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Huisman, Zegel and 37 other moms and their daughters are employing similar strategies and some of their own in mother-daughter groups that meet regularly in the midcoast Maine area. The general plan is for small groups of mothers with daughters of the same age to gather, bond, talk about child rearing and build a foundation of trust.

For Huisman, it’s crucial the groups are judgment-free. “It’s important to me that it feels safe to talk about challenges (of motherhood),” she says.

In addition to the mothers-only meetings, the Maine mothers and daughters participate in an outing, activity or discussion once a month. They might kayak, go to the movies, do community service, role-play or talk about age-appropriate topics.

Hamkins says her mother-daughter group had an annual theme. When their daughters were 8, it was friendship; when they were 9, it was puberty; and when they were 13, romantic relationships.

“we provide a real alternative to values on Netflix. It doesn’t mean it’s easy and it doesn’t mean the girls won’t ever be sexually harassed or won’t develop an eating disorder, but if it does happen they’ll be able to deal with it in a loving context.” SuEllen Hamkins

Her oldest daughter, now 23, is a bioengineer. Hamkins says they have a very good relationship and enjoy each other. “I’m grateful,” she says.

Huisman’s Maine Mother-Daughter Project has featured an October event highlighted by panel discussions and a keynote speech by Lyn Mikel Brown, a professor at Colby College, co-author of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes, and co-founder of Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

As of January, Huisman also had shown three films at UMaine’s Hutchinson Center in Belfast, Maine: Cover Girl Culture: Awakening the Media Generation, A Girl’s Life and The Story of Mothers and Daughters.

As a result of the project, Huisman has reflected on her relationship with her mother. “I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the challenges she faced,” she says.

It’s also important, Hamkins says, to understand the current culture in which girls and women live: the Equal Rights Amendment has not been ratified, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes and a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey indicated one in four women reported being attacked by their boyfriends or husbands.

Because of social media and the Internet, Hamkins says opportunities and challenges are greater for girls now than they were 15 years ago.


Contact Information

The Arts
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System