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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Maine Mother Daughter Project?

The Maine Mother Daughter Project is modeled after SuEllen Hamkins and Renee Schultz’s book The Mother-Daughter Project:  How Mothers and Daughters Can Band Together, Beat the Odds and Thrive During Adolescence.  The project’s primary goal is to bring mothers and daughters together to create a community that supports mothers, daughters and mother-daughter relationships.  The project is based on the premise that it is possible for mothers and daughters to stay connected during adolescence and beyond.  It is a preventive model that fosters the development of strong and resilient girls.

There are three main components of the Maine Mother-Daughter Project:

  •  A conference was held on Friday evening, October 26 entitled, “The Maine Mother-Daughter Project:  A Conference For Women on Cultivating Strong Bonds With Our Daughters”
  • A film series on topics that girls face as they navigate their way through adolescence
  • The formation of mother-daughter groups that will meet regularly in an effort to work together to address the challenges and risks that mothers and daughters face in the U.S.

What is the conference all about and how can I register?

The conference took place at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center in Belfast, on Friday, October 26, 2012 from 5:00-9:30 pm. The conference featured some readings about mother-daughter relationships, a keynote address by Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, Professor of Education at Colby College, co-author of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughter’s From Marketers’ Schemes, and co-founder of the organization Hardy Girls Healthy Women, and a panel presentation about mother-daughter relationships. At the end of the conference,  participants had an opportunity to meet other mothers and get involved in creating their own mother-daughter groups.

What is the film series and who can attend?

We will be showing five documentary films at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center in Belfast over the next year.  The films will be shown on 9/20, 11/15, 1/17, 3/21, and 5/23.  Films are free and open to the public.  Some of the films may be appropriate for teenagers but it is up to the parents to make this decision. Please review the film before deciding whether or not to bring your teenage children.

What are the Mother-Daughter groups?

Mother-daughter groups are small groups of mothers and daughters who get together on a regular basis. Mothers start first and meet for three to six months in order to build relationships and trust amongst each other and to set goals and guidelines for their group.  After they have accomplished this, they add additional meetings that include their daughters. The ultimate goal is to create a community that nurtures and empowers the girls, while also supporting mothers.  It is one that strengthens the mother-daughter relationship throughout childhood and the so-called “tumultuous” teen years.  It provides an opportunity for girls (and mothers) to be their genuine selves, and to belong, without feeling judged.  By creating a group of mothers for our daughters to turn to from a young age, we also provide them with other people to go to even when they don’t feel comfortable discussing something with us.

What do the Mother-Daughter groups look like?

There are many variations in groups, although it is generally recommended that groups are small, comprising of 4 to 6 mothers, and their daughters who are close in age, usually one or two years apart.  Once groups are formed, membership is generally closed to maintain the bonds that are created within them.  Other interested parties are encouraged to form new groups.

Generally mothers meet by themselves once a month and together with their daughters once a month at a time that is convenient for everyone.  Sometimes groups find it easier to meet for longer periods of time and less often, such as for weekend retreat type events every three months.  It is generally advisable that meetings be scheduled for six months at a time so everyone can plan accordingly.  Groups meet right through the adolescence of their daughters.

Groups may decide to rotate meetings among the homes, or meet in public places, such as for lunch, at the park, beach, or library.  The important part is that the meeting places are mutually agreeable and do not add stress or hardship to the members.  Many groups adapt a “no cleaning, no apologies” rule for meetings held in the members’ homes to ensure that people do not feel like extra work is necessary for the group.  Meeting places may stay relatively stable, or may change over time as the interests of the group changes.

Why are Mother-Daughter groups important?

We live in a society that has a myth about the perfect girl.  She is skinny, with perfect skin, hair clothes, and body, just like the digitally altered images she is exposed to every day.  Girls are regularly exposed to messages that encourage them to strive to become the “perfect girl.” Research indicates that girls are affected by these messages at younger and younger ages and that despite many increased opportunities for girls, they are still at risk for problems such as depression, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, self-injury, suicide, intimate violence, and eating disorders. There is also evidence that when girls reach adolescence they often shut down and their self-esteem plummets.        

We live in a society that has a myth about the perfect mother. She is always patient, encouraging, cool, calm, and collected, and has time to relax and/ or play with her children whenever they desire.  This same society is generally lacking in providing adequate support for mothers.

We live in a society that has a myth about daughters rejecting their mothers during adolescence.  It is cool to hate your mom.  It is okay to hate your teenage daughter, because, after all, she is moody, hormonal, argumentative, and impossible to get along with.   If you do not allow her to reject you, you are thwarting her normal development of autonomy anyway. This leads to mothers and daughters that feel like it is normal to reject each other at a time that they need each other the most.  A time when the relationships has the opportunity to grow, thrive, change, and solidify into a healthy, strong bond is turned into an experience of suffering for everyone involved.

Who can participate?

The Maine Mother-Daughter Project is meant to be inclusive–open to women and girls from all walks of life. Grandmothers raising granddaughters, aunts raising nieces, mothers raising stepdaughters are all encouraged to participate.

But what about fathers and sons?

Of course, father-daughter, father-son, and mother-son relationships are equally important as the mother-daughter relationship.  However, this project focuses on mothers and daughters for several reasons.  Our daughters live in a world of increased opportunity paired with increased risks for eating disorders, mental health issues, and physical and/or sexual violence.  Our mothers live in a world where fathers are doing more, but so are mothers.  The Maine Mother-Daughter Project is based on the idea that mothers can be one of the most important resources for daughters as they navigate their way through adolescence.

How do I get involved?

There are many ways to get started.   If you want to get started right away you can develop your own group by following the suggestions developed by the authors of the book, The Mother Daughter Project:  How Mothers and Daughters can Band Together, Beat the Odds and Thrive During Adolescence.  If you want to wait until October, you can register for the Maine Mother Daughter Conference and we will help connect with other mothers.  To do this, please fill out the registration form and send it to us by email or mail.   Another option is to use our facebook page as a platform for connecting with other mothers who have daughters the same age as your daughter(s).

Who is behind this project?

Kim Huisman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Maine, is the Project Coordinator and Elizabeth Joy, an undergraduate student at the University of Maine, is the Research Assistant for the project. The Maine Mother-Daughter Project would not be possible without generous support from the Maine Humanities Council, the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center, the University of Maine’s Department of Sociology and the University of Maine’s Women’s Studies Program.

If I participate in the project do I have to fill out a survey?

Participants will be invited to fill out an anonymous pre- and post-survey designed to evaluate the project. Participation is voluntary.

For additional questions:

Review the Frequently Asked Questions page from SuEllen Hamkins and Renee Schultz’s project or Contact Us.