It can definitely be frustrating for moms of single women. Here you are doing your best to help and support your daughter who you know would like to find a husband—and everything you say or do seems to be wrong. You offer your best advice, which she ignores, and she rolls her eyes any time you mention anything to do with her relationship status. What are you doing wrong? After interviewing single women around the country for the past three years for my book and documentary Seeking Happily Ever After (www.seekinghappilyeverafter.com), I can tell you the five best ways to truly support your single daughter.
1.Bite your (advice-giving) tongue. You see your suggestions as helpful and loving. What your daughter hears every time you make a suggestion about dating is that you don’t accept her for who she is. She reads your ideas as proof that you think something is wrong with her because she isn’t married. The only time you should be giving your daughter advice on her love life is if and when she asks for it.
2.Assure her she’s wonderful. You may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, she already knows I think that.” Tell her anyway. There are plenty of people in your daughter’s life who are making her feel like a total failure for being unmarried. In spite of the fact that there are more single women than ever are, a recent study by Live Science this year showed that single women still deeply feel the spinster stigma. That comes from married friends, family members, and even strangers who feel they have the right to judge your daughter for being single. What she needs is you, her mama, to reassure her that she is just fine as she is and that you adore her.
3.Questions are good. You don’t have to steer clear of her singlehood altogether (unless she makes it clear that this is precisely what she wants). Instead of assuming how she feels, ask questions and really listen. How does she envision her happily ever after? Does she feel pressure to marry? If so, where does it come from? What does she think about being a single woman? The key here is to not express any judgment but rather to see this as opportunity to learn more about your daughter and show her that you can be a friend. If she tells you that it’s hard being single, ask her, “is there anything I can say or do you to be helpful?”
4.Recycle wedding announcements. Way too many mothers are still sending wedding announcements from women their daughters went to school with. I’m not exactly clear on the motivation—whether it’s to push their daughters into taking marriage more seriously or whether it’s just to share town news. Regardless, single women hate receiving these newspaper clippings so do your relationship a favor and quit sending them. Instead, send your daughter book reviews, op-ed pieces and interesting articles that you can discuss with her.
5.Encourage her to live fully. Too many single women that I interviewed were living their lives on hold until they find a husband. That meant postponing purchasing a house, planning a travel adventure, throwing parties, or taking risks. You can greatly help your daughter by encouraging her to live life to the fullest right now instead of waiting for a husband. This is the perfect opportunity to tell her about a risk you always regretted not taking or about the opportunity you see seized that changed your life.
She is also the Director of the feature-length documentary Seeking Happily Ever After, and Editor of 614, an online magazine for Jewish women (www.brandeis.edu/hbi/614).
Michelle Cove is the author of Seeking Happily Ever After. She is also the Director of the feature-length documentary Seeking Happily Ever After, and Editor of 614, an online magazine for Jewish women
Note: New Yorkers can see the documentary Seeking Happily Ever After: One generation’s struggle to redefine the fairytale (which the book is based on) on Oct. 23rd at 4:30 pm at Cobble Hill Cinemas. Click here for tickets.
For a whole lot more advice on how to support your single daughter, read Michelle Cove’s book Seeking Happily Ever After:How to navigate the ups and downs of being single without losing your mind (and finding lasting love along the way).