EuropeStoryUmbilical Cord by Raisa Mikhailova

Relationship with her mother is a cornerstone of a woman’s life, as at some point in live she becomes a mother herself. Even grown up women are often guided by their mothers’ opinions, feel the need of their approval and support.

Relationship with her mother is a cornerstone of a woman’s life, as at some point in live she becomes a mother herself.

Even grown up women are often guided by their mothers’ opinions, feel the need of their approval and support. When is the umbilical cord really cut? The physical one gets separated just after birth, but the psychological, spiritual connection can last forever.

The project “Umbilical Cord” is a study of relationships between mothers and daughters, its aim is to discover what common psychological issues they have, find similarities in the way people of different generations perceive behavioural motives. To what extent do mothers define their daughters’ future? What kind of relationship should two nearest and dearest people have? In this project contributors are trying to answer all these questions. For them it was an art therapy of a kind: an opportunity to speak out, share their personal stories, let go of resentment and pain. [Official Website][Translation: Maria Lopukhina]

Maria, 54 years old. Painter, graphic-artist, sculptor. Single, two sons 33 and 25 years old

“It’s been 11 years since mum passed away. And now I realize that my childhood was, in fact, a fantastic one. But at the time I was feeling miserable all the time. In many ways it was because my mum had always been such a bright personality. Likable, lively, witty. When my friends came to visit, they fell in love with my mum right away. Well, and who is Masha? Masha is Tatyana Nikolaevna’s daughter. …None of them saw me as me, for them I was just a replica of my mother, a mere projection.”

Victoria, 41 years old. Lawyer. Single, daughter 13 years old

“My mum has a very strong personality and she dominates everything there is. My career path was her choice as well. And I spent many years with this feeling that everything was out of place, that it wasn’t my choice… Only recently I’ve understood that my mum’s choice was the right one, the only one that was possible for me. And I forgave her. Until that moment I had been doing everything either by compulsion, under pressure of my mum’s will, or directly against it. Only through forgiveness I managed to grow up and detach myself from my mother. And our relationship has only improved from it, now each of us is at her right place – I turned to a grown up daughter and she became a loving mother.”

Natalia, 48 years old. Economist. Divorced, daughter 18 years old

“My mum has always loved me unconditionally, infinitely, no matter what I did or what I was – she just loved me. It has always been a huge support, this love has been like a crutch for me. No one has ever loved me so much, no man has ever given me the kind of security, self- confidence which I get from my mother’s love. And even now, when I am a fully grown up woman and have a daughter of my own, as long as I feel my mum’s love, I feel strong and I feel safe. I think, but for that love, I wouldn’t have been able to go through all the challenges my life threw at me.”

Ekaterina, 48 years old. Housewife. Married, sons 27, 18 and 13 years old, daughter 15 years old

“However hard I tried I just couldn’t earn my mum’s love… Strange isn’t it? Isn’t mother’s love something that is given to you unconditionally the moment you are born? But it wasn’t in my case. And all these years, I’ve been trying to prove to her that I am a good girl, that I’m worth her love. And I failed to love and accept myself. I forbid myself to wish, to want something just for myself and I keep apologizing for doing what I want. Ridiculous isn’t it? I am almost 50 now…Why should I feel guilty for, say, my love of knitting? But I do…”

Maria, 39 years old. Psychologist. Married, daughters 13 and 3 years old

“When I was a child my mum was always at work. I was growing up on the streets or sometimes my grandparents took care of me. Maybe it was for the best, because my mum had no influence on me. I don’t think that her life has been the best one. Maybe deep inside I blame my mother for failing to give me a happy childhood – the one I’ve always wanted. She failed to earn enough money, failed to find a man who could become a pillar of our family, didn’t give me education and opportunities for development I would like to have. Now I feel it so acutely. I have to get everything myself and it’s a struggle…”

Yanina, 28 years old. Teacher of the Russian language and literature. Single, no children

“My star sign is “Cancer”, my mum’s star sign is “Cancer”, my daughter’s sign is “Cancer” and even my granny on mother’s side is a “Cancer”. People born under this sign are very emotional, have strong bonds with their families and especially with mothers. I have always felt this bond with my mum, felt responsible for her: I went out with my friends and almost immediately started to worry that my mum was sad and alone. Despite the fact that my father has alway been there for her… I got angry with my little brother and sister when they upset our mum, I always wanted to protect her. At some point, being a big girl already, I realized that I simply “adopted” my mother…”

Alla, 74 years old. Retired. Divorced, no children

“I’ve been with mum all my life. Always. When my dad was arrested, children were sent off to relatives, otherwise who knows what could’ve happened to them. But I stayed with mum, I loved her so much and was terribly jealous. My sister is 3 years younger and I thought “what if mum loves her more?”. At that time we, like everybody else, were pressed for money and all clothes were passed on from the oldest to the younger, so I would try to ruin my clothes not to give them to my sister, I used to beat her too – I just was a little piece of crap. But now we are very good friends. And, you know, I have the brightest memories about my childhood, even though the times were hard. Mum would always tell us some funny stories, would have us in stitches, she was such an optimist, just an optimist. When father came back he was already very ill and died soon after. So we grew up fatherless. I remember it very clearly: I’m walking on to school, swinging my school bag, and mum says, “Daddy is coming back tomorrow”. And I reply, “What do we need him for?”. Such a silly girl I was. But this is how it has been all my life, whatever good happens is from my mum. And if something is not so well I tell my sister, “Mum wouldn’t approve of it!”. My sister and I still regard things in the light of “what would mum do?”.

Svetlana, 54 years old. Librarian. Married, daughter 27 years old

“Mum is something up-bringing, mum is a person who lives as is proper. When my father died, mum told herself that that she had to bring the daughter up. And this “had to bring up” is shackles on my arms and legs. Because… let me go, just let go, I am a grown up person, it’s time to let go, let me breathe! But she doesn’t let go. We have good relationship, my mother and I, but I have always wanted to be different, not like her! While some people think, “What would my mum do?” and act accordingly, I ask myself the same question and do the opposite. But sometimes I realize – with horror – that I cannot do the opposite, no matter how you slice it, despite our difference, my mum is always somewhere there…”

Irina, 56 years old. Theatre attendent. Married, son 35, daughter 31 years old, grandson 6 years old

“I am the oldest child and it defined my relationship with mum, I think. I’ve always felt responsible for my little sister who is 6 years younger. And my mum was all too happy, as I see it, to make me take care of my sister. But my mum wasn’t generous with gratitude and praise. Whatever I did she just took for granted. I had top grades, finished school with excellence, got into a university and it all was regarded as a matter of course. Mum never told me, “Well done!”, never called me tenderly“Irinochka”, the best I got was a wry “Irinka”. While my little sis has always been her favourite. And this is where my jealousy showed itself. It has been building up in me for a very long time. I have this feeling that I have to constantly prove to my mum that I am a good girl too.”

Katerina, 29 years old. Photographer. Single, no children

“I didn’t really live with my mum. As a child I lived with my granny and grandad, my father died young, so my mum had to work. I was scared as hell of my mum. She is actually really hip and fun to be around, but she is such a perfectionist that I felt like I was some kind of project for her… At 18 a left home and never came back. But at that moment I realized one thing: it’s as stupid to defy my mum as it is to do everything “her way”. I started to rebuff things I couldn’t accept and agreed with her on things I was flexible about. I think she did the same. And with this “love/hate” we gradually built really cool relationship.

Elena, 44 years old. Economist. Married, sons 20 and 13 years old

“When I was in middle school and my grades began to drop, at home it was always implied that my mum was a physicist, my dad was a mathematician and the apple had fallen far from the tree. And I built all my life around the idea that I would prove them wrong! No, I didn’t manage to become the most beautiful one, because the most beautiful has always been my mum. But at least when I got my first pay check my mum exclaimed, “Who could’ve thought that this job brings such good money!”. Of course there are still comparisons to “mum’s friends’ daughters” and even daughters-in-law, who are, by default, better than just “the daughter”. But I don’t pay much attention to these comparisons, because all these people do not have what I do. They, by no means, have my love of life!”

Nadezhda, 39 years old. Librarian. Divorced, daughters 19 and 15 years old

“My mum and I used to be absolutely symbiotic, merged with each other. Analyzing it now, I understand that I was very vulnerable in that relationship. I didn’t exist as a personality – whatever happened I measured it according to my mum’s standards. Only mum’s thoughts and feelings about the matter were important. Her personality was so pervasive that I felt nonexistent. At 24 I started a psychological group therapy. There I listened to other girls’ stories of how difficult their relationships with mothers were, and felt sorry for them, I thought, “I had the best childhood, the happiest there can be”. And then having finished the course I realized that it wasn’t that my mum was good, it was just that I was so obedient, out of the fear of losing her. And if I stood my ground, defended my point of view, our relationship wouldn’t be so perfect…”

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