A mother and daughter crossing a street holding hands as the daughter pulls ahead


Unlike My Own Mother, I Don’t Want To Live Vicariously Through My Daughter

Jun 18, 2018

My mother, daughter and I have little in common. Sometimes I scroll through social media or listen to people’s stories of things passed down between or shared across generations and wonder what that would be like. A love of knitting, a muffin recipe, a sport of some kind…

My mother ... wound up missing a lot of opportunities. In turn, her pressure for me to live out what she wanted became heavy.

There’s an exception or two. We’re all fairly into cooking, for example. Then there’s theatre — musicals, specifically. My mother always wanted me to pursue theatre because she’d always wanted to do it herself. She had this idea of herself as having missed her chance of becoming a great Broadway actress. I was actually into it myself, going as far as majoring in drama at art schools for most of high school, and even writing and staging a reading of a play in the following years. I volunteered at theatre in the park, I reviewed theatre for a local weekly — but it stopped being my dream.

You'll Also Love: What’s So Bad About My Daughter Loving Pink, Anyway?

When my daughter showed an interest in theatre, I grasped onto the idea of finally having a wholesome passed-down-between-women thing. We took day trips to Stratford and elsewhere to see shows; I enrolled her in a drama class and a day camp. And while she’s still relatively into it — and only seven, it’s not as though her lifelong interests have been sealed at this point — I can tell it’s not her dream either. Part of me is inclined to nudge, while another part identifies that I could be pushing my child to pursue someone else’s interests.

I find myself questioning my motivations: what are things I want for [my daughter], and what’s me wanting to experience things I missed?

My mother, in part by circumstance and in part by her own doing, wound up missing a lot of opportunities. In turn, her pressure for me to live out what she wanted became heavy. Her advice, while possibly well-intentioned, was not in line with what I wanted or reality.

My mother would prefer I not be queer, for example, at least in part because it doesn’t suit the life she was hoping to live vicariously through me. For a while she was into me finding my way into a professional career via higher education — neither things were part of her own life, nor did they suit mine at the time. Her hopes then moved on to having me marrying rich. It's possible she was just looking out for me, but it's more likely something she’d long hoped for in her own life (she had a “next wedding” song picked out for as long as I could remember).

You'll Also Love: Deciding Not To Have My Mother In My Daughter’s Life

I’m scared of repeating the unnecessary pressure my mother put on me (don’t even get me started on how she wanted me to dress). In turn, I find myself questioning my motivations: what are things I want for my daughter, and what’s me wanting to experience things I missed? My hope is that this questioning will turn to motivation, and that some of the things I’ve thought about but put off for years — relearning French and having an adult bat mitzvah amongst them — will be things I pursue.

And while I’m fairly sure I’ll never encourage my daughter to marry for money, if you ever catch me, say, aggressively trying to convince her that she wants to write a novel — feel more than free to call me out.

Article Author Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She’s a queer single mom to a 7.5-year-old. She’s overshared about her daughter for Today’s Parent, Bunch Family, Baby Post and various other print and digital publications. She’s also a poet (her kid says “of sad books”) and book reviewer (for Publisher’s Weekly, The Canadian Children’s Book News and more). You can find her on Twitter @therealrealtmz.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.