No little girl wants to become her mother. No matter how great her mother is or how loving, there’s a rebellion that goes along with womanhood. This is especially true when we experience disappointments due to our parents mistakes. As children, their cycle becomes our cycle. We cannot escape the affects of neglect or abuse or infidelity. Not as little girls and sometimes not as adult women.

Girl in Progress, a movie starring Eva Mendes (Grace) and newcomer Cierra Ramirez (Ansiedad), explores this interesting phenomenon. How we, as women, change or stay stagnant, repeating treacherous cycles. How we, as daughters, sometimes live the lives of our mothers. How we can learn from their experiences to become better women, better mothers.  How we can come of age and grow into ourselves in due time, if we are aware. However,  the most poignant theme of this story touches on a topic that most women have discussed.

How we, as women, even as young girls, fear we will become our mothers.

I’ve been vocal about my fears. As a child of divorce and witnessing Mami sacrifice her happiness—and at times her sanity and safety—I constantly remind myself of her mistakes, if only to not repeat them. I have struggled with relationships because, as aware as I am, I find myself falling for unavailable and inconsistent men, just like Mami. Papi was in and out of her life, therefore he was in and out of mine, as well as my siblings. And now, when I witness my stepfather drinking and my mother laughing it off, I cringe and vow to be different. I know this is her mechanism. It is how she copes in the moment, when she feels torn, frustrated and confused. Still, I take note. I’ve always rejected  men who drink too much and will continue to do so.

Girls (and Women) in Progress

Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) and Tavita (Raini Rodriguez). Photo: Bob Akester/Pantelion Films

Dileyka Guzman, a recent college graduate from New York City, also keeps her mother’s errors in mind when dating. “When my Dad cheated on my Mom, she found out and took him back,” Guzman, 22, shared. “I felt Iike she disrespected herself and contradicted everything she has ever taught me.” Guzman’s mother once preached that her daughter should find a man who values and respects her. “She said a wife should be the center of her husband’s universe,” Guzman recalled. But her mother doesn’t live that reality.

“Everything she taught me as a woman, it went out the window when she took my father back.” Guzman says. Will Guzman repeat her mothers mistakes? “That is an experience I don’t ever want to live. I won’t tolerate it,” she vows.

Still, not repeating our mother’s mistakes can be difficult, especially if we are unaware. There’s a scene in Girl in Progress where Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) exhibits the same behavior as her mother (Eva Mendes). While preparing to lose her virginity to the bad boy of her high school, Ansiedad picks up her hair and sticks a pencil in it, as her mother did in past scenes. As if in a cocoon, she begins to morph into something else. In her mind, she is a beautiful butterfly who will be set free. Though it is apparent to the audience that she is becoming the one person she wants to free herself from.

So, can we escape our mother’s mistakes? Can we become more than we see and experience in childhood?

Girls (and Women) in Progress

Grace (Eva Mendes) and Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez). Photo: Bob Akester/Pantelion Films

Yahaira Almanzar, 35, tries very hard to break her mother’s patterns. At a young age, her mother, who passed away two years ago, often compared Almanzar to other family members. “That made me feel horrible,” she recalled. “I’m my own person and at the time my self esteem suffered.”

Now, as a mother of three children, Almanzar tries to be a better mother than her mother was to her and support her children. “I don’t compare my kids to anyone,” she continued. “I don’t want my kids to feel like they are less than. I want them to feel they are good enough just as they are.”

So, it seems negative behavior patterns can be broken. With self-awareness and honesty, we can take the good that our mother’s have taught us and extinguish the bad. I choose to take my mother’s nurturing spirit. I find myself listening to others’ troubles, just like Mami, and I am the go-to gal for relationship advice for my friends and even strangers. As for Guzman, Almanzar and Ansiedad, and many others, they know their mothers did their best. Because their mistakes, though sometimes repeated, can never minimize the love of a mother and daughter.