The Invisible Labor of Adult Daughters: Baylor Expert Highlights the Valuable Role of Adult ‘Daughtering’

The Invisible Labor of Adult Daughters: Baylor Expert Highlights the Valuable Role of Adult ‘Daughtering’

February 9, 20243 min read

Sept. 25 is National Daughters Day, celebrating adult daughters often overlooked for their role in relationship with parents

National Daughters Day is Sept. 25, an oft-overlooked holiday that has been around since 1932. But much like the holiday, adult daughters are often unnoticed for the important role they play in the lives of their parents.

Allison M. Alford, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of business communication at Baylor University and co-host of the weekly podcast, “Hello Mother, Hello Daughter,” researches adult daughters and their “invisible labor” in maintaining the unity of a family. Adult daughters find themselves providing support, nurturing and much more in a socially and communicatively constructed, shaped and molded role that includes navigating, responding to and negotiating cultural and familial discourses. These behaviors occur throughout a daughter’s life and represent significant resources funneled toward her parents to maintain and nurture a relationship.

Alford’s research on “daughtering” – the active way that daughters relate to and care for parents – is how she describes the work and effort that daughters provide their parents.

“It’s that purposeful work that helps relationships flourish but often goes uncredited as work, even by daughters themselves, in part because the efforts are wrapped in misleading language and society hasn’t adopted a lexicon specifically for daughtering,” said Alford, who edited the book, “Constructing Motherhood and Daughterhood Across the Lifespan,” with research partner Michelle Miller-Day, Ph.D., of Chapman University in Orange County, California.

Daughtering involves such “invisible labor” as planning and organizing family events, resolving conflicts, acting as a buffer with other family members, preparing for the future and more—with the intent of supporting important family relationships, Alford said. With dashes of “mental load” and “adulting,” thrown in the mix, adult children are engaging in effortful and intense relationship-building, from which they usually benefit in the form of familial support and love.

Embracing National Daughters Day

In recent years, social media has embraced National Daughters Day with parents posting loving tributes and sharing stories about their daughters, recognition that Alford encourages.

“Adult daughters put a lot of effort into their families and recognizing their hard work with praise and affirmation shows that what they do matters. Every daughter would love to hear compliments on her daughtering,” Alford said, recommending that parents take time on Sept. 25 to acknowledge and thank their adult daughters for the care and time they give to the family.

A few simple ways parents can acknowledge adult daughters:

  • Call your daughter on the phone and tell her how much her efforts have meant to you,
  • Create a social media tribute and share a picture of yourselves together over the years,
  • Order takeout delivered to her house for dinner, or
  • Call the grandkids and tell them a sweet story about their mom.

Also on Sept. 25, Alford and Miller-Day will launch Season 2 of their weekly podcast, “Hello Mother, Hello Daughter,” which continues to explore what it means to be an adult daughter and how daughtering and mothering work together to create a harmonious family.

This season, the hosts interview experts on adult mother-daughter relationship topics and share helpful resources that can enable positive family interactions. The podcast will be available everywhere you listen to podcasts. “Hello Mother, Hello Daughter” also is on social media on Instagram and Facebook.

Connect with:
  • Allison Alford
    Allison Alford Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Communication

    Interpersonal and business communications expert and author who studies the roles of daughters and mothers in the family structure

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