Mom’s Month

The relationship between mother and daughter is unlike that of any other — a complex, sacred bond that transcends nuclear family ideals, as unique as the two individuals who make up the mother and daughter. For some it is a collection of love in its various forms (unconditional, tough), it is nurturing, it is friendship, it is a house of wisdom, mutual understanding, deep affection, an ebb and flow of complicated emotions and — interspersed throughout all that — a nuanced series of eye rolls/tones you didn’t know you were giving.

It’s impossible to write about in broad stokes. And so, we narrowed it down to seven mother/daughter duos (eight if you include a grandmother/granddaughter connection). Scroll through to read their experiences and then, in the comments, tell us about yours.

 Elissa Santisi and Franny Keller

What do you call one another?
E: France, French Fry, Bunny, Peanut, Peanuttiest
F: Mommy, Lise, Elise Navidad

How would you describe your relationship with your mother/daughter in one word?
E: Spontaneous
F: Animated

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
By entertaining each other, we entertain everyone around us.

What have you learned from one another?
E: How to be more open to the world and appreciate what’s in front of me.
F: How to be funky, goofy, caring (with style and finesse).

What has motherhood taught you?
E: The obvious: that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The Santisi tree, that is.

What has daughterhood taught you?
F: No matter how strong and self-sufficient I think I am, at the end of the day, I need my mom. (Especially as a college freshman.)

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
E: Sorry!
F: Although we may clash sometimes, it only brings us closer (if that’s even possible).

Mia and Lisa Lardiere

What do you call one another?
L: Mama
M: Mama. I recently learned that the reason she’s called me and my sister “mama” since birth is because she wanted us to both say her name first before “da-da.”

How would you describe your relationship with your mother/daughter in one word?
L: Open
M: Essential

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
M: I was adopted from Colombia when I was just an infant, so on paper, it’s that my mom and I are two people who aren’t biologically related living and identifying as mother and daughter. Even though I didn’t come from her womb, my mom is no less of a mother to me and I am no less of a daughter to her.

We have a disgustingly strong bond. We balance each other. I try to soften her edges and she tries to soften mine, and we work as buffers for each other within our family dynamic. I’m blown away when I see so plainly that she and I were so destined to be together out of all of the people in the world who could have been my mom.

L: Our relationship is funny, too. You challenge me and we share a lot of things with each other, but I think you think I’m a little odd!
M: Well I think you think that I’m a little odd!

What have you learned from one another?
L: How to see things differently.
M: And how to put our problems into perspective.

What has motherhood taught you?
L: It has taught me patience and how to look at things through the eyes of my two daughters, which are two very different points of view. Motherhood teaches you how to be passionate, empathetic, sympathetic, comforting, nurturing and selfless. You don’t think about yourself often when you’re a parent because you’re always thinking about your kids. You give up a lot of things, too, but that’s just what you do.

I’ve learned that it’s different being a mother of an infant or a child than it is being a mother of an adult. As a mother of a child, you’re choosing everything for your kids because they don’t have the ability to choose. I own a preschool-kindergarten and I tell the parents of my students, “You choose where they live, you choose what you wear, and you choose the food they eat…for now.” Then, as my mother used to tell me, “When they grow older, you lose control.”

M: Now I choose what you eat!
L: And tell me what to wear!

What has daughterhood taught you?
M: The specific lessons have changed as my relationship with my mom has evolved with age, but fundamentally, daughterhood has taught me how to be a friend and a student, and how to give one hundred percent effort.

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
L: Obviously, I want Mia to know that I love her and that I care about her, and that it’s all unconditional. It doesn’t matter what choices she makes. Mia listens to advice, but she’s still going to do whatever she has her mind and heart set on doing. Sometimes I understand that, but I just want her to be sure that she sees the bigger picture instead of just the details.

M: I want my mom to know that she, my dad, my sister (and our dog!) are my soulmates and that I wouldn’t trade my life with them for any other variation that could have been. I am indebted to the younger versions of her and my dad, who were relentless in their quest to raise a child in this world together despite years of hardship in trying to do so. I might not have ever had the basic rights and privileges that I do now had they given up.

We’re in this together and there’s no turning back, so feel free to throw away the receipt that came with me!

Julie Valenzuela (“Nana”), Marguerite and Gabby Brown

What do you call one another?
M: I call my daughter Gabby or Gabs and my mom Nana, the Nanster.
G: Mom/ Mugsy and my grandmother is Nana.

How would you describe your relationship with your mother/daughter in one word?
M: I have two distinct relationships; I am both a mom and a daughter. The word for my relationship with Gabby: Love. The word for my relationship with my mom: Fun.
J/N: My relationship with my daughter, Marguerite: Lovable. My relationship with my Granddaughter, Gabby: Adoration.

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
M: How much fun we have together.
G: Our dynamic. The three of us have very distinct personalities while still being cut from the same cloth, so it’s interesting to be able to flow between basically having telepathy with each other yet also being able to learn from each other’s differences.

What have you learned from one another?
M: Respect. Boundaries! Boundaries can be tough…
G: Respect and balance. It’s not always sunshine-y, happy days with family, but the respect factor is non-negotiable in order to keep a healthy relationship. It can be tough to balance your needs/feelings while also keeping up with the needs/feelings of loved ones, but if the respect is there, the effort follows.

What has motherhood taught you?
J/N: That I could have my daughter as my best friend.
M: Who knew I could love another person so much and so deeply?

What has daughterhood taught you?
M: Since becoming a mom, I understood how much my mom loves me…and how much she needs me.
G: That sometimes it’s not about me needing my mom but, rather, her needing me.

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
J/N: I love you more, not matter what.
M: That I am here for you, I have your back and that no matter what happens, I will always put you first and love you.
G: That I still (and probably always will) need you! I’m good at putting on an adult game face but there’s something about a mom/grandmother that is irreplaceable.

Jennifer and Christel Langué

What do you call one another?
J: Christel, Kitellou (childhood nickname).
C: Jenn, Jenny, Jennifer (only because she hates the fact that I would call her anything but mom), but mostly mom/mama.

How would you describe your relationship with your mother/daughter in one word?
J: Friendly.
C: Tight-knit.

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
J: I know everything!!! (Almost…) I’m the first person she calls when she needs to scream the stress out of herself.
C: I fully believe that my mother and I are soulmates. She understands me like no other person I have ever met. I truly cannot go a day without calling her at least three times! I even FaceTime my mom when I’m shopping, I value her opinions so much.

What have you learned from one another?
J: You are born with your personality. Christel has been exactly the same since day one. Everybody grows and changes, but who you are deep down always stays the same.
C: My mom taught me that I can be soft and strong at the same time. She taught me to have confidence in myself and have a sense of humor. Mom never stops laughing at me, whether I like it or not.

What has motherhood taught you?
J: Unconditional love.

What has daughterhood taught you?
C: Learning and growing doesn’t stop with age. Also, nobody will ever love and support me like my mama. It took me awhile to realize that, but it is one thousand percent true.

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
J: Ever since our first encounter, the day you were born, I knew that we had a special connection. I always knew that you had a special destiny.
C: Words cannot describe how much I love and appreciate you. You are so strong, and an amazing mother and role model. I hope you never doubt the decisions you’ve made. You’re doing great. I love you.

Brigitte and Sophie Roche Conti

What do you call one another?
S: Maman
B: Chatounette

How would you describe your relationship with your mother/daughter in one word?
B: Extradimensional.
S: Tender.

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
B: We are connected, meaning that we can feel beyond our words. Sophie can come into my dreams to express something deep.
S: I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’m speaking to an angel.

What have you learned from one another?
S: Everything. Most importantly how to keep a steady head and how to get perspective. My mom is an emotional genius/sorceress. She taught me that 99% of the time people act out of whack or unkindly, it’s because they are battling their own demons. Don’t buy into people’s drama, stay above and don’t let their issues slow you down on your path. My mom also has very intense work ethic. This most likely came from my very strict grandfather, Papinoo, from Metz, France. He lived through the war, had six kids and was a true disciplinarian. My mom is the middle child. She flew the coop, married an American. She is an artist at heart and an innately creative person, but also loves to shovels snow at 6 a.m. because it’s a good workout.

What has motherhood taught you?
B: It is very simple! Sophie taught me to say, “I love you!” I never exchanged these words with my parents. Having a daughter reset my relationship with my own mother. Sophie is like a coach!

What has daughterhood taught you?
S: So many things: Giving and receiving, fairness, respect. I am my mom’s biggest fan and I think she is aging like a queen. If I could do her personal PR, I would. My mom has taught me to lead with trust — innocent until proven guilty. Brigitte also has taught me how powerful positive thinking can be for your professional and personal life, your health, everything. She also knows how to enjoy life, which I’ve been witnessing her do for the past 28 years.
Daughterhood keeps you in check. It means just because you’re younger and less wrinkly doesn’t mean you’re any cooler or more fun to be around.

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
S: Jetaimemamancherieadoréepourlaviiiiieeee. (Iloveyoumomforeverandeverfortherestofmyliiiife.)

Nova and Malin Landaeus

What do you call one another?
M: I call her Nova or “älskling,” a Swedish term of endearment like “my love.”
N: Mom, mamma (Swedish for mom).

How would you describe your relationship with your daughter in one word?
M: Infinite.
N: Unshakeable.

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
M: Our deep connection and unwavering commitment to our relationship.
N: We are incredibly close, and the respect and care goes both ways. We like to help each other think about our lives and give perspective, reminding the other person of all the wonderful qualities we see that can be difficult to recognize in oneself.

What have you learned from one another?
M: We home-schooled. I’m not sure who taught whom more. I’ve learned to hang, stay close, have more fun, how to listen and pay attention and surrender control. I have immense respect for Nova and her mind.
N: I have learned so much from my mom, I don’t even know where to start. She has been unwavering in her belief that we should all embrace who we are, our own unique power and be ourselves.

What has motherhood taught you?
M: I cannot possibly sum up what motherhood has taught me. It is an identity. It is part of my essence. But one thing that I think is important to share is that it has taught me to fight for myself, to take care of myself.. To be the best mothers we can be, we have to make sure we take care of our own needs. That’s how we then can show up fully as mothers.

What has daughterhood taught you?
N: Daughterhood has taught me how to love deeply and unconditionally.

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
M: “I got you”
N: That no matter if I seem irritated or upset with you in any way, I love you more than anything and wouldn’t trade you for the world. Or the moon. Or the stars.

Stefanie Scheer Young and Edith Young

What do you call one another?
SSY: Edith, Edie-Sweetie, chickpea.
(Ed. note from Edith: she can call me anything, just don’t call me late for supper!)
EY: Mom. Also, my brother and I sometimes refer to her as Mumala. She says she doesn’t hate this but doesn’t love it, either.

How would you describe your relationship with your mother/daughter in one word?
SSY: Roommates.
EY: Landlord.

What’s the most unique thing about your relationship?
EY: People say we look alike and have the same mannerisms. When I was eight, I tacked a self-portrait onto the refrigerator that said, “My name’s Edith but everyone calls me Stefanie.”

What have you learned from one another?
SSY: Coming home from art school, she has opened my eyes to new visual and aesthetic points of view.
EY: I benefited from her years of reporting and editing experience at Sports Illustrated. She taught me how to write.

What has motherhood taught you?
SSY: You never know what’s around the next corner, but it turns out the surprises are all good.

What has daughterhood taught you?
EY: As my grandmother and my mother would say, nothing beats unconditional love.

What do you want the other person to always know that may not always be said?
SSY: You’ll always have a home with us, though it might be in an extremely small room.
EY: I’m lucky if I turned out to be half as smart as you are.

Photos by Savanna Ruedy; check out her website here and follow her on Instagram @savannarr.

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  • Bailey Stark

    I have such a strong and important relationship with my mom and I love learning about other people’s relationships! <3 Moms are the best and I cannot wait until I become a mom!

  • These photos are incredible!!! What a lovely collection of stories. I spent all of last week with my mom b/c my dad was out of town during my visit home. It was exactly what we both needed. Love the relationships between mothers and daughters. I wish everyone the chance to experience that unconditional love.

  • tmm16

    I love these stories and photos. Even though I rarely see my mom (probably every 5-6 months), we are so close and I couldn’t imagine a day without talking to her or seeing one of her “just checking in” texts. The mom/daughter relationship is so important. I’ve noticed I’m morphing into her slowly, aka I have to check to make sure my straightener/oven/every electric appliance is off before I leave the house! We are similar, but also different, and I think that makes our relationship stronger because we learn from each other.

  • Chelsea Adilia Rojas

    *Tears in eyes after reading these stories* I’ve never lived more than 30 minutes from my mama (except for study-abroad). In July I’m moving cross country for the foreseeable future. It pains me to think I won’t be able to go home and see my mom tending her beautiful gardens or be on the receiving end of her big, warm hugs! Then again, I know my mom wants me to get out there and experience as much of life as possible. I just hope she finally gets an iPhone so we can FaceTime :,)

  • Maggie Lanham

    I can’t imagine what I do without my ma. She is 100% my unconditional best friend and total goof. She’s never been out of the country and for her 60th we’re traveling through New Zealand together (her fav books aside from Jane Eyre were the Lord of the Rings trilogy!). I’ve been saving up for years and to explore and adventure together is a dream come true and only a small portion of what I wish I could give her to say thank you. Moms (whatever that means to each person) for the all-time no-contest win!

  • Josanne

    This was both beautiful and hard to read. My mother is now in a nursing home where I visit her every day (with my dogs!). One day helping her get from her wheelchair to toilet she asked me if I had any regrets. I told her my only regret was that I did not have a daughter to help when when I got older. She looked straight at me and said “I will ask to become an angel so I can return to help you”. Understand my mother also has dementia but there was no doubt she knew what she was saying.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    loved this. i never understood how much my mom loved me until i went away for exchange. she’s always been this stoic, impassive presence in my life, but when i went abroad she would email me multiple times a day, facetime me twice a week, send me dumb silly videos on whatsapp, things like that. it was really strange, seeing her so needy. but then i realized she is needy. that’s the magic of a mother’s love: sometimes, it’s quiet; other times, it’s all you can feel. but never ever will it go away. love you forever amma <3

    • Kiks

      I’ve had the same type of experience with my mom and the advent of smartphones, oddly enough. My mom is very old-school European, she has a great sense of humour but is quite stoic and old-fashioned about a lot of things.

      A few years ago she got an iPhone for work and now that we can text and send photos and videos all the time, I’ve gotten to rediscover her silly side and share so much more of my life with her (and vice versa).

  • Xenia

    Elise navidad made me laught! I loved it

  • hello

    Its refreshing to see, this. *sighs* i don’t have that and i live these posts and only hope that when my time comes i can be as close to my child or children but in a healthy way to make up for where my mother hasn’t been as close like this (or if at all) with me.

  • Aydan

    I relate more to my father than my mother (because I lack her patience and one hundred percent represent the impulsivity / brashness of my dad) — but I definitely can attest to the fact that she is a living angel on earth and has more compassion, love, and selflessness in her soul than anyone I know. Love that there are so many generations of smart loving women everywhere!

  • Gretchen

    This is a beautiful and sweet read. The sentiment that was sharedabout being soulmates with your family was very moving. I have a young son but the thoughts about being a mother were so expressive about my own experiences. My mother passed before I had a child and so I never got to share my changed perspective on our relationship after becoming a mom myself. Ah, these were wonderful to read.

  • Lil

    This was such a beautiful read. I loved that the Lardieres were included. I’m adopted too, and I’ve come across people who’ve been as crass to say things like, “I don’t think it’s possible to reaally love a child that’s not biologically yours.”

    So it’s nice to see adoption being more openly discussed in a positive light. 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing! I’m always interested to learn about how other individuals navigate such a complex relationship and identity. When I hear negative comments like the one you mentioned, I try to remember that 1) a person cannot speak to an experience that is not theirs and 2) not all adoptive relationships exist on a foundation of unconditional love and support for various reasons. I hope that adoption becomes something that’s discussed openly so the highs and the lows might one day be illustrated for us to all understand!