Just before Mother’s Day, I wrote a blog post on my site The Flourishing Life, sharing my feelings about being an unmothered daughter. It’s become one of the most-read pieces I’ve written in a long time, and I’ve heard from so many women who resonated with the twinge of sadness that comes with that special day.
Many of us don’t have particularly fond memories of our mothers. They were emotionally distant, verbally abusive, narcissistic, or even physically absent during our childhood. Instead of nurturing our development from infancy through adolescence, we were made to feel we were in the way, unimportant or undeserving of our mothers’ love.
As adults, we struggle with depression, lack of confidence and our own problems building healthy relationships with others. In extreme cases, all too often, we have broken relationships with our own daughters. The cycle never ends… until we decide we are the new beginning.
For me, this has been a two-edged sword. I was adopted as a newborn and raised as an only child by parents who were older than my friends’ parents, with a mother who didn’t have good parenting skills needed for a strong-willed daughter. She was one of seven children, and looking back, I realize her own family was riddled with depression. She had good days and bad, and I always said my father was a saint for putting up with her demands and rants. We fought until the end of her life, and it wasn’t until much later that was able to forgive her for not being the perfect mom. Now I understand that she was the product of generations of rigid, depressed women.
After having children of my own, I became curious about my birth mother. Off and on for 22 years I searched for her, and in November, 2013 I found her. The beautiful reunion I’d dreamed of went down the drain because she wanted nothing to do with me, which opened up the floodgates of rejection and abandonment that had been buried for so many years. Pulling myself out of the pit took several months and lots of prayer. Thankfully, today I am a much better person because I have victory over the hurt.
As unmothered daughters, we must take control of our lives and heal the wounds that are deep and painful. Like a phoenix, we must rise up out of the ashes and give our daughters, and theirs, the unconditional love and support they need to be emotionally healthy and physically strong.
- First we must forgive, for without forgiveness there is no joy. We must acknowledge that our mothers likely were unmothered as well. They did not have the support systems we have today to overcome their past. If we do not forgive, then bitterness, anger and resentment infect our minds and our relationships. With forgiveness, we let go of toxic memories and move on with freedom to fully enjoy life. Show grace to those who have hurt you, and find freedom from the tight grip of unforgiveness.
- Next, we must love ourselves. Each of us was created with a unique purpose to fulfill, and packed for our life’s journey with gifts, personality traits and core values that make us who we are. No matter what our mothers told us, we have immense value and potential just as we are. No comparisons. No judgment. No shame. You are like a rare jewel, ready to sparkle and reflect all that is good within you. Come out from under the dark cloak of fear and shine!
- Finally, we must live with gratitude. Look at every day as a gift, filled with moments that shape you into the amazing woman you were created to be. Be excited about the future; know you have the power of choice to love, laugh, persevere and heal. Life’s trials are meant to shape us and make us stronger, as we can become better mothers and mentors to positively impact those who follow us.
I don’t understand why I was conceived and born to my birth parents, or why I was placed in a home with a mother with whom I never had a deep connection. I do know I’m grateful for my journey, and look back at my life as a decades-long personal-development course in resiliency, determination and faith.
One of my daughters once asked me how I became the mother I am with the mother I had. All I could say was it is by the sheer grace of God, and the plan for my life that brought me to where I am today. I knew what I didn’t want, so I created the storybook family I’d always dreamed of.
If you are in the sisterhood of unmothered daughters, I’d love to know your story. We have a special bond, and we need to heal together to make life count.