5 Things Women Who Aren’t Close To Their Moms Will Understand

It's hard to be a mother when you don't have a good relationship with your own.

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For many women, having a distant or conflictual relationship with their mother, or no relationship at all, feels like a dirty secret. It seems like every other woman on social media is best friends with her mother, who is a supportive and loving grandmother to boot.

You feel alone and lonely when your friends casually mention how great it is when their mom comes over, and how she helps them emotionally (and instrumentally) in so many ways.


In day-to-day life, there are so many instances and situations that trigger feelings of loss, grief, anger, and sadness in women who don’t have close maternal relationships.

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There are many reasons that women have difficult relationships with their mothers; often there is a sense of betrayal about how the mother acted in the woman’s childhood, i.e., not providing emotional or physical care in some key way.

No matter why your relationship with your mother is hard, here are five of the most common things that women who aren’t close to their moms will understand.


Here are 5 things that women who aren’t close to their moms will understand:

1. You don’t have a role model when you become a mother

While women who aren’t close to their mothers may find their mothers impressive in some (or many) aspects (e.g., careers, ability to charm others, intellect), they cannot look up to their moms in the most important way: learning how to be a mother yourself.

If you feel that your mother was unable or unwilling to connect to you, then you are likely not going to want to emulate her once you become a mother yourself.

It cannot be overestimated how difficult it is to parent children in the absence of an “automatic default” role model. When other women can think, “What would Mom do?” you think, “What would Mom do? Don’t do it. But now what?”


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2. You feel sadness or anxiety about “good” major events

Milestone events that other people look forward to, like your own wedding, the birth of a child, a child’s graduation, or holidays, feel fraught with anxiety and/or sadness.

If you will see your mother there and there will be conflict or tension, then you are anxious about that, and often resentful that your joy about good things has to be muddied by your feelings toward your mother.

If your mother is not a part of your life anymore, these big events are often occasions where you miss her more or oftentimes mourn the absence of the mother that you wish that you had, who would be happy and supportive at these events.


3. You sometimes become newly hurt even when you think you have become inured to the lack of closeness

Even when you think that you have lowered the expectations of your mother-daughter relationship enough, there are some situations where you become newly shocked or hurt by your mother’s behavior.

If you are going through a hard time, such as a divorce, financial crisis, or an illness, you may on some level hope that now, finally, it will be your mother’s chance to shine and to show her true colors as a supportive parent.

Unfortunately, it usually becomes evident that these events do give your mom a chance to show her true colors, and they were the same unsupportive colors as before.

RELATED: Why Women In Unhappy Marriages Are Less Able To Be Good Mothers


4. You find it embarrassing or difficult to discuss the topic of your mother with others

Even if you’ve mostly gotten to a place where you accept that she is who she is and your relationship is what it is, it can be deeply embarrassing and uncomfortable to discuss your mom with other people.

This is amplified greatly if you know (or think) that they have a close relationship with their own mom. You may be 45 years old and your mother 75, but when other women mention spending time with their mothers, or you compare your family of origin to theirs, you may still feel like the same sad and embarrassed child that you were 40 years before.

5. You are terrified of ending up like your mother

If your mother never said “I love you,” you may say it to your children ten times a day and still worry that you aren’t being loved enough. When you see yourself replicate any of your mother’s behaviors, or use her expressions or intonations, you feel disgusted or angry.

You may read book after book on parenting in order to not parent the way she did, but you rarely feel confident in yourself. Your similarities with your mother are a source of anguish, rather than a positive thing, as it is for those of your friends with close maternal relationships.


These and other issues create a great deal of sadness and contribute to depression and anxiety.

But there are many ways to proactively cope with your feelings about your mother and work on yourself. I’ve found many great books that tackle the topic of difficult mother/adult daughter (or mother/ adult child) relationships, including Mean MothersRunning on Empty, and When You And Your Mother Can’t Be Friends.

Working with a therapist can also help you process your feelings about your relationship with your mom, and learn how to “reparent” yourself so that you can feel whole and secure in the absence of this critical bond. And till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Don’t Forget That You Can Grow Into Your Own Role Model… And Become One For Your Own Children Too.


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Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.