When Renée Schultz and I first starting writing about the Mother-Daughter Project, our working title was Changing the World for Mothers and Daughters. Cheeky and aspirational, it aptly captured the dream we had begun with our first mother-daughter group in 1996: to help create the world in which we wanted to raise our daughters. In a culture that objectified girls, disparaged mothers and poisoned mother-daughter connection, we hoped that by empowering small groups of mothers and daughters, we could play a part to help shift prevailing norms so that girls, mothers, and mother-daughter relationships could all thrive. In the seven years since The Mother-Daughter Project was published in 2007, not only have we receivedenthusiastic feedback from hundreds of mothers worldwide who started groups based on our model, we have also heard from many women who have created their own mother-daughter initiatives, such as Lori Day.
Lori’s book, Her Next Chapter (Chicago Review Press, 2014), written with her daughter Charlotte Kugler, describes how creating their mother-daughter book club was a transformative experience and offers insights for others to create their own clubs.
Several weeks ago, I had a chance to catch-up with Lori over the phone. She had started their book club with four other mother-daughter pairs in 2000, when her daughter was in third grade, with the specific intention of providing girl-empowering perspectives and enriching mother-daughter bonds. One key impetus was offering alternatives to hyper-sexualized portrayals of girls common in the mainstream. “I loved our book club,” said Lori. “It did a lot for Charlotte as an only child to have other girls who became like sisters and to have ‘other mothers’ as well. The magical thing about the book club is that the girls would be talking about the book, and then would seamlessly shift into talking about their own lives. It’s almost as if the mothers disappeared.” The book club offered an opportunity for girls who might feel “too much under the microscope” in one-on-one conversations with mom to feel more comfortable opening up. Over the years, Lori saw how the club contributed to a “deepening of the relationship” between mothers and daughters. “We got to see the girls as human beings.”
One source of inspiration for Lori and Charlotte’s book group was Shireen Dodson’s book, The Mother-Daughter Book Club (1997). On the phone with me, Lori admitted, “I didn’t get your book”—The Mother-Daughter Project—“until I started writing our book.” But she found that we shared the same vision, quoting us in the first chapter of Her Next Chapter: “We came up with the plan to create a small, supportive community—an extended family of mothers and daughters—in which mother-daughter connection was the norm.”
When I asked Lori what her hopes were for the role her book might have in the world, she said, “I hope there will be lots more mother-daughter book clubs, to push back on media that is not empowering for girls. A club is a practical tool to teach media literacy.” In today’s world, where there are so many ‘experts’ and so much judgment about mothering, Lori is clear: “Mothers need allies.”
For me, Lori Day’s and Charlotte Kugler’s work is evidence of the many ways in which all of us who share this vision of mother-daughter wellbeing are succeeding. Our strength is in the variety of our ideas and efforts, which offer options that can fit our unique lives. Together we are creating the wave of mother-daughter connection and empowerment that is sweeping over our culture—in fact, I would say that together we are changing the world for mothers and daughters.