In the myriad ways a mother-daughter relationship can take shape, there is one universal truth: A lot will go unsaid. The reasons why might vary (you don’t want her to worry; she should know how you feel; you’re afraid of disappointing her, you’re afraid she’ll disappoint you) but the complex and intertwined nature of the mother-daughter bond means it’s all but guaranteed. “Within the borders of the mother-daughter relationship lie the biggest loves, the hardest hurts,” writes Katrina Onstad in this stirring essay about motherhood. “A fight with your mother is a unique kind of awful because you know each other so well, you can get into the sore spots with a single word. Then comes the guilt and disappointment that, in that moment, you weren’t your best self — the one she raised.”
To mark Mother’s Day, we wanted to explore this powerful relationship by bringing mothers and daughters together to do one thing: talk. Out of hundreds of applicants, seven pairs were chosen to interview each other on video, without seeing the questions beforehand. The conversations that emerged were unguarded, tender and at times, uncomfortable. Candour gave way to laughter and tears. And often, one look spoke louder than words possibly could. We thank them for being willing to do what most mothers and daughters don’t: sit across from each other and speak from the heart. — Christina Vardanis
Nova Browning Rutherford (36) & Diane Browning (60)
Diane: What do you wish I knew about you?
Nova: That I think you gave us a good life. I know you beat yourself up about it, but I was happy. I was loved, I was seen, I was heard, I was held up. I didn’t have an easy childhood, but I had a happy childhood. And seeing my girls now, that’s made all the difference— to have that reference point during, at times, very dark chapters.
Nova: What’s been your biggest worry about me?
Diane: I worry that you’re not taking care of yourself. When I come down to visit, it’s like jumping into a washing machine, with all the things going on. I worry about you burning out. But as a mom, you’re amazing. You’re the best mom.
Watch Nova and Diane’s interview:
Linda Taylor (76) & Anna Haine (50)
Anna: What do you wish I knew about you?
Linda: That I sing to myself when I do the dishes, and sometimes I do a dance. Then you’d see that I’m not as serious as I come across all the time — and that I smile a lot, and enjoy life. Maybe I don’t show that side enough.
Linda: What do you remember most about our relationship from your childhood?
Anna: Going for walks at the cottage when I was young. In the moment, I often didn’t want to go, but those were really bonding moments, because we were always holding hands or running races. I remember specifically running to you on the road and thinking, “That’s my mom. I’m running to my mom.”
Watch Linda and Anna’s interview:
Aisha Fairclough (35) & Dorothy Fairclough (68)
Dorothy: When were you angriest at me?
Aisha: When I was outed, and it shocked and surprised you. I didn’t know how much, at the time, our relationship would change. And that hurt. It changed me. We’re good now, but I was depressed for a long time. I now know that parents grieve the person they thought you were going to be, before they can accept who you are. But I was hurt that you were angry and hurt. It made me realize how much I need you.
Aisha: When did you feel like you failed as a mom?
Dorothy: When I had to leave you guys with a babysitter and go to work. I wasn’t able to spend enough time with you. That was the worst thing. It’s why I had only four children.
Watch Aisha and Dorothy’s interview:
Ann Brand (34) & Emma Brand (16)
Emma: What do you wish I knew about you?
Ann: That even though I had you when I was 17, I wouldn’t go back and change anything. We’re going to be retirement home buddies, since we are so close in age. We’ll have wheelchair races.
Ann: What lesson from me has stuck with you?
Emma: You taught me to be kind to everyone. You’re always really respectful to everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done to you in the past. You’re always willing to move beyond it. I hope you know how grateful I am for everything you’ve done for me, and everything you’ve sacrificed, so I can have the life I have.
Watch Ann and Emma’s interview:
Daniela Kelloway (35) & Eva Karniol (60)
Daniela: What was your biggest worry about me?
Eva: Mothers always worry about their children. One of my biggest worries when you were young was that you were going to get a tattoo. I grew up in a culture where they were just for prisoners. I remember when you called me in university and said, “I’m going to get a tattoo!” I said, “No, you’re not. Over my dead body.”
Eva: What do you wish I knew about you?
Daniela: That I’m okay. I make different choices than you, and those choices are totally fine with me. It’s okay if my house isn’t perfect every minute, and it’s okay that I’m raising my kids differently than you did. The things that matter to you the most might not matter to me the most.
Watch Daniela and Eva’s interview:
Andrea Lazo (56) & Christie Lazo (28)
Christie: When did you feel most proud as a mom?
Andrea: I’m proud when I see you with your daughter. I know you’re a very good mom. Before, you liked parties and you never liked to cook or do things around the house. So when the baby was coming, I thought, “Oh my God.” But now, I feel very proud.
Andrea: What lesson from me has stuck with you?
Christie: To have confidence in life. Other people would just crumble if they had to live with metastatic cancer, but you don’t. You live life, and you live it to the fullest. Because of the example you’ve given me, if I’m diagnosed with breast cancer one day, I won’t feel like my life is over. I’ll feel like, “It’s okay, we’re going to beat it.” There is so much more to live for.
Watch Andrea and Christie’s interview:
Pam Brenman (50) & Elayne Isenberg (71)
Elayne: What’s the strongest memory of our relationship you have from your childhood?
Pam: When your mother, my grandmother, passed away. I was never so scared in my life. You were relatively young, and when I turned that age, I remember thinking that I was going to lose you. That freaked me out. I was very nervous during those years.
Pam: What’s been your biggest worry about me?
Elayne: I get very worried when I see your stress level. I don’t think you take enough time for yourself. Your work is all consuming. I just don’t want it to affect your health.
Watch Pam and Elayne’s interview: