The Unique Struggle Of People Who Were Parented But Not Mothered

Dr. Joe Kort shares the unique heartbreak of people who weren't nurtured enough as a child.

woman who was parented but not mothered looking in mirror Ron Lach / Pexels via Canva

Growing up without feeling seen or respected can really mess with a person's head. Even if you had all the physical stuff you needed growing up, like food and clothes, not getting that emotional TLC can leave a big gap in your life. Even if they were around physically, they might not have shown you the love and support you needed to feel good about yourself. 

Psychotherapist Dr. Joe Kort phrases this concept as "being parented but not mothered" on the Open Relationships: Transforming Together podcast with Andrea Miller. While he uses the word "mother" to mean "nurtured", it's implied that fathers can be amazing, connected, attuned parents, too. It doesn't matter what gender the parent is, all children need that emotional connection. 


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The Unique Struggle Of People Who Were Parented But Not Mothered

Trouble feeling worthy of love 

This lack of love and emotional connection can make you doubt yourself, feel ashamed, and find it hard to connect with others in a meaningful way. When you don't get positive feedback and validation, it's tough to feel good about yourself. Often, you find yourself hooked on achievement, always feeling like you need to be more, to do more in order to feel worthy. 


The problem is, no achievement today can make up for not feeling emotional connection with a trusted caregiver as a child. Healing has to come from somewhere deeper.

Trouble trusting people who love and accept you

When you cannot trust your own emotions, it's hard to recognize healthy relationships (and healthy people) when you meet them. After all, your emotional well-being has never been met or even seen, so you don't know what that feels like. It may even feel intrusive. 

Many people who weren't nurtured in childhood find healthy romantic partners "too nice" or are suspicious of their loyalty because there are no games or tests of worth. Maybe everyone you love seems narcissistic.

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Trouble feeling authentic control over your life

Plus, not feeling respected can make you feel like you have no control over your own life. If your caregivers didn't listen to you or respect your boundaries, it's easy to feel powerless and unsure of yourself. This can make it hard to stand up for yourself, set healthy boundaries, and ask for what you need.

Healing from this kind of upbringing takes a lot of work

It means facing up to the pain and trauma of the past and realizing that your worth isn't defined by what other people think of you. It's about taking back control of your life and learning to love and respect yourself, flaws and all.

the struggle of people who were parented but not motheredPhoto: Maddy's Art / Maddy's Art via Canva


Therapy can be a huge help in this process. Having a safe space to talk about your past, challenge negative beliefs, and learn healthy coping strategies can make a world of difference. And surrounding yourself with supportive people who believe in you and lift you up can help you on your journey to healing and self-discovery.

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Just because you weren't mothered doesn't mean you can't be loved for who you are, today

Kort says that what he values most in his repertoire of work is people finding the truth in things, "I care about the truth and people finding their truth and the truth in their situation." He goes on to discuss how he loved the moment when he realized the truth of his situation with his family while growing up.



Kort then shared a quote from the television series "Pose" that shared a new perspective on not being mothered:


"Just because you were a terrible mother doesn't mean I can't be the daughter I want to be."

This encapsulates the sentiment of resilience and self-empowerment in the face of familial adversity. It speaks to the idea that individuals are not defined by the shortcomings or failures of their parents, and they have the agency to redefine their own identities and relationships.

In the context of being raised without feeling loved or respected, this quote acknowledges the impact of a caregiver's inadequacies while asserting the individual's right to chart their own path. It recognizes that a lack of love or respect from a parent does not diminish one's worth or potential for love and respect in return.

It's important to break free from the cycle of dysfunction and forge a new narrative for oneself. It's empowering to reject the limitations imposed by past experiences and to strive for a future filled with love, respect, and self-fulfillment.


You have the power to redefine family and create meaningful connections with others who support and validate your worth. Cultivate your own sense of identity and agency, independent of the familial roles and expectations that may have been imposed upon you.

Keep this quote in your back pocket as a reminder that despite the challenges of being raised without feeling loved or respected, you have the capacity to transcend your circumstances and become the architects of your own destinies.

With courage, self-reflection, and a lot of self-care, you can rewrite your story and create a life filled with love, respect, and happiness. You're worth it, and you have the power to make it happen.

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Deauna Roane is a writer and the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.