Good Daughters: The Last Chapter

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Good Daughters: The Last ChapterHow old is old? Some women remain healthy and mentally acute into their nineties. Others have physical and mental problems—and 66% of their caretakers are their daughters.

The emotional consequences for a caregiver depend on her relationship with her mother. For those who have the most loving bonds, caring can be worth any cost. At the other end of the spectrum, a daughter may have to “divorce” a toxic mother. But most relationships are more complex. They are the focus of Good Daughters, which is based on hundreds of interviews that reveal how different women cope with “the last chapter.”

Women are often surprised by the revival of adolescent tensions and behaviors that erupt when mothers and adult daughters find themselves in emotionally tight quarters. Even the most innocent remark can evoke a childish fear of disapproval in a daughter. A remarkable number of women, when asked for a typical irritant that still stung in middle age, told stories about their mothers’ comments on their hair. Even women in their fifties recalled incidents like this: a Hollywood daughter was about twelve when she decided she was too old to wear braids. One day after school, she took herself to the local barbershop and had her hair cut into a bob. When she arrived home, her mother took one look at her and said, “You were so pretty before—and now that’s over.”

It’s not just feelings that can be hot topics: the economic consequences of caretaking can be devastating. Thirty-three percent of daughters who take responsibility for their mothers’ well-being decrease their work hours; 22% take a leave of absence from their jobs; and 20% switch from full- to part-time employment. estimates that on average the cost in lost wages, pensions and Social Security adds up to $324,044—money a daughter may need for her own old age.

Good Daughters helps daughters put a complicated stage of their, and their mothers’ lives into context, and reminds them that they are not alone, through the stories of other women coping with similar situations.

Note: Please choose the revised and updated edition, with a new chapter “After She’s Gone.” The cover shows a full-page black and white photograph and the title in blue type. The edition with the pink cover is out of date.


Fascinating and informative…a valuable resource…a book I highly recommend.” —Horace B. Deets, Former Executive Director, AARP