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Help, I'm turning into my mother

  • Story Highlights
  • Therapist: Women emulate mom because they were close when brain was forming
  • Woman finds herself stockpiling food just like her mom did
  • Daughter becomes motivational speaker .. just like mom
  • Psychologist: You don't have to copy undesirable traits of your mother

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By Maureen Salamon
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(LifeWire) -- Stacy Pearson keeps buying food she knows she'll never eat -- from tomato soup to green beans to ramen noodles -- merely because it's on sale. Why? Blame her mother.

Listen to your spouse and children on which of your behaviors may be out of line, an expert says.

Listen to your spouse and children on which of your behaviors may be out of line, an expert says.

Her mom, Pearson explains, has always been one to stockpile, to the point that she's "set for a nuclear holocaust." And, Pearson adds, "I'm headed the same way."

Pearson, 31, insists on bringing home restaurant leftovers to "rot appropriately" in her refrigerator and phones friends during storms to find out how hard it's raining at their house -- just like mom.

"I made a vow around the age of 16 to never be like her," says Pearson, a Phoenix publicist and mother of a 5-year-old daughter. "It's interesting -- the habits I thought I'd never want, I picked up." Are you just like your mom?

Chalk it up to a potent and mysterious mix of nature and nurture, but many women -- particularly once they're raising their own children -- arrive at the astounding realization that they've become their mothers after all.

For better or worse

Sandra Reishus, a Sacramento, California, therapist and author of "Oh No! I've Become My Mother," says it's not surprising that some daughters come to emulate their mothers even after living in fear of that outcome.

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"It's inevitable, because our brains were forming when we were around her," says Reishus, who has been in practice for 16 years. "She was our window into the world."

"I see it all the time," she adds. "Even if a daughter takes after her dad, there's still a bit of her mom in her."

That's not always a positive thing. Linda Hutchinson has sought counseling to mitigate the bad habits -- namely, cynicism and a quick temper -- that her estranged mother has, and that she says she inherited.

"I'm on constant watch," says the 56-year-old writer from Lockbourne, Ohio. "If something happens to make me really angry, I have to take a deep breath to prevent myself from lashing out, which is something she never did."

Getting a kick out of it

Not everyone, of course, is so pained by the traits that have been passed down. Other women find it humorous -- comforting, even -- to find themselves taking after their mothers. And sometimes, moms do, too.

Growing up, Lauren Leetun, 27, couldn't stand the way her mother would liberally use bleach during housecleaning. Not only did the bleach make the house smell like a swimming pool, it turned the soles of Leetun's navy blue socks pink, an unforgivable fashion disaster. But now that she's older, Leetun says she finds the smell of the cleaning agent strangely soothing.

"I've always been uber-organized, and she's the same way," Leetun says of her mother. "I always liked that trait in myself."

Leetun's mom, Tracy Furey, says she isn't surprised.

"Lauren was always a perfectionist. She used to clean out closets when she had nothing to do," says Furey, 52, who lives 15 minutes away from her newlywed daughter in Longwood, Florida. "It's really cool to see your children come full circle."

A similar dynamic has developed between Lindsey Pollak, 33, and her mother, Jane, 60. As a teenager, Lindsey was greatly embarrassed by her mother's fascination with motivational speakers and self-help books. So imagine her surprise at choosing a career as -- yep -- a motivational speaker, one whose own shelves are crammed with self-help tomes.

Lindsey and Jane now are both sought-after speakers and authors on career topics. "We still have our issues," says Lindsey, who lives in New York City, "but we share this unique connection, an additional special bond between us that is rare."

Jane, of Norwalk, Connecticut, says she always knew her daughter shared her penchant for being meticulous to the point of being hard on herself, but she didn't necessarily predict how similar Lindsey would turn out.

"I didn't try to make her anything," Jane Pollak says, "just the best she could be."

Breaking the chain

But what if you don't want to be just like mom? Jason Greenberg, a psychologist in New York City who counsels many women with mother-daughter issues, suggests these steps to behave more consciously and not accept family influences as inevitable:

• Be aware of feedback. If your spouse or children are telling you your ways of relating aren't working, listen. It's difficult to judge your own behavior objectively.

• Identify what's not working. Create a mental or written list of traits your family and you don't want to see repeated through generations.

• Stop and breathe. When you find yourself in stressful situations -- which make it harder to "catch" your behavior -- don't do anything at first. "Those are going to be the moments when you're most likely to repeat a behavior that's not constructive," Greenberg says, "or something that's just like your mother."

LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Maureen Salamon is a New Jersey-based freelance writer.

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