As another Mother’s Day has come and gone, scrolling through any social media platform can be painful. For some, it’s a painful reminder of their mothers in heaven. For others, it’s a painful reminder of the longing they feel to be mothers themselves.
But for me, it’s a painful reminder that I am a daughter of an unloving mother.
Society turns a blind eye to the idea that there are, in fact, unloving mothers.
It seems taboo to be alienated from your own mother. To have an estranged mother. Even more so when you’re a mother yourself. When you become a mother, you innately begin to understand all your mother sacrificed for you, the love she held, the hardships she faced. Right?
But what happens when one’s idea of motherhood doesn’t fit the narrative? What happens when motherhood doesn’t come with love, compassion, or empathy?
There are mothers who can’t love.
For the longest time, I thought my mother’s behavior was just alcohol abuse. At some point during my teenage years, I thought maybe a personality disorder. Her sister was schizophrenic so I was aware that something could be hiding underneath the surface.
I used college as my “exit ticket.” I chose the college that was farthest away while still being considered in-state tuition. The distance may have been the best thing for me. I met people from different walks of life. I met my husband who comes from a healthy, loving, family. It wasn’t long before I started picking up on the fact that my family wasn’t “normal.” I knew I had a “strained” relationship with my mother, but it still felt like something else was off. Turns out what I knew as “normal,” was actually abuse.
It didn’t matter how old I was, or what life event was happening… it was always overshadowed with so much pain. Once I became pregnant with my first child, everything changed. I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My eyes were finally open.
I had grown up with a revolving door of disappointment and betrayal. The lies and deceit that followed the death of my father at 15 didn’t open my eyes. Being a pawn to an abusive stepfather didn’t open my eyes. Having my mother ruin my credit before I even knew what credit was didn’t open my eyes. But once I knew I was about to be a mama, my eyes were wide open.
I was accustomed to having a manipulative mother, but now that I had a baby on the way, it just felt different.
She hated the name we picked. She wanted my baby to look just like her. She refused to attend my baby shower, claiming she was in the hospital for cancer treatments. None of our relatives knew about this mysterious cancer. None of her friends knew. I called every local hospital in her area, all of which had zero record of her. The lies began to snowball. She claimed she only had 6 months to live. Once I stopped returning her calls, her claims of 6 months turned into 3 months.
Turns out, it was all a lie. Every bit of it made up to turn the attention away from the baby and onto her. This wasn’t the first time. Any big life event (my graduation, bridal shower, wedding) all had to be overshadowed by HER life crisis.
I will never forget the day the doctor told me I was having a little girl. I cried… and they were not tears of joy. The only thing I could think was “How am I supposed to raise a little girl when I had such a terrible example to go by?”
I made the choice to completely cut my mother out of my life. It wasn’t easy but I knew that the remainder of my pregnancy didn’t need the additional stress. I was so crushed by the lies and deceit. It was time to do some serious soul searching.
I started researching books on daughters with estranged mothers.
I desperately needed someone to relate to…something to let me know I wasn’t alone. My friends and my husband’s family tried so hard to be supportive, but they simply couldn’t relate. Finally, I stumbled upon a disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Let me preface this by stating, I am no doctor. However, a lot of what is described by NPD really struck a chord with me. I started ordering books by clinical professionals, particularly books aimed toward daughters of Narcissistic abuse. I was completely floored.
I spent months reading these books. Months putting together pieces of my childhood that I had locked away in a closet. There was just so much abuse that came to light upon reading these books. John Newton’s Amazing Grace couldn’t fit more perfectly. “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
You see, it wasn’t me.
All the abuse, the lies, the manipulation, the gaslighting. It wasn’t me. There was never anything wrong with me. I wasn’t unlovable.
Despite my revelations, childbirth was approaching, and I was apprehensive about giving birth without a mother figure. I hadn’t spoken to my mother in 4 months. I had my husband, who is the most amazing man and best supporter I could ever ask for. But society tells you “you need your mama.” That just wasn’t something I could handle. I wanted my baby’s birth to be about her and not overshadowed by my mother’s attendance. Plus, I wasn’t in a place where I was ready to forgive her quite yet.
About a week before my baby was due, I wrote myself a letter. I reminded myself of all the abuse, the heartache, the betrayal. And I reminded myself that I didn’t need her. I was going to be enough for my baby. I didn’t want a moment of weakness to undo the incredible progress I had made in my soul-searching journey. I was finally at a point in my life where I understood and accepted my past and how it had shaped me, but I also strived for a much brighter future.
And then it happened—my baby girl was born.
My daughter is now almost 3 years old and every day I look at her and think, “I am so thankful God gave me you.” He knew exactly what my heart needed. There’s no way I could ever treat her the way my mother treated me. There’s no way I could never NOT put her first.
As the daughter of an estranged mother, I worried I wouldn’t know how to bond with her—but she’s truly my best friend.
The more open I am about my past has also opened other doors. A distant college friend has transformed into my best friend. Why? Turns out our mothers are so identical that it’s almost scary. Choosing not to be silent about my experience has led me to one of the best friendships I’ve ever had.
I’ve also grown incredibly close with my mother-in-law (I’m blessed, I know). She was in the room the day my daughter was delivered, and she loves my daughter so unconditionally that it makes my heart sing. I have also found solace in finally having a healthy mother figure of my own. I know not all mothers-in-law are pleasant, but I hit the jackpot with mine.
Society tells you: “You need your mama.” For those of us with abusive & unloving mothers, I’m here to tell you: you don’t.
I’m also here to tell you that motherhood can be truly triggering for those of us who come from abusive childhoods.
My daughter is the best thing I’ve ever done. She’s the highlight of my day. But there are moments when I feel so overwhelmed, so tired, so “touched-out” that I can hear my mother in the back of my head. It’s tormenting. I hear myself responding in the ways my mother would have and an irrational anger rises in me. I know most moms have these moments, but for those of us who grew up with unloving or estranged mothers…it hits deeper. We know what it’s like to feel unloved. We get hit with that irrational anger followed by the fear and guilt of “what if I end up just like my mother?” Even just the mention of my mother can send me to a dark place. It’s a work in progress.
So mamas, listen up. You do not have to sacrifice the state of your mental well-being to hold space for someone who brings you nothing but pain.
And you won’t be like your unloving mother. Even when you hear her in the corners of your mind… you. are. not. her.
But mostly…. you’re not alone. Society frowns on being alienated from your mother, and I find that it feels like such a lonely club to be in when it doesn’t have to be.
You are exactly what your child needs. You will break the cycle. You will show your children unconditional love.
None of us are perfect. We all have our days.
But being a daughter of an unloving mother doesn’t make you any less worthy of being a mama.
And your babies are blessed to yours.
Suggested reading for anyone who may be struggling:
- It’s My Turn: How to gain freedom from a manipulating and self-centered parent by Tina Fuller
- Will I Ever Be Good Enough?:Healing the Daughter’s of Narcissistic Mothers by Dr. Karyl McBride Ph. D.
- Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters by Susan Forward
- You’re Not Crazy – It’s Your Mother: Understanding and Healing for Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Danu Morrigan
This was a guest post written for C’MON MAMA by one of the amazing Mamas in our community. She wishes to remain anonymous, but she wanted to reach other Mamas who may have lived a similar story. We are honored to amplify her voice and perspective.
If you’re interested in writing for C’MON MAMA, contact us. We’d love to hear from more amazing Mothers like this brave Mama.
Did you grow up with an unloving mother? Do you have an estranged mother?
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