Like Mother Like Daughter?

Irish playwright Oscar Wilde wrote,

 All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does.  That is his. 

Is there truth in this statement?

My first instinct is to respond, “Hell No! ” but when I reflect on my mother’s childhood and on my own, I wonder if maybe there is.

My mother was the oldest of six children and raised Catholic. Her upbringing included a Catholic education through high school, where she discovered she had a knack for math.  When she asked the school nuns if she could take a math course, they told her that she could not.  They told her that math was for boys and she would be better off taking a class that would teach her skills she will use such as home economics.  This infuriated my mother. After high school, she graduated from college with a degree in accounting and went on to became a CPA.  To this day I can hear my mother saying, “Don’t tell me I cannot do anything.”

Growing up, my love was tennis.  My parents felt that I did not take tennis seriously and refused to pay for professional lessons at the local tennis club.  Instead, they enrolled me in the local parks and recreation tennis program for the summer.  I still had the desire to play when the session ended in August, but my parents again refused to pay for professional lessons so I went to Plan B. “Dont’ tell me I can’t do anything.”

Our basement was only partially finished so the backroom became my tennis home.  I hit tennis balls against our basement wall all winter.  I practiced serves, overheads, volleys, ground strokes, topspin, and backspin. I did it all.  My basement tennis play gave me the ability to stay competitive with tennis players who played year round.  The next year, my parents enrolled me in the local tennis club. I went on to qualify for the state tournament all four years in high school and made the all-state team my senior year.  “Don’t tell me I cannot do anything.” 

As children, we learn behavior by watching our parents.  I look and act like my father and I learned a lot from my mother, but is it my destiny to be like her?

Is it true? Is it a woman’s destiny to be like her mother?

Photo credit the chawed rosin

About the Author

Chris Frede

Chris Frede is a SVP & partner in the Talent Development group at Fleishman-Hillard. She is a human resources liaison and manages the global recruiting function. Chris enjoys time boating with her husband and her 110 lb chocolate lab Jack. Chris blogs at HR Buoy. You can connect with her on Twitter as @hrbuoy and on LinkedIn.


Becky Robinson

Hi Chris,
I enjoyed this post. My opinion is that we can choose the traits of our parents that we want to emulate.You learned determination from your mother, and followed her example. In the same way, we can choose to learn from our mothers’ imperfections and mistakes. I like to think that I can live out my mother’s generosity and graciousness while bypassing some of her other less-desirable qualities.

Thanks for sharing this!

Ann Farrell


Interesting question. I think that we have many choices that we get to make along the way that define who we be and who we are becoming. Ironically for me, after not finding my birth mother until the age of 52, I find that I am much more like her than I am m adoptive mother who raised me starting when I was just six weeks old. And then again, I am not.

Perhaps what is true is that we are destined to overcome or struggle through and perceive some of the same issues and challenges that our mothers did because they taught us to see a bit of the world through their eyes. And It does seem that the challenges that we women face in society take more than one generation to significantly shift, and so it feels like we are still battling through some of our mother’s same battels, still needing to prove the fallacy in any reminants of though of a “weaker” sex!. Still fighting for the same rights and opportunities! Picking up the charge where our mothers left off…



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