Close this search box.

Freedom For the Unmothered Daughter


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. 

Share this Story

Susan is passionate about helping women become stronger and more vibrant by helping them define what’s truly important in life. Like all of our Contributing Writers, Susan has found herself at a major crossroads. Her site was one of the top five resources for women over 50, but she felt it wasn’t enough. She now supports women—on a deeper level—and 1010 Park Place is excited to host Susan Tolles’ Q&A’s. She will answer your questions about integrating your life with your desires. Susan doesn’t do fluff. She digs deep. Want to create a legacy that goes beyond material possessions? Ask Susan! Susan can also be found at

6 thoughts on “Freedom For the Unmothered Daughter”

  1. Susan,
    I identify with your post on so many levels. My mother suffered from depression and lack of self-confidence all of her life. On top of that, she was a narcissist and super sensitive. For the most part, life was always about mother. We even role reversed when I was 12, and I became her caregiver, which lasted until she died last fall. We also didn’t speak for four years, when I was in my 40s. It wasn’t until mother had dementia that I was able to remember all of the things she did for me; how she became the mother I’d always wanted when I had breast cancer and to forgive her shortfalls. It always seemed like an excuse when she would say, “I’m doing the best I can,” but I realized she was, and in many ways, mother was courageous. xox, Brenda

    • Brenda, I am so happy that you were able to have a better relationship with your mother late in life. I would certainly look at my mother through a different lens now if given the chance. All I can do is be the very best mother I can for my children and grandchildren, and, from the cards I received on Mother’s Day, I must be doing it right!

  2. What a beautiful post. I have a good relationship with my mother, but your post resonates with me for other reasons. I think a lot of us struggle with feeling “less than” due to things that happened in our childhoods. All we can do is try to rise above it and provide a life for our own kids that is filled with warmth and love. I love your advice and am so glad you have created the life you sought. xo

    • Thank you, Jen! Forgiveness, self-love and gratitude are necessary in any relationship, whether it be family or friends. Growing older certainly makes us wiser, doesn’t it?

  3. Great post! I once told someone that my mother and I get along much better now that she has passed than we ever did when she was alive… I don’t think they understood the connection between mothers and daughters who have had challenging relationships, and how that connection continues long after they have left the earth in human form…

    • So true! In my work coaching women, I find that so many of them still have their mothers “sitting on their shoulders,” sharing negative comments and keeping them from pursuing their dreams. I broke free while my adoptive mother was still alive, and eventually found peace after my birth mother’s rejection. It is when we dig deep and discover our own immense value, apart from anyone’s opinion, that we can find freedom to move on.

Comments are closed.


Sign up to our list and we’ll send you our sought-after guide “50 Ways To Change Your Life”
I'm happy you've joined us! If you like what you read, I'd love for you to stay and subscribe to our updates by email. We have a great community of like-minded women, and your presence can only make it stronger.