What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It?

Book Review by Maggie O’Brien

Ilana Tolpin Levitt helps mothers and daughters better understand the influence within the mother-daughter bond through her thoughtful and practical book, What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It? For career practitioners, the daughtering model Ilana describes will give you another lens through which to see your female clients. This lens has the potential to help you and your clients move toward the root of their career frustration or dissatisfaction. And, for daughters, this text will help you see your work and your mother in a new light by asking you to consider her powerful but often overlooked influence.

Summary of the Book

In her book, Ilana writes about her daughtering model, a unique model informed by her professional practice that will help readers deeply understand the often-unnoticed effect of the mother-daughter bond on daughters’ career development. The mother’s influence can be seen in a variety of ways, including imitation, rejection, and even the openness of a daughter to exploring various careers. With each chapter, comes practical tips to help female readers identify their daughtering type(s) and explore possible action steps for deepening career satisfaction. Ilana also includes application chapters addressing each type’s leadership style, a guide for raising daughters, and a conclusion revealing more about her personal relationship with her mother.

Ilana’s Daughtering Model––A Brief Overview of Five Types

The Ivy Daughter: Outwardly confident and assertive, but internally filled with doubts, the Ivy Daughter seeks attention in the workplace in unhealthy ways. She may micromanage others, deny her contribution to workplace problems, or publicly discuss her career dissatisfaction. Her presence is known, but she is not drawing the attention she truly desires. Perhaps she did not get enough of her mother growing-up.

The Maverick Daughter: She is a trailblazer and a bit rebellious, often challenging authority at work and doing projects “her way” even if this is not the best way. She may struggle to listen, work with others, or commit to a career. Perhaps the Maverick Daughter is still trying to resist the grip of her overly vigilant mother, but in the wrong context.

The Butterfly Daughter: As a child, she was encouraged to explore her career options and make career choices that her mother could only dream of. Despite support, the Butterfly Daughter often lacks confidence, may be risk-adverse, and finds herself in roles that do not utilize her full potential. She can feel like an imposter. Her mother could not be her career role model, and she struggles to form a vision for her career. Perhaps her fears stem from a void her mother could not fill.

The Copycat Daughter: She is extremely close with her mother, looking up to her and her impressive career. Forming a personal career identity is challenging for the Copycat Daughter because she struggles to separate her career identity from her mother’s. She fears losing her mother’s approval by going down another path, even if this path better aligns with her interests, skills, and values. Could she be copying her mother’s career path for the wrong reasons?

The Bootstraps Daughter: She is extremely responsible, and everyone knows they can count on her to deliver. The Bootstraps Daughter enjoys meeting the needs of others, something she learned to do as a child when her mother needed her to step-up. She does not naturally focus on her needs and struggles to find support in the workplace. Could her unhelpful workplace patterns stem from the responsibly she had to take on as a child?

A Review For Career Practitioners

Within her book, Ilana convincingly articulates the importance of finding resolution within the mother-daughter relationship in order to achieve heightened career satisfaction. For some daughters, the resolution will involve their mother. Finding healing within the mother-daughter relationship can free the daughter to pursue her own path with confidence. For others, a resolution may come by recognizing the purpose behaviors served within the mother-daughter relationship which can provide the insight needed for the daughter to correct the unneeded habits at work. Ilana’s experience working as a private practice career counselor and facilitator of mother-daughter workshops with her late mother, Leah, allows her to offer this unique perspective that may not yet be included in your work as a career practitioner.

For your female clients, connecting their struggles at work with their relationship with their mother may not be intuitive, but it may be the key they are looking for to unlock their full potential in the workplace. Ilana’s text will provide a fresh line of exploration that you can use to help your clients better understand how their relationship with their mother is influencing their career. If you crave new conversations or adding another lens to your collection, you will greatly enjoy applying Ilana’s daughtering model to your work.

A Review For Daughters

Daughters, read this book to increase your awareness of yourself as a colleague, supervisor, or professional. Using Ilana’s daughtering model, this book will highlight your areas of strength as well as those of growth and help you to understand how they could be impacting your career satisfaction and development. With each chapter, Ilana holds up a mirror allowing daughters to see a reflection of their professional selves that otherwise may not be possible. Try each type on for size, assessing how your relationship with your mother and your experience within your career align. With each new insight, daughters will be encouraged to take practical steps that can have a impact within both professional and personal settings.

Why I Read What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It?

After meeting Ilana at NCDA’s Global Conference in 2018, I knew that her book was going to speak to me and, perhaps, many other daughters. As we talked, she explained the importance of the mother-daughter relationship and its impact on career development. I was intrigued because I knew that my mom influenced my career development - my initial career dream (a dentist) is her profession and my current career path (a counselor) is one that I saw impact deep change in her life. I’d clearly noticed my mom’s influence in these ways, but what I had not considered was how our mother-daughter relationship was still interacting with my development as a professional. This book helped me take a deeper look at my workplace behavior and better understand how my relationship with my mom was also showing up here. What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It? offered insights I had not yet considered, something I am grateful for and glad to share with you.


Levitt, Ilana T. (2017). What’s mom still got to do with it?: Breathe new life into your career by understanding your mother-daughter relationship. United States of America: Ilana Tolpin Levitt.


Maggie O'BrienMaggie O'Brien, M.Ed., serves as the Career Consultant for all Undecided and Exploring students as well as all Fine and Performing Arts students at the University of Georgia Career Center. She assists students through individual appointments, small group workshops, classroom presentations and other events. Maggie also specifically supports the career development and programming for first-and second-year students through serving on the UGA Career Center's internal First- and Second-Year Engagement Committee. Maggie holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Wofford College, an M.Ed. in Professional Counseling from the University of Georgia, and is working toward an EdS in Learning, Leadership and Organization Development also from UGA. She can be reached at maggieob@uga.edu.


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Jim Peacock   on Monday 08/12/2019 at 03:35 PM

Thanks for the review of Ilana's book on the mother / daughter relationship. Understanding these relationships is so important in understanding our clients.

Karen Chopra   on Monday 08/12/2019 at 03:51 PM

Family history plays such an important, but often hidden, role in our careers. Ilana's book illuminates not just the influences, but the concrete steps that daughters can take to ensure that they take the best from what their mothers offered.

Paula Brand   on Monday 08/12/2019 at 05:02 PM

Thanks for writing this thoughtful and thorough book review. I've seen Ilana speak about this topic and have been meaning to buy the book. Your review gave me the reminder I needed - just ordered a copy!

I am looking forward to reading it and gaining new insights about my maternal ties. I have a close relationship with my Mom who went back to school after having six children (I'm the youngest) and is still running her own law firm in her later years. She has always provided excellent support for my career She is a great role model for being self-employed and doing what you love.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.