You Can Mother Well Even if You Weren’t Mothered Well


What kind of relationship did you have with your mother growing up?

If you didn’t get along with her or feel very close to her, don’t feel like you’re doomed to have the same kind of relationship with your kids.

You are not your mother. Try to step outside of the situation and identify the things that impaired your relationship with your mom. There could be many causes of the breakdown, such as lack of affection, poor communication, feelings of condescension, feelings of not being understood, or even feelings of being used as slave labor. Many times  children misinterpret things that happen to them when their understanding is not as well developed.

Go back in your memories. Try to remember specific situations that made you feel put down, ignored, or unloved. See if there’s anything that you may have misinterpreted or taken too seriously because of immaturity.

But it could be that your mother did treat you badly. Maybe she was too busy with other things to pay enough attention to you. Maybe your personalities clashed. Maybe she was under lots of stress that you weren’t even aware of. There could be any number of reasons for the disconnect.

But this does not have to happen to you with your children. I’m thinking especially of mothers and daughters. That seems to be a difficult relationship in many families. There are many reasons for that, too.

If you are finding things more difficult between you and your mother now that you are grown and a mother yourself, there may be some jealousy or a desire to keep you little instead of giving you the freedom to be your own person.

These are some common areas I’ve noticed that make things difficult in relationships between mothers and daughters. I would like to suggest that you take lessons from the hurtful things that happened in your relationship with your mother, and be intentional about doing things differently with your children. Take this opportunity to break that cycle that may have been going on in your family for generations.

Do things differently. Keep your attitude positive with your children. Give them the attention they need, and enjoy your time with them. Do lots of fun things with them. Listen to them, even when their stories are silly or tiresome. See them as blessings instead of drudgery or just another responsibility to take care of. Let them know how much you love them by your actions and attitude, not just by saying it or taking care of their physical needs. That is not enough. They need to know that you really like them.

I spoke at my mom’s funeral last year. It was a year ago. On my daughter’s birthday. Talk about an emotional time. I missed my daughter’s birthday to fly to Ohio for my mom’s funeral.

My mom was a very strong-minded, outspoken, sociable woman. I was not. I did have strong opinions, but I didn’t dare go up against her about anything. Until I got older. When I was younger most of my opinions mirrored hers. But as I got older and experienced new things, she was not very happy that I was developing a mind of my own. So we had some clashes.

But she loved me and would do anything for me. She babysat my children. She really cared about me and always wanted the best for me. There were some things that I felt slighted in when it came to the way she treated my siblings. And her temper put me on edge and made me stay away from her.

But the last several years, I lived far away. When I called her, I knew she missed me and needed me to show love to her. I prayed with her. I warmed back up to her. Then she got dementia. The mom I knew was mostly gone. The only time she seemed like her old self was when I would ask if she wanted me to pray with her.

I’m crying as I write this. Our relationship was not always perfect.

But when it came time to speak at her funeral, I knew that I needed to honor her. She was a wonderful, loving mother. And the thing that stood out most in my mind was that she was a fun mom. She took us to the swimming pool every day in the summer. She planned camping trips for us back in our woods. She planned fun birthday parties for us. She took us shopping for new clothes every school year. She always tried to make sure we were having fun.

She always sang around the house. And when we were in the car she got us to all sing together. I still love singing to this day. She was a fun person and a fun mom.

She told people about Jesus everywhere she went. Everyone who knew my mom knew that she was a Christian. There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind. People always remembered her, even if she didn’t remember them. These were the things I shared at her funeral. In spite of the difficulties we had, the most impactful memories I had were of the good things about our relationship and her life.

There are some things that I have done deliberately with my children, because I felt that I lacked them in my childhood. I have been very careful to listen to my kids. I have tried to make them feel respected and important. I have tried to make them feel noticed. I may have fallen short of some of these ideals, but I have definitely made great efforts to treat my children this way.

So I tried to do things differently than the ways that made me feel separated and disrespected.

I believe that it made me a better mother than I would have been had I not dealt with my own hurts and feelings of rejection. I had to overcome feelings of inferiority that came from preferential treatment, and other deep-seated wounds.

My mother never meant to hurt me in any way. But some things just end up hurting.

But I made up my mind to do the best I could to avoid those things that were hurtful to me.

So when I became a mother, I did it my way.

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