How being unmothered affects us


My counsellor and I have been talking a lot lately about the unmothered child and the resultant wound it creates in a child.

What does it really mean to be unmothered? What does it feel like in those dark, hurt places that should have been filled with a mother’s unconditional love and care, acceptance and encouragement.

It’s something that I want to think deeply about to understand how I can begin to heal and move forward. I tend to label feelings as ‘my mother wound’, yet I need to delve much deeper now to heal. At first it seemed to me that it was a bottomless pit of emptiness and aloneness but maybe it’s not after all. Maybe there is a way to address it and heal. I always had a strong sense that my mother didn’t want or love me, that she preferred my prettier girl cousins, that I was a disappointment to her as I didn’t just settle down and have lots of children. I wanted to study and travel and when I left for university to major in psychology, she warned me,

“No man will want you, if you are too intelligent!”

So…… yes my mother wasn’t in the background cheering me to do great things and inspiring me to believe in myself. She made me question myself and my own aspirations to progress and grow. I felt that I was weird to want more and maybe crazy to follow my heart. That was in my late adolescence.

As a little girl, I felt like the ‘other woman’, my mother knew about the abuse yet she didn’t validate me. She left me to believe that I was inherentlly bad and evil and wrong. She left me believing that it was all my fault and that I couldn’t tell anyone. She did this without saying a word. She did it with her cold eyes and her silence. She did it with her refusal to look me in the eyes and she did it with never holding me in her arms. I was the only child for five years and when my beautiful baby brother was born, I watched her hold him closely and affectionately and I saw the joy in her eyes. Joy that was not for me. I watched her look after cousins and stranger’s children and deny me the unconditional love I so badly yearned for. It hurts so much to even write this, and I choke back the tears but this is my truth. These tears need to come out of their hiding places.

I am not sure whether she rejected me from the start or whether it was about the sexual abuse. Whether she stopped being able to love me after my father abused me or whether from the moment I was born she couldn’t love me. Was I not beautiful enough as a baby. Too dark-skinned for her to accept, unlike all my milky skinned cousins?

Or is it because she didn’t know how to be a mother, because she was unmothered herself; given away when two days old to a maternal aunt, never to have any bond with her own biological mother. But she does seem to show love to her sons. I don’t have all the answers.

All I know is that there is an ache within me. An ache for an all encompassing love, an unconditional love that will embrace and protect and support and accept me. I resorted to fantasy for much of my life and imagined that I was some other more desirable girl. My other fantasy has been to find a romantic interest, a man who will fulfill all those needs, who will be able to read my mind and know what I need at every moment, who will praise and compliment me and give me all his attention, who will watch me from across the room and have eyes only for me.

Only now at 40 do I realise how unrealistic my expectations of a man are. No man will be able to fill those shoes because indeed no man could ever be my mother. I want a man to fulfill those childhood wounds and then I will be all ok, I will be fixed and I will be happy and fulfilled.

I have been so desperate and impatient for that all encompassing love that I have spent lots of time fantasizing about potential suitors. Men who have no idea about me feelings and thoughts and me believing that somehow they could read my mind. For me, men come with that promise of what I didn’t get!

I accept now that I can’t change the past and that I didn’t get what I should have from my mother but that doesn’t mean that I should spend the rest of my life trying to find the impossible. I found a man who lavished me with attention and said he was my soul mate, but that certainly didn’t work out because he suffocated me. He was jealous and abusive and he tried to change all the things that he supposedly loved me for.

So one has to learn from the past and move forward in different directions to avoid making the same mistakes.

I may not have been mothered by my biological mother but I was mothered by my grandmother and aunt, by friends, by my travels and learning, and countless other things. Maybe I wasn’t that unmothered after all because others stepped in where she failed. Maybe we can thrive after being rejected by our biological mothers. Maybe I can move through and out of this by having more realistic expectations of romantic love? Maybe this mother wound will get smaller and smaller and less overwhelming and it won’t be the bottomless pit I believe it to be now.

How do you nurture your wound? And does yours feel like mine? I would love to learn from you. Thank you as always for reading and supporting me my dear readers.

I came across this beautiful post about this very subject and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can find the link here:

19 thoughts on “How being unmothered affects us

  1. Oh, this breaks my heart. I showed the photo of you jumping from the plane with such joy to my husband and said, ” Look at her. She’s just as beautiful as I imagined. More so. And the beauty wasn’t just outer, it emanated from within.
    She gave how she was treated, more so, sounds as if she was punishing her own self in the form of you because maybe she believed no one loved her. Instead of healing she lashed out at a beautiful baby girl. My god! You are. And no matter her reason, it is no reason, and no excuse. To sit by and act like that what you were being tortured so makes makes me despise her.
    I am not sure how to heal a mother daughter relationship because I thirsted after my own right up until he death.
    I love that you sought education, and travel, and I think most mother’s, those that want their child to truly thrive and come into their own and not live the mother’s life she never could or did, or to keep her child close-by, would want their daughter to fly… and fly free.
    You will have a man who looks across a crowded room with eyes only for you, but not one who reads your mind, that is not until you know your own. That unconditional love has to learn to grow inside where none was given. And abyss seemingly impossible to fill with warmth, but doable over time and with effort. All that you are doing.
    “Men who have no idea about me feelings and thoughts” And they never will until you do. You have to know how to fill that void before anyone else can. Others can help, love and support, but that part is up to you. And you’re doing that!
    You deserve the best. Settle for nothing less.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Patricia. Your beautiful heartfelt reply made me cry because feel the warmth, care and genuineness! And you were able to write this while you are recovering yourself and hurting! That’s what I love about you, your ability to look outside of yourself and to give what you were not given yourself. I want to be like that one day!!
      Yes you are right, I have a while to go, I need to know myself really well before I allow anyone in. What is it that I want? Its something I am still discovering as I learn the voices that have been internalised from both my father and mother. There is a ME that is emerging slowly! Slowly she breaks free and seperates herself from what was her mother’s coldness and her father’s shaming and blaming. She needs more time before she is ready!

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      • You have touched on a deep wound. What child does not want or need a mother. Biologically you had one, but this person seemed to want to extinguish your beauty, preciousness, and unique abilities not honor and nurture you.
        I don’t know too much, but it’s my belief, no matter what partner you choose, they can never know how to fill your holes or empty spaces. And you don’t have to wait a lifetime to find a kind partner to have fun with and love and to be there for you.
        Samuel can’t fill those voids, nice a man that he is. I have to do it. And I am still working on it.
        By the way, that man never left my side for four days except to go home at night to feed the cat and go to sleep. With all our quirks between us, we care about each other deeply and are there for each other.You will have it too, and most likely without effort, trying, and when you least expect it.
        You dare to go to the void of virtually having no mother and how devastatingly, agonizingly painful that is, and you have a right to cry or sob through that emptiness. But all along the way, you are still there, a full, vibrant, sky-diving, free, loving soul…with much to give. You are a leader among us.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it is a deep deep wound and the source of many dysfunctions but also the source of my great strength and fierce independence.
        I am so glad that you a kind man who is by your side always. I yearn for that! I am tired of going after people who hurt me or people who don’t care enough. as you say, when it is right, it will be effortless. thank you Patricia for your validation of my thoughts and feelings.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This has got me thinking. I know I mothered my mother and have to put the boundaries in now. So much to learn. Thank you for sharing this. One thing we know how to do even when we mess up is to give our children what we didn’t get. Breaking the cycle through awareness acknowledgment and empathy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I can relate I mothered my mum too up until very recently when I cut her out of my life and blocked her calls and message. It was the most difficult but liberating thing. I needed to be mothered so badly yet I always worried about her and felt personally responsible for her, sent money and tried all kinds of things to help her. She never did the same for me and I realise now she has to do the hard work of facing herself that I have been doing. I have taken responsibility and so she has to too. May you find the strength to establish the boundaries needed to keep healing and growing. Sending much love to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so interesting. I have realized that I have always been attracted to men (especially older men) who I initially felt could protect and care for me. Later if I found out it was an incorrect impression, I would still feel drawn. I’ve been learning that I have to mother myself. That used to make me mad (“I mother my own kids; why can’t I have my mom mother me?”), and honestly I still feel sad at times. It’s getting easier over time though, as I learn that I can provide meaningful care to myself, well, at least sometimes I can.

    It’s such a hole to have in your heart, that absence of a reliable, caring mom. And that hole can leave you very vulnerable. It’s so wise for you to be explicitly dealing with this and how it affects you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it does leave one vulnerable and that’s why as you say I want to move beyond it and not continue to act from it.
      I am so glad that you are learning to mother yourself. I guess it is time to finally let go and realise that we will never get what we deserved from our biological mothers but that we can indeed now take over the reins and mother ourselves to set ourselves free and relieve ourselves of that grasping and wanting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Maybe this mother wound will get smaller and smaller and less overwhelming and it won’t be the bottomless pit I believe it to be now.” I absolutely believe this 100% — you’re willingness to look at this mother wound head on, eyes wide and heart open are all the tools you need to heal.

    You are healing. I’ve been bearing witness to it for a year now.

    You’ve done so many things. Peeled back so many layers. You sit in your uncomfortableness now and have faith that it will pass. And it does. It always does.

    You started this blog. You divorced your husband. You spoke your truth and cut ties with your family. You go to counseling. You mother your son. You mother yourself. You leap into the sky knowing that somehow the universe will support the beautiful woman that you are. And it did. And it does. You hold yourself up. You survived. You have thrived. You are mothering yourself every moment of the day.

    Your mum sucks. My mum sucks. My step father is a monster. Your father hurt you. Both of our families made us think we were crazy and blamed us. But we held that small flame inside of ourselves and knew on some deep, wise, old-soul-level that their truth was not our truth. Not the truth. Not one bit of it.

    Your mother wound will heal. My mother wound will heal. It will ache like a surgical scar aches or the phantom limbs we read about — it will always ache. But it will not have power over us. You will find love because you will have mothered and loved yourself. You will hear your own heartbeat and know its truth. It is your compass. You are your own compass.

    These are my thoughts. My beliefs. My hopes. This his how I nurture my wound — by believing my wound is just that — a wound. But it is not me. I am not it.

    I’m so proud of you! I’m proud of us! You courageous beautiful whole-woman!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your uplifting thoughts hopes and feelings! they certainly do make me feel heard, supported and loved. I am so so blessed to have you in my corner. I look at all the beautiful people who have entered my life since I have started on this journey of healing and I know that I am mothered because of their care. Yes we will heal and we are warriors with great inner strength, courage and wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is full of wonderful but oh so painful realisations. I am noticing that in my family I try to take on the mother role to heal the pain of being unmothered in my sisters and mother. With my older sister who died recently I would sit by her bed when she would cry or scream out her pain and just hold her hand. I would be told if I cried that I was upsetting her. Now that my other sister has breast cancer, I went along to the appointment to support her but it all rests on me calling her and never the other way around. I know she is sick. Inside I think I am angry that I have given so much to both her and my Mum over the past four years, at least 10 separate hospitalisations for both of them and recently when I confronted them on some painful things, my Mum questioned my love of her and accused me of being ungrateful because she has given me a lot in terms of money and material things.

    I get very mixed up as since that she has been trying but its so little, so late. And in the midst of caring for them I have cared for myself, my house, my dog and I get tired. I had these nosebleeds lately as I am going to a bodywork therapist and she is giving me tissue salts and herbs and I am just not sure when all of this yanking and pulling goes on deep in my gut.

    Today I centred in to my inner child. She was lonely and said she felt I wasn’t really attending to her and her needs as much as I needed to.

    I really relate to that deep dark hole of being unmothered. I wonder if it grows with each generation and one of us along the line is now in the position of having to heal a collective would that goes back over a very, very long time. This is the only sense I can make of it,

    Part of suffering deeply and having a lot of empathy means its easier to identify with that suffering in others but I know I need boundaries around that. At the moment I think my body is telling me I just need to care for me.

    I really appreciate reading what your wrote and for the support you have showed me too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I too was unmothered. My mother loved me once, when I was small. But, then I got older and it was undeniable that my father was abusing me. I was no longer a cute little girl. I got fat, I didn’t shower, I stunk, I was forced to wet my pants, my mother had to count the days between my periods and ensure that there was no chance of a pregnancy progressing. My mother moved on ti mother my cousins whose mother died. She motheed teen girls,at the high school she worked at. It was quite clear that I was not worth her mothering. Thank goodness, some women in my life chose to mother me out of the goodness of their hearts. They saw good in me even though I was fat and had greasy hair. Now, I’m learning to mother myself the way I mother my children. I fought this for the longest time, but really, I guess that there is nobody in the world now who can mother me, a 50 year old woman. I need to mother all of those younger parts of me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so so right, there is nobody in the world who can mother us because we know ourselves best. Your comment helped me a lot because my mother did the same, she mothered so many cousins and I always felt so bad for feeling jealous but I forgive myself for that now as I understand how flawed she was and how incapable she was of mothering me. Yet we need to not take this personally, this was a flaw in our mothers and we were blameless as children. We deserved much better but it’s time to lay down that burden and really believe and know that we were innocent then and we are empowering ourselves know as we forge a new path. I empathise deeply with your story and thank you for sharing it so honestly.

      Liked by 1 person

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