The truth behind this mother-daughter relationship

Lili and Sam mother daughter relationship Silver Magazine Photo: Leon Burgess

Having menopause and puberty hit at roughly the same time seems an awful design fault, when it comes to mothers and daughters

The mother-daughter relationship can be a rocky ride, but it can also be filled with love. Sam and Lili tell us exactly how they feel about each other. Buckle up…


When you think of your mother, how do you see her as a person, rather than as mum?

Sometimes it’s hard to separate the fact that my mum is both a mother and a person in her own right. But if I look at her as a person, I can see that she is determined and ambitious. She has hopped around in different businesses and has hundreds of different and exciting ideas. She can be frantic and maybe a little disorganised, but I know in all the chaos there is a brain brimming with schemes and concepts.

I’ve seen her becoming more of a recluse as she gets older

Without sounding like a cliché, she really is the life and soul of the party… when she goes. I see her cancel plans all too often though. I know that when she gets out, she loves it. She’s the person you can hear cackling from the other side of the room and everyone’s always happy around her.

But I’ve seen her becoming more of a recluse as she gets older. She treasures nothing more than a curry, Poirot, and a snuggle with the dog (the favourite child). More often now, I can hear her cracking up at her own jokes in the living room, bellowing with laughter, rather than at a party or in a pub.

Do you think she sees you the way you see yourself?

Definitely not. I’m sure she sees me in a much more positive light than I do myself. My crippling self-loathing and body dysmorphia give me a very negative view of myself. I think she sees me as someone stronger than I am, I still hide a lot of my sadness from her.

We do have a fairly open relationship where I feel we can talk to each other about lots of things. But of course… we don’t share everything. So, there’s obviously things she doesn’t know about and therefore can’t make full judgement. But that’s normal.

What does she miss?

Sometimes a bit of company and a hot meal is just what I need… but sometimes, she doesn’t know that I just need to be left alone. I think sometimes she falls at the age hurdle; I am 21 but I still need to let her know where I’m going every time I step out the house. And I think sometimes I need to make mistakes on my own, I’m determined and no matter what someone says, I’ll normally do it anyway.

And what does she get right?

Well, no one’s cooking compares even in the slightest. Soups and spag bol when I’m ill, nothing comes close. But on a real note, she’s normally right about people. I often find myself being told ‘I told you so’ when things don’t work out or people betray me… despite my annoyance.

Sam and Lili out Silver MAgazine

When you were a child, what kind of mother was she?

When I was younger, our relationship was different. Not that she wasn’t there for me, but I feel our relationship is a lot closer now than it has been through most of my life. When I was younger, I was very aware that my mum was still going through a lot, and we were more distant. When I was 12 I started living with my mum full time and she became my only blood parent. I won’t say that was easy, and we sometimes clashed. I was very damaged, and I’m not sure she knew how to handle that, part of that came from me keeping things in. It’s only now I’ve really started opening up, and even still, there’s a lot I keep to myself.

As you grew older and became a teenager, what were the biggest challenges in terms of your relationship with your mother? What changed?

I remember things like curfews and answering texts being one of our big arguments… now I know her worries, but at the time I hated it

As I’m sure it’s much the same for most parent/teenager relationships, letting go was a struggle. Even now I know she looks at me and sees her little girl, but as a teenager you need to explore your boundaries. I remember things like curfews and answering texts being one of our big arguments, she wasn’t used to me going out so wanted to know what I was doing at all times.

Of course, now I know her worries, but at the time I hated it. I couldn’t understand why I needed to answer messages every half an hour. And well, as for curfews, I would just sneak out. I don’t really remember much of the time I was caught as I was rather inebriated. But from there, I think she began to understand I was growing up and I needed more independence.

How do you feel you both handled those changes?

It goes without saying that there were definitely things we could’ve done better. Our communication wasn’t always great, and I think we both didn’t always consider each other’s feelings. But when you’re living in a house that is so hormone-fuelled, it’s sometimes hard to step back and realise what you’re doing and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

But I do feel that we did pretty well. We didn’t have too many shouting matches, no walls punched; lots of doors slammed though.

Lili – as your mother hit the menopause years, were you aware of her changing at all? Was she different?

It wasn’t like she woke up one day as the menopause monster, it happened over time. I didn’t even know what menopause was until my mum started going through it. They don’t teach you about it at school… they wouldn’t have time in the tiny bit of syllabus actually dedicated to women’s periods and hormones.

But I did notice a change; she became irritable, probably from the hormonal depression but I found it very hard to get along with her. I felt like I could no longer reason with her, during an important time when I wanted compromise and independence. In fact, there were times I thought we’d never get along again. Of course, I was going through puberty myself so I may have been the same, which of course led to clashes.

Did that affect your relationship with her?

Yes, of course it did, we were very distant at one point, and I felt like I had to avoid her all the time to keep the peace. Didn’t want to go home for a good chunk of time. But despite the tensions and arguments, she was always there when I needed her most.

Now you’re a bit older are things more settled – and if so, in what way?

Definitely, both that I’m older, out of the worst bit of puberty, and she’s more settled into her menopause has made a difference. But probably not as big a change as some parent/child relationships. I feel that we have always been able to talk to each other like adults, even when I was young. She never tried to mollycoddle me and told me straight, treated me with respect. And as a result, we could talk on a level since I was a fairly young age.

But for massive changes, there aren’t really any apart from the feeling I have toward her, I see her more as a friend rather than a mother. That doesn’t mean that when I’m having a bad day I won’t come wailing to her asking for a hug, but I feel like we can joke about anything.

Are there still things that you feel could be better?

Yes I’m sure there are things, but if you asked me what, I’m afraid I don’t have a clear cut answer. I think if you’d ask my mum, she’d probably say for me to do the washing up a bit more!

End on a nice note – something you most admire about her

She’s quite a businesswoman; I can’t normally go a week without her sitting me down and spewing out about 100 new ideas for the business. It’s not always great when you’re trying to enjoy your breakfast, but I deeply admire her passion. She’s always known what she wanted and I’m jealous of her devotion in her work. And the fact she has always known what she’s wanted to do, what makes her heart tick.

I also know that her upbringing was difficult, not just from what she’s told me, but you can see that reflected in her behaviour, even years later as an adult. And I know she has worked so hard on making a better life for herself and me despite all the trauma and wrongdoings in her life. So I admire her deeply for that.

Sam and Lili at PGCE graduation Silver Magazine


When you think of your daughter, how do you see her as a person?

Lili is a curious mixture of fear and fearlessness. I worry about her, and often feel I need to support her. Then I find that she’s gone and done something challenging without even thinking about it, just dealt with it herself. She constantly surprises me. She’s 21 one minute, and five years old the next.

She feels other people’s pain, and her gentleness and kindness can be a burden to her

She’s exceptionally kind, and – I think – too empathic. She feels other people’s pain, and her gentleness and kindness can be a burden to her. Contrarily again though, she can be quite brutal sometimes. It’s almost like she’ll give people a mile, but once she’s had enough, that’s it. And then she’s immovable. I both admire and fear that about her.

She is clever, far more than she realises. I wish she could see her talents and strengths as clearly as I can, but I expect she’ll grow into that. I hope so. And I love her sense of humour, when I am graced with a bit of her time to hang out and have a laugh. She’s a good friend – she thinks about other people far more than I do, and she’s staunchly loyal.

Do you think she sees you the way you see yourself?

Maybe more so as we have got older. I think probably up until a few years ago she just saw me as ‘mum’ and took me at face value, whatever that was. But with age comes wisdom, and emotional growth, and I suspect she probably has a good handle on the person I am. There are things she doesn’t know, of course, and I’m still ‘mum’. But the way she talks to me, and about me, tells me that she knows a fair bit of what makes me tick. Possibly more than I realise.

What does she miss?

I guess the emotional stuff, and the things that I don’t want her to know about because they’ll upset or unsettle her. I try to strike a balance when it comes to sharing troubles with her – whether they’re emotional, or financial, or whatever. I don’t want her to worry, because she is a worrier. But equally the real world is tough; I don’t want her to be incapable of knowing that although bad things happen, you can make them better.

And what does she get right?

We’ve been working together recently and I think it’s given her some insight into what I do all day. Before that she would see me hunched over the laptop but I don’t think she really had a clue what I was doing. So it’s been really cool to see her begin to understand maybe why I’m so knackered all the time. And also see that I can do some impressive stuff, as part of my work – not that I’m just great in the kitchen! She’s got a knack of knowing when I’m really down too – I know when she does something kind for me that she’s picked up on something.

What kind of child was she?

Honestly, she was an absolute breeze until around 10 years old. I didn’t realised the extent to which her relationship with her father had broken down and I will forever be furious with myself for not spotting that sooner. But her early days were an absolute joy – she was expressive, sunny-natured. Full of buzzing ideas and creativity – she would draw and paint all the time, and dance. Make her own clothes out of scarves, all sorts of things. She was absolutely gorgeous. It’s heart-breaking to see the change that growing up with trauma has made to her, but I think she’s doing really well. I still see my tiny tiger underneath it all.

Sam and Lili holiday 2004 Lanzarote Silver Magazine

As she grew older and became a teenager, what were the biggest challenges in terms of your relationship with your her? What changed?

Is it some kind of hilarious joke by Mother Nature that puberty and menopause hit at roughly the same time? Because I’m here to tell you that it’s not funny. Not one bit.

I think Lili will probably say that the restrictions on her freedom were the worst things, but for me, it was the way she changed, the way she talked to me

I think Lili will probably say that the restrictions on her freedom were the worst things, but for me, it was the way she changed, the way she talked to me. Like she hated me. I’d get monosyllabic answers, and she’d be really rude. Then I’d hear her chatting to mates, or other adults, all sunny and like the Lili I know, and it would be painful, I’d cry a lot in private about it. Because then she’d turn around and talk to me like a dog! I learned to pick my battles, and not react all the time. But I suspect she was finding me hard work too. I had a run of about four or five years where I literally felt like a different person, and I know I was a bitch sometimes.

It hit me one night – I remember this really clearly – we’d been having endless squabbles, and both of us were tearful and full of anger. She went into the kitchen and tried to make me a nice dinner but spoiled it and when I came in she was sitting on the floor crying. She’d tried to cook to make things better between us, and I realised in that moment that I was just as much to blame as her. I sat on the floor with her, and we talked properly for the first time in forever, and things improved after that. I’d been absolutely lost in my own misery for so long, it didn’t even occur to me that I was part of the problem.

How do you feel you both handled those changes?

Ach, some good, some bad. I was probably too strict on her but I catastrophise about her. Every time she walked out of the door I imagined the police knocking on it later to tell me she was raped and dead in a skip somewhere. I had to learn to let go of that, but that was hard.

Once we started to talk more and negotiate things it got better. I walked into her bedroom one night to see if she wanted to get up and watch the mad storm with me, and her bed was empty!! I’ll never forget that feeling! Turns out she WAS watching the storm – in the park with her friends and a bottle of scotch. Jesus, I aged about ten years overnight.

As she hit the hormonal years, were you aware of her changing at all? Was she different?

Lord, the mood swings. I think that was the hardest thing; would I get happy Lili, or crying Lili, or angry Lili – it changed from hour to hour, and made my head spin.

Did that affect your relationship with her?

Yes. It’s hard to get close to someone who is being really vile to you! I think also because she was trying to separate and grow up and I was struggling with that, I probably made things hard for her by not trusting her more. I was overprotective – I expect she will say the same.

Now you’re a bit older are things more settled – and if so, in what way?

I love the relationship we have now, although we both still have aspects of our lives that are private. But we rub along like good friends, I think. I love her company – I wish I was allowed to spend more time with her, but I try hard to be respectful of her space these days. We laugh a lot together, she’s bloody funny sometimes.

Are there still things that you feel could be better?

Honestly, there isn’t a lot. I’d like her to have a bit more confidence in herself. I’ll just have to hope she gets there in her own time. I think if there was anything that really still bugs me it’s housework related; such a cliché. She’ll do her own laundry, for example, but will actively take my socks out of the drum instead of just doing them with her wash. Or she’ll put stuff in the dishwasher – but only her things! She will leave my plate on the side, even though she’s in front of the damn thing with the door open. We have a cleaner otherwise I think we’d argue more about the housework. I dream of the day she voluntarily cooks for me because I’ve had a hard day, or scans the whole house for things to put in the dishwasher even if they’re not hers! We’re getting close – she does ask me if I need anything from the shop these days. I live in endless hope.

End on a nice note – something you most admire about her

There are so many things, it’s hard to pick one thing. I think where we are now, the thing I admire most is her resilience. As time has passed and she’s opened up to me more about things that have happened to her growing up, I’ve been both heartbroken for her, and amazed at her strength and stoicism. She’s extraordinary, and I think as long as she keeps talking, she’s going to be fine. But the stuff she’s carried on her own over the years… well I shall stop now or I’ll cry. She’s stronger than she knows, let’s just say that.

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About Sam Harrington-Lowe
Sam is Silver's founder and editor-in-chief. She's largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.

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