Something about my mother was never quite right. You see, my mother never loved me.
One of the fondest memories I have of my mother is the time she hugged me hard into her body. She wanted me to stop crying and my nose from gushing with blood; 30 seconds before, she had slapped me violently between the eyes.
As a child and teenager, I learned not to ask for help or advice. Communication wasn’t her strongest point. She was often quick to anger, sometimes making you feel stupid for even asking a question. I learnt to understand life the best I could (and yes, that included my period).
Having friends over was a no-no as her behaviour was horribly embarrassing, which was painful for an already self-conscious teen. A chair was once thrown at my five-year-old sister and another sister had her foot pushed through a wall.
From the outside, however, she looked the perfect mother.
Despite the mood swings and compulsive lying, the worst part about having a mother who never loved me was that my emotional needs were never met — and this still affects me today.
Can you imagine how difficult it would be to adjust to the world if your mother never hugged, soothed or encouraged you?
She had five children by the age of 35, and as the eldest I always felt responsible for my siblings. Even now it’s in my nature to always be a caregiver (even to my own detriment). The best thing she ever did for my family was have an affair, because it took that affair before we could all begin to heal.
At times she took medication but she was never properly diagnosed with a mental illness. However, her behaviour has mimicked borderline personality disorder (BPD) and at times bipolar. What has always made it difficult is that she has no insight to her behaviour and honestly believes she is the victim.
My mother’s difficult, selfish and narcissistic behaviour continues even today. After three therapists and lots of self-destructive issues, I am learning to be at peace with who she is.
But I have to be completely honest with you: at times it’s been fucking hard. Even when I was in a relationship with the “perfect” guy, I hadn’t come to terms with my mother’s lack of love. I had horrible, insecure ways of viewing the world and myself, coupled with destructive emotions. There are lessons I have learnt and things I still continue to work on every day, however I now share these with you now. These are the thing I have had to learn about myself and my relationship with my mother and they have allowed me to move into becoming the strong, independent women she never taught me to be.
Distance or remove yourself.
First and foremost, stop being a pawn in her game. It’s a game that isn’t fun and has little or no respect for you. Distance or remove yourself completely from a mother who can’t love. Set boundaries on the relationship and say what is and isn’t OK for you and this will allow you to feel empowered again.
For me, it took complete removal of her from my life.
That being said, it was easier for me as I never felt a proper mother/daughter connection. Some of my siblings still choose to maintain small amounts of contact with her, but that’s OK because their relationships are different to mine. Online women’s magazine Psycologies acknowledges that it’s inbuilt in our culture to feel like you need to have a mother in your life, but it's actually OK not to. They also suggest cutting face-to-face contact can be helpful especially in incidences when health is suffering.
Get some support.
Like any difficult time, a support network is essential. Human contact releases the happy hormones and talking through your craps helps you “deal” with it. Support offers different perspectives, positive reinforcement or simply allows you to come to a decision (usually one that you already realise).
For me, my sisters, friends and dad have all been beautiful. At one time my partner was an amazing influence in helping me understand that a lot of my issues stem from the fact my mother never loved me.
Also, a very strong, high functioning friend once told me her “toxic mother” story, and this gave me inspiration me to get through my own. Professional help can also be a good option, whether it’s from psychologists, counsellors or healers (don’t worry I’ve seen all three). Some advice I have with therapists is to treat them as importantly as you would hairdressers. Shop around. Look into their therapy, have a chat with them to see whether you relate to what they offer. Find one you are comfortable sharing everything with and if it isn’t working, move on. In Melbourne I found a wonderful psychologist Patty through a group called Nexus and in Adelaide a beautiful psychologist Gemma.
Listen to the Mamamia Outloud team discuss the benefits of therapy. (Post continues after audio.)
It’s not your fault, so stop blaming yourself.
Children of unloving mothers learn quickly to place the blame on themselves for not being enough. We start to see ourselves as the problem, when in reality it’s our mothers who have their own problems. We learn this pattern of thinking, behaving and reacting and we carry it into adulthood. Stop blaming yourself if your mother doesn’t love you, deep down, she isn’t capable of it and it’s not a reflection of the person you are.
Stop expecting her to be your mum.
Time and time again I expected my mother to fulfill a motherly role and time and time again she failed. It left me angry, bitter and disappointed. Society teaches us that that a mother should unconditionally love her children, it’s an idea we get from books, school and any cartoon ever.
Susan Forwards’ breathtakingly honest book, “Mothers Who Can’t Love”, frankly states that we need to let go of the idea that our parents are suppose to love us and accept the fact that some parents are simply incapable of loving their children. Once I realised this my anger dissipated. I could no longer be let down and was free to move on.
Be aware of your own patterns of behaviour and ways of thinking.
Putting the above steps into practice gives you time and energy to focus on some of your own dysfunctional patterns of behaviour. We all learn things from our parents, whether good, bad or indifferent. Gabrielle Moss who had a mother with borderline personality disorder puts it well:
“As I got older, I took the model my mother had given me for interacting with someone you love — screaming at them and belittling them whenever they did something I didn’t like — and realized that they were not tools that got me the kind of boyfriends or friends that I wanted. I fumblingly began to learn how to ask for things I wanted, rather than demand them.”
Whether it’s through mindfulness, therapy or meditation, in analysing your own behaviours, thoughts and emotions, you can begin to grow and heal. Do you push men away because you’re afraid they are going to hurt you? Or maybe like Gabrielle and me, your communications skills could do with a bit of an overhaul? I highly recommend meditation and mindfulness. Learning how to meditate daily helps you quieten the mind and emotions, giving you insight to your own little world.
At the end of the day, you can’t truly change anyone else’s behaviour except your own, and on a really existential level, you can’t control anything in life anyway. Therefore acceptance (which includes accepting that my mother never loved me) is the key to being content.
Cloris Kylie Stock writes a beautiful article on the art of acceptance, arguing that acceptance doesn’t mean not caring. Simply it means releasing the power that your life circumstances have over you. Some of us have mothers who never loved us and we need to see it as being “just that”. It took me a while to accept my mother never loved me, but since working on it, I have moved past needing to have her in my life. This has granted me with other wonderful opportunities and allowed me a chance to get on with things.
Learn to love yourself.
The final and by far the hardest lesson I had to learn from a mother who never loved me, was honestly learning to start loving myself. I abused artificial pleasure (in the form of alcohol/drugs, men and partying) all in an effort to fill an emptiness. I ran half marathons, dieted and exercised my way trying to filling a hole. But in the end I was still left with just me, only I was not only sad but now sick and unhealthy.
Loving yourself is an essential part of healing. It’s a hard lesson to learn but it’s a love, which once present, will never let you go. A wise figure once said:
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha.
My mother never loved me, especially not in the way I needed. However, in learning to love myself I now feel more at peace. To love yourself is to remember who you are deep down, what you like to do and what your passions are. It’s important to find your true self and love it enough.
So yes, it’s true: my mother never loved me and at times it’s been crappy. There was a point however, when I had to stop blaming her and take steps to get back my life.
Now the lack of love from my mother doesn’t worry me anymore. I am healing and have even started to appreciate all the good parts of my personality that her lack of love taught me.
This post was originally published on LostFoundFabulous and has been republished here with full permission.