Mother/daughter relationships are complicated and can be life-defining, particularly for our daughters as they become adults.
Stay with me, ’cause it’s going to seem harsh, but your adult daughter should not be your best friend. I know, I know, I sound unkind and judgmental (not sorry!). Hang with me as I explain why your adult daughter should not be your best friend.
TLDR: Your daughter should not be your best friend.
When your daughter is your best friend, you most likely have a higher level of family dysfunction. Sorry, Lorelai and Rory, but making your daughter your best friend is not emotionally healthy. In fact, it is potentially dangerous for both of you.
Is It Okay If My Daughter Is My Best Friend?
How many women do you know that proudly say,” My daughter is my best friend?” If you are like me, you quietly sigh and wish they could hear what they are saying.
Self-growth tip: If your daughter is your best friend, you probably need to make some changes.
Women who insist on being besties with their daughters are typically over-involved parents. Think Stage Mom and Mama Bear stereotypes. These women seem to over-identify with their daughters and as a result, claim to be best friends with their adult child.
If Your Daughter Is Your Best Friend, You Might Need Therapy
In the therapy world, there is a term called “differentiation.” Differentiation, at its root, is the ability to become different from your parents by thinking and acting in ways that are uniquely you. When families fail to differentiate, the result is often a mother/daughter dynamic that is unbalanced.
Why Can’t My Daughter Be My Bestie?!?
All people grow up in families. All families have dysfunction. Some have a particular type of boundary-crossing dysfunction called” The Family Rules.”
The Family Rules are the spoken and silent expectations that are placed on you as a member of the family. These rules expect you to behave, think, and live according to the defined allowable family behavior.
Family Rules Can Cause Big Problems In Adult Relationships
The rules can include things like political views or church membership. Family Rules also include generational behaviors, typically dysfunctional.
For example, holding grudges, never apologizing when wrong, and other destructive actions. Some families expect and encourage certain behaviors due to position of birth order, ethnic background, or income levels.
You Are Caught In An Unhealthy Family Dynamic If Your Daughter Is Your Best Friend
For example: Our family is Italian. We are hot-tempered, and don’t hold back our opinions. We often yell at each other, but that is how you know that we care about you.
The Family Rules are: yelling is expected, crossing boundaries is normal and should be tolerated. We express our love best when we are nosy and argumentative.
See what I mean? When we operate within unhealthy Family Rules, we pass dysfunction down the family tree. This is frequently seen in the Mother/Daughter Bestie dynamic.
Rule Number One: Your Daughter Should Not Be Your Best Friend
Well, okay, that really isn’t rule number one, but it’s in the top five rules for healthy family differentiation. When a parent places the expectation of a “best friend” on their child, it can indicate that something is lacking in the marital relationship.
If Your Daughter Is Your Best Friend, You Might Have An Unhealthy Marriage
Women, especially, will elevate their children to a type of “spousal substitute” role due to loneliness in their marriage. Maybe Dad is a workaholic or Mom has high emotional needs that go unmet by Dad.
Digging a bit deeper, it is possible Mom has unresolved issues that cause her to over-identify with her adult daughter.
This type of substitute behavior often begins in the early teen years and will increase if the daughter feels validated by her mother’s bestie behavior. The behaviors and patterns behind elevating a child to a confident/BFF role are complex.
But Daughters Are Supposed To Be Best Friends With Their Mothers, Right?
When a child is elevated to best friend status, it weakens the parental “power over” structure. I know that is a dangerous description, but the reality is parents need to have a clean line of authority in their parental role. Being a parent carries a weighty responsibility to make decisions that are designed for long-term health of the family.
It is not a parent’s job to be their kid’s best friend.
Let’s reverse it: It’s not a child’s job to be their parents’ best friend.
Life Is Not Like The Gilmore Girls
Yes, of course, I love Rory and Lorelai! Duh!?! Small-town, seemingly perfect life, with on-trend clothes, snarky dialogue with an overbearing wealthy Mom…. and Luke the hottie pouring endless coffee?
The wonderful thing about The Gilmore Girls was that female family dynamics were front and center, with excellent plot and dialogue to support the drama.
When Your Daughter Is Your Best Friend, Her Choices Might Make You Furious
Rory, as a pre-teen, was every mom’s dream come true: enthusiastic, adorable, unselfish, and up for anything. And then Rory began to mature and create her adult identity.
As viewers, we watched her begin the process of differentiation and the effects it had on her relationship with her mother. For a couple of seasons, we were able to see the pain and emotional upheaval that resulted from Rory building her moral framework and developing her identity.
What If Your “Best Friend
Daughter Sleeps With A Married Man?
Remember when Rory slept with Dean (her first love) after he was married? (go ahead, click and watch this epic scene!) That was a complex moral decision she made as she differentiated from Lorelai.
While most of our character is instilled early, we must activate it as we begin to “adult.” Rory made an adult decision, and as a result, created a massive rift in her relationship with her mother.
If Your Daughter Is Your Best Friend, Be Ready For Some Negative Emotions
At that point, Rory ceased to be her mother’s BFF and began to develop her own ideas about what her successful like might look like. Lorelai (understandably) was furious with Rory’s choice, afraid of the pain and complications it would cause for Rory and Dean.
But as Rory began to separate herself from her mom, she had the right to choose her behavior and the potential consequences. Because it was a TV show written with female viewers in mind, Lorelai and Rory eventually worked through the pain of the changing dynamic.
Sex Advice From Your Best Friend Daughter? NOPE
As mothers, when we create a best-friend dynamic with our daughters, we often burden them with unspoken expectations. Your adult child does not have the authority or ability to challenge your thinking in the same way a peer BFF would be able to.
Ever heard of “The Powdered Butt Syndrome”? Basically, it is the response a parent has when a child tries to give them advice. It sounds something like this:
Adult child gives advice: suggestion, suggestion, suggestion
Parent responds: Are you telling me what to do? Remember, I powdered your diapered butt for years!
Daughters Can Be Close Friends, But Are Not Designed To Be Your Bestie
Honestly, your adult daughter should not be the person you share your sex life with or your frustrations about your spouse. She is not equipped to function as a safe, neutral container for your anxiety about her dad or your marriage. That is the role of a best friend who is also experiencing hot flashes, retirement anxiety and is herself wondering if she still loves her husband.
Have Fun, But Don’t Overburden Your Daughter
Your daughter is your child, not your best friend. Take her shopping, buy her an expensive coffee, and get matching Ugg slippers if you are into twinning. Keeping your Mom problems off the topic list will free her to develop into her own woman.
Making Your Daughter Your Bestie Might Push Her Away
Burdening her with family secrets and midlife anxieties might actually push her away from you. She might choose to withdraw if she is asked to carry too much family dysfunction.
Or even worse, she might minimize her life trying to help you resolve your issues. A child who feels responsible, or worse guilty for not helping Mom solve problems is a sad thing.
When we feel responsible for others’ happiness, we make decisions based on what pleases the other person. We will abandon ourselves and choose others.
Helping Your Daughter Be Her Own Best Friend
Remember, the more you allow her to define herself, the stronger woman she will become. And if she chooses to get married, she has a greater chance of choosing a partner that pleases her, not just her mother.
Honoring healthy boundaries and encouraging your daughter to design her life is the goal of parenting. Giving our children permission to differentiate should be a lifelong message, increasing in the early adolescent years and completing in young adulthood.
But If I Am Her Bestie She Won’t Make Mistakes!
Yes, it is very likely that your daughter will make mistakes as she moves forward creating her identity. But even more tragic are the millions of adult children who live bound by the family rules, unhappy and unable to find their empowered voice.
There is nothing emptier than an adult child who has sacrificed their life on the altar of parental approval.
So, Mom, save the Bestie title for someone else in your life. Support your daughter as she differentiates and builds her personal life framework. If you find yourself struggling with allowing your daughter to separate, contact me using the email icon at the top of this page. I am a relationship coach who specializes in working with midlife women. I would love to help you create solutions that encourage healthy relationships.
Helping you design a fulfilling life matters to me. I take your time and trust seriously.
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.