Since Anjum Nayyar, 38, had her first child five years ago, her relationship with her mother, Ravi Choudhry, has changed. The mother of two, who like most teens spent much of her youth angry at her mother, says they’ve become friends. Best friends.
“She gives me really great advice when I’m having challenges with the kids,” Nayyar said, adding, “I usually bounce ideas off her as far as parenting goes.”
But the mother-daughter duo also goes to the movies, talk on the phone, text message often and take trips to New York together. The women live down the street from each other and have always been close, but they say the relationship has changed since Nayyar’s become a mother herself.
Nayyar and Choudhry aren’t alone in this experience. In fact new research published in the journal Scientific Reports has found that as women get older, her strongest relationship and the person she calls most often shifts away from her partner and toward her daughter as the daughters start to have children.
The goal of the project was to try to understand the dynamics of close relationships and how they change over lifetimes. Researchers used a large mobile phone database to track these changes.
The database included the age and sex of about 3.2 million people, who made among them 1.95 billion calls and almost 489 million texts over seven months.
Carrie Campbell, 36, married and pregnant with her second child said she’s had the same experience with her mother since having her daughter, Sienna, 2.
“I have more respect for her now because I know all the things she had to give up by being a mum. You don’t know how much they give up until you’re in it,” said Campbell.
Campbell’s mom, Margie Powell, has said being a grandmother is one of the best things that has ever happened to her. She didn’t realize how differently you look at the world once your daughter has a child.
The new relationship between mother and daughter is more about being friends and equals Campbell explained.
Choudhry agrees. She said her daughter “started to understand the different aspects of being a mother and all the other complexities of partnership with her husband. We became much closer.”
Vasyl Palchykov, project lead with Aalto University School of Science in Helsinki, Finland described it as instinctual for women to continue their role in maintaining the family.
“One of the most important outcomes of the research is that however modern our society this ancient, instinctive feature finds a way govern our behaviour,” he said.
Nayyar sees the evolution in the relationship as women turn to their mothers for advice. But Choudhry is skeptical about the study’s conclusions regarding the relationship between partners.
“Of course I’m spending more time with her, but my husband encourages it,” she said. She hasn’t seen a change in her relationship with him. “He’s just as happy to be a grandfather.”
Palchykov warns that the research is under the assumption that mobile phone conversations reflect the most important relationships and kinds of relationships between people.
“Maybe in this case the daughters need advice from their mothers,” said Palchykov. He said the results speak to the importance of the relationship between the two generations.
“It’s emotional support,” said Nayyar. There’s honesty to the relationship she says. “You can be more frank with your mum. She’s there with you for life.”