Opinion

Why we need to reconsider ‘turning into your mother’

In partnership with
PANDORA

Stylist’s Emily Badiozzaman explores why it’s probably impossible to avoid your mother’s influence – and why that isn’t necessarily a bad thing… 

There have been times in conversations when I’ve thought I’ve been on the receiving end of a Dementor’s kiss, but instead of my soul, my mother’s is extracted. 

Out of my mouth tumbles something so spookily hers, I have to question whether I’ve actually, entirely, turned into my mum.

It presents itself in other ways – I too show my love through food in excessive amounts, can’t physically function without a list, and won’t sleep properly if I’m waiting for someone to come home safe.

I’m also a perfectionist (sometimes to my detriment), interrupt people before they’ve finished, and am brutally honest (often when it isn’t required).

But the very idea of turning into your parents, and for women specifically their mother, is often portrayed as a negative. 

“Oh my god, I’m turning into my mother” is rarely said with the kind of animated glee that makes people think you’ve been looking forward to this moment all your life.

You could put it down to a hangover from the teenage need to be your own person. Or that when you’re most like your parents it’s often in a situation where you’ve been vulnerable and the similarity comes as a shock. And of course, not everyone has a positive relationship with their parent figures.

But regardless of the connotations, there are actually scientific reasons why we tend to grow up to be more like our parents.

According to psychotherapeutic counsellor Chanelle Sowden, turning into your mother happens because it’s all about behaving how we’ve been shown. 

Our parents’ behaviour is what forms our neuropathways when we’re learning how to function as infants. Because of that, it’s also our modus operandi when it comes to behavioural defaults, particularly when we’re in stressful situations.

It actually requires creating new neuropathways to change that behaviour, so it has to be a conscious decision to create new habits or responses.

“The first person we ever parent is ourselves,” Sowden explains. “We have a constant internal chatter going on in our heads where we respond to ourselves in a ‘parental way’.”

“If we each have an ‘inner child’ within us – our original self that feels our true feelings such as fear, anger, sadness and joy – then we also have an ‘inner parent’ that responds to these feelings and this may be from either a critical or nurturing stance.”

Mothers and daughters have also been proven to share a closer brain chemistry than any other family relationship, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience – and they’re more influenced by each other than other parent-child bonds.

It’s seemingly expected (and scientifically likely) that you’ll become more like your mother than you’d ever think. But by realising your similarities, you’re showing signs of emotional awareness.

So, regardless of what your relationship with your mum might be, that’s a good thing.

Being able to recognise traits, whether they’re good or bad, and being able to apply how they make you or other people feel enables us to deal with them by either enhancing or changing them.

In short, acknowledging you’re ‘turning into your mother’ allows you to better yourself, which is why we shouldn’t be worried when we utter those words out loud.

My mother has qualities I can only hope to inherit further down the line. 

She’s fiercely independent, fearless in her pursuit of new experiences (she’s just signed up to drum lessons and regularly tries new restaurants on her own, which would give me hives), loves exercising (I’m patiently waiting for that genetic trait to kick in), and is emotionally perceptive to the point she can tell what’s going on by the first word someone says when they answer the phone.

She’s endlessly generous with her friends and family. And strangers, too – more than once, someone on a bus has opened up to her and then she’s invited them around for dinner (to our dismay).

That extends to gift giving. She regularly makes people cry at her thoughtfulness and I still look at the Pandora bracelet she gave me in awe of the consideration that went into every charm representing a memory.

She’s taught me to always show people how much you love them and to live life well and gratefully to the best of your ability.

She also laughs until she cries on a regular basis. Like, almost pee yourself cry-laughing.

If I fully morph into her, I’ll be counting myself lucky.

Celebrate turning into your mum and show her how much you look forward to it this Mother’s Day with a gift from PANDORA’s new collection.