Listen To Your Mother's Stories This International Women's Day

Strangely, this year’s International Women’s Day feels more significant to me than last year. I think this feeling is related to the Women’s March, and how women’s rights have shot to the forefront of the conversation. Any complacency that might have been around that gender equality is a done deal has been shaken away.

In this blog post I want to revisit the first Huffington Post blog I wrote back in 2013 for International Women’s Day, where I called for mothers and daughters to get together and talk about their lives. International Women’s Day is a perfect day to sit down with your mother or grandmother and share your stories. When I map my clients’ mother-daughter history, I witness how healing it is for mothers and daughters to learn about what has happened to the women in their generational family. It makes mothers and daughters feel known, visible, and understood - which are essential ingredients of a strong, emotionally connected mother-daughter relationship. When a daughter learns about the struggles her mother has had to endure, and in many cases overcome, her feeling towards her mother softens. The daughter gains a greater appreciation of her mother’s life, emotional truth, and the emotional reality her mother lives in, which has the power to wash away any misplaced shame, guilt, and anger that may be lingering in their relationship. And these kinds of conversations can also create generational change. As I write in “The Mother-Daughter Puzzle”

“When women tell their stories and we hear the secrets they carry about how men have mistreated them, how religions have blamed and shamed them, and how patriarchy has controlled women’s bodies, autonomy and rights, our world is changed forever.”

When mothers and daughters share the honest truth about themselves and their lives, they have the power to change their world. Secrets that have festered for too long are aired, and feelings that keep getting skipped over are made real. And when this happens, women know that they matter.

Following are some questions that can help you get started.

Start by asking your mom or grandmother what her favorite memory is? What dreams did she have for herself as a child or teenager? Was she able to fulfil her dreams? And if not, what stopped her?

Ask your mom or grandmother what they love about being a woman? When did she feel the strongest? What does she regret? And what is she most proud of?

Ask your mom or grandmother about her relationship with her mother. What was their mother-daughter relationship like? Did she feel heard and emotionally supported by her mother? Was her mother listened to, and emotionally supported by her husband and family? What sexist beliefs and gender stereotypes limited her mother’s life? What strength did she inherit from her mother? And then tell your mom or grandmother the strength and greatness you have inherited from her.

And finally what does your mother or grandmother hope for women in the future? And then tell her what you hope for yourself.