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: