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Active Mothers and Daughters under Pressure

Some of the mothers of my interviewees' were described as active actors in their daughter's adult lives. Their activity was defined in several ways and had an impact on the mother–daughter relationship. In most cases the mothers' activity was connected to the grandchildren. A (grand)mother's activity might become a supportive feature in the younger generation's life (see Ribbens 1994 [3]), but it might also lead to conflicts which are not easy to solve. The latter was more general in my data.

D3 is a 26-year-old mother of one five-year-old boy, Simo. They had always lived together, but due to D3's amphetamine use, they were in an inpatient treatment programme at the time of the interview. Before the current treatment, D3 had only received child welfare services and outpatient A-clinic consultation. D3 had not been sober outside the treatment programme, and the situation she next illustrates had happened recently. She describes her mother's efforts to obtain custody of her grandson.

D3 I had this thing, I mean, with my mother.

I Yeah.

D3 We had a complete misunderstanding, I mean, the child welfare / authorities gave me the advice that / for the reason of my own mental well-being, you know, I should cut off the relationship between my mother and me. I mean, my mother was / pushing too far. // I mean she drove a bit // like / I mean that Simo would be her child instead of mine. And / it was a sort of, I mean, she didn't understand that I was responsible to the child welfare services and the A-clinic and the day care // and I had already begun my treatment and everything. And everything had gone really well. / I mean she didn't understand that but still tried to get custody of my child from me and [stuff like that.

I [Oh, she did want the custody.

D3 Yeah, she did. And she threatened and called and threatened me and said anything, you know, she made me really.

The mother–daughter relationship is shown as a black-and-white situation where an insensitive and aggressive mother interferes in her daughter's and grandchild's lives even though they were managing well with the help of child welfare and other professional services. It has the same kind of features as in the case of D2, as the relationship remains a battlefield, but the mother's part is more active and the daughter feels pressured on her part.

D3 described having a very strong alliance between her and her social workers when trying to distance herself from her mother. She said she was even advised
by professionals to avoid her mother, which points out her ability to control her domestic life without help. Defining oneself as an ally with social workers was quite rare in the stories (see Virokannas 2011). In this episode, the alliance could be interpreted as a tool to create an image of somehow capable motherhood in a situation in which a mother and her son have been placed in an inpatient treatment programme due to the mother's drug use. It is morally more acceptable and believable to defend one's motherhood skills and right to maintain custody when the justification is presented as a recommendation from social workers of child welfare services.

Most of the serious conflicts resulting from the mother's activity in my data concerned the custody of grandchildren. In slightly fewer cases the mothers were described as trying to control their daughter's drug use or other aspects of her lifestyle. One woman told me that her mother would call her all day long and insist that the daughter give her reports of what her grandchild has learned and done during the day. Very rarely were grandmothers seen as 'substitute careers' (Ribbens 1994) but more as a threat to their image of being capable mothers.

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