be more mindful of this. Work at being a positive and not a negative influence. Work harder on breaking the generational pattern.

Kindness never hurts.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • DEBRA0818
    We owe our mothers life and we need them for our early survival -- two primitive facts that coalesce into lifelong patterns of relating to our mothers as the all-powerful beings they once were (and still are in our unconscious minds). How difficult these relationships can be, especially if there isn't a good personality fit between mother and child.

    I related a lot of my binge eating to a soothing mechanism that helped me cope with an emotionally distant mother -- I just never felt loved.

    If I had children, I would do everything I could to redeem that relationship by creating the healthiest bond I possibly could, always knowing that in any relationship I can only play my part.

    I applaud your insight and determination to have that kind of relationship with your daughter.

    Absolutely emoticon
    1813 days ago
    In response to my mother's comment that "you're just like your father," I used to mutter "thank God" (under my breathe of course)
    I understand completely. Thanks for sharing.
    1814 days ago
    Mom to only one son, no daughters, but I have to be cautious of relationship with daughter in law, who doesn't necessarily have the best relationship with her own mom... and is "scared" of my influence over Son... which I totally get, having been petrified over my mil's influence over DH - it's like they revert to childhood when Mom is in the room, isn't it?

    So yeah, parent-child, mother-daughter... a tough nut to crack, and in the end we all have to grow up, and hopefully forgive our parents and let our kids know it's OK. To grow up, that is.
    1815 days ago
    Believe me, this applies to father/son relationships as well. Three of our sons are overweight and one of those is nearly 400 lb. No matter what I say, and with my personal success story in SP, he continues to eat terribly, citing the excuse that he cant afford to eat healthy. In my case, our food bill has gone down the past 2 years as I am eating much less that I did, and veggies and most fruits are less costly than the processed foods that he eats with abandon.
    1815 days ago
  • NANCY-
    It is true that mothers do have a profound effect upon daughters and sons for that matter. There are things that we will never do that our mother has done.
    What I have come to accept is that my mother did the best she could with what she knew, just as now do the best I can with what I know and that we do love our children and want the best for them. But we only figure that out once we become a mother.
    1815 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was an interesting article. I grew up with a perfectionist father, not mother. He would binge eat and our family had an unhealthy relationship to food. I think upbringing and genetics definitely influence out eating patterns.

    I am glad you have a good relationship with your daughter!
    1815 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this article. I suggest all of us who are both mothers and daughters should read it twice. One through the daughter's eyes and one through the mother's. I'm sure we'll all find familiar patterns in our relationships and decide whether we like them or not. We can't go back and start being mothers from the beginning but even if we could we still would make mistakes, maybe different ones. Today is always a good time to change any behavior that we don't like towards the most important people in our lives.
    1816 days ago
  • _LINDA
    The first step to breaking the cycle is awareness. This seemed to be a very timely article for you. Helped you take a look at your life and your own relationship with your daughter. Here is to having a healthy relationship and perhaps releasing some of those perfectionist tendencies. Live, love, laugh and relax. Enjoy your relationship with your daughter through new eyes!
    1816 days ago
    I know the article is not meant to convey blame, but how can any woman who is a mother NOT feel blame?

    And what's the difference between "being controlling" and wanting the best for our daughters? Wanting to teach them to strive to do their best, be their best?

    I too wasn't always kind to my daughter when she was growing up, but we've become much closer since she's gotten married and established on her own!
    1816 days ago
    That includes being kind to yourself, my friend.
    1816 days ago
    Oh, I hear you. Super successful professor mother who loves to control; perfectionist tendencies here, too. Definitely have fought binge eating since my teens. It all makes sense. My mother, now 85 years old, still pushes my buttons. My daughter eats very different than I. She's super picky, where I'll eat anything and want a lot it. She'd rather be hungry than have a taste she doesn't like. As a chiId and teen she didn't have a weight problem while I have all my life. After her first child she had difficulty getting off the weight, but did. After the second child she has struggled more. I don't think I've been very controling, but I guess we'd have to confirm that with her. I would like to be closer. I certainly provide her lots of support as far as taking care of her kids for long hours every week and cooking 3 suppers per week for her and her family. I could hope that we connected emotionally a little more rather than have all our interaction be about the kids and survival. Anyway, Ellen, thanks for another thoughtful blog.
    1816 days ago
    I think it's safe to lump perfectionist sons into these findings also! :-(

    1816 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    Thanks for sharing this article. Reading it brought up several, make that many, childhood memories that are prime examples of what the author is saying.
    1816 days ago
    Not a single one of us is perfect in every way.
    Human beans cannot be perfect.
    If we're lucky, we are pretty good at some things.
    Certainly none of us can be kind, generous and nice 24/7/ year after year.
    That said, we all should try as hard as we can to be the best we can be.

    My dear late mother (mom of 14) was the sweetest smartest little scatterbrained woman ever.
    Must say, I have inherited a few of her characteristics.

    1816 days ago
    Thank you for this blog and the great article, which I just printed. My mother is not controlling at all, but I am totally controlling - I make my little, sweet 8 year old crazy! This is really important for me to read right now. I would hate to turn her into a binger. I do not want her to suffer like me! Thank you and thank you for commenting on my blog as well.
    1816 days ago
    Thank you. I really needed this today. I find the mother daughter thing way more challenging than I expected, but it is very rewarding too thankfully. emoticon
    1816 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/6/2013 1:31:33 PM
    Every mother/daugther relationship is hard. You are aware of your mothering...it will be slightly easier to fix. Good Luck to you.
    1816 days ago
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