I Worry About Being a Good Mom Because I Didn't Have One

Mom Moment 61

I love momFor years, I have been hearing that motherhood would give me a greater understanding of my own mother. The comments always come from women who mean well. They come from women who had moms who baked them good luck brownies and helped them plan their weddings.

They aren't women like me. They didn't have a mom like mine. Because now that I'm a mother, I find my own even more confusing. And the more confused I am, the more I worry.

How am I going to be a good mom to my daughter if I don't know what it's like to be the daughter of a good mom?

I'm sure there were happy moments in my childhood. There are photos of them. Toddler me surrounded by other toddlers at birthday parties. Toddler me in a bathing suit surrounded by cousins. Toddler me with my Christmas presents. 

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But the memories have faded, clouded over by the others. Flinching when my mother walked by, fearing there might be a wooden spoon in her twitching hand, ready to whack out at my bottom for some imagined wrong. Having the phone book thrust in my hand with the order to find an adoption agency who would take me "off her hands." Being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night to make her coffee or wash her dishes.

Hearing her refer to the size of my rear end as "two axe handles wide."

The last time she hit me.

We weren't a "let's go shopping today, honey" kind of mother and daughter. We didn't do each other's nails. We never played Barbies.

Sometimes she hit. She always yelled. And I shut down. I ate myself bigger and puked myself smaller and tried to draw as little attention to myself as I could until I escaped.

And oh did I escape. I grew up, and I found a man who loved me, and we got married, and I got pregnant.

During my pregnancy, I got radio silence from my mother. She refused to talk to me. She ignored the invitation to my baby shower. She declined the invitation to meet her granddaughter in the hospital.

In the years since, our relationship has been as it was when I was a child -- minus the hitting. She sticks to emotional abuse these days, and I to shutting down and drawing as little attention to myself as possible. At times we go for long periods without speaking, her way of punishing me for slights real and imagined now that she cannot wield that wooden spoon.

I have come to realize that my mother does not know how to love me, but I wouldn't call that "understanding my mother." I don't understand her. 

Not as a mother who loves her daughter fiercely and with everything inside of her. Thoughts of my daughter one day wanting to disappear, wanting to escape, wake me up at night. Gasping for breath, I run to her room to reassure myself that she is still there, that I have not chased her away, that I have not destroyed the chance I have been given by the universe to get this right.

I know I have the chance to do for my daughter what my mother did not do for me. The only trouble is, I'm not quite sure how to do it.

So I do the only thing I do know is right. I do the very opposite of what my mother did with me. I love my daughter.

Was your mom the kind of mom you don't want to be? How are you managing?

family, girls


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Katy Khan

Wow, how awful! I had zero relationship with my mom as well. She was GOD AWFUL...but I just left and married a great man and she is not allowed in our lives. She never tried to get to know our son, and didn't come to my baby shower either so  I can definately empathize with  you.

Barbara Hoit Griffin

I completely understand. My mom passed away 4 years ago and my number one feeling is still relief. However, I don't ever worry about "being a good mom". If I treat my daughter (and I do) with love and respect, everything takes care of itself. As for my daughter and me, we are great.
As for my own baggage, I ache to talk to someone who cares about me unconditionally, who doesn't turn the conversation to themselves, who doesn't turn my successes into their tragedies (a skill which is unfathomable) and understands that if I love someone else, I don't love them less.
I still have pain from having a "mother-less" mother, but it does not affect my relationship with my children. I'm an awesome mom. Ask my kids.

sunmo... sunmoonandstar

My mom wasn't the greatest, there was hitting and yelling and drugs. But I have actually come to understand why things were the way they were. There aren't "good" excuses for it but I understand it and I see a lot if my mom in me, the good things she did try to do and I will do all it takes to keep the bad from taking over. My mom was excited about me having kids especially my youngest who shares a birthday with her. She passed away shortly after he was born and I am glad she at least got to meet him.

corri... corrinacs

Yes, but in my case it was because she was very sick.  At the time, I didn't know that and thought I had done her wrong.  I did learn it was her mental illness and I stopped taking it out on myself, but it still hurt when she would blame me for things or start hurting me or herself.

I was placed in foster care when I was 9.  I think getting away from that helped me emmensely, and I did get to meet my "mom".  The "mom" that did bake me "good luck cookies" and say "let's go shopping".  I am blessed to say that because of "luck", I ended up knowing what it means to be a good mother.

But in the end, I have learned to cherish the great times I had with my real mother.  I still see her from time to time and we talk about the times we laughed.  I think these days its more of a mutual understanding that no one was at fault.  She's doing very well now in a home where she's well cared for and taking her medications :)

MaryC... MaryCimino

I understand the pain, in my case it was so bad I ran away at 14. I haven't been home since. I got emancipated a year later and couldn't be happier.It's been over 10 years since this happened, I haven't talked to my mother in almost two years after she broke my jaw with my daughters stroller. (She hit me with it because I was tired of her hoard.)

I found my sanity through humor, I made comics and did some stand up comedy. I was doing stand up until two years ago to have my son and just haven't gotten back up on stage. I found ways to joke about it and make people laugh and be aware of Bipolar and hoarding. I found out last fall that I saved someones life with my comedy, she was in the same boat I was in and her friend dragged her to one of my shows. Poor girl was on the edge of suicide because of her mother. She heard me talk about my past and how I overcame it. She has cut off contact with her mother since and has undergone therapy to help her face her demons. We're seeing a wonderful friendship rising from all this.

nonmember avatar BRANDI

I understand completely. I didn't have the hitting but I did have the emotional abuse mixed with a mother who had a very bad drug problem. I find my self wondering the same thing for when I have kids and Im petrified that Ill do the same things she did. Ive never done any drugs EVER because ive seen what they do to people. And Ive decided that I'm going to learn from her mistakes and acknowledge ill make my own but learn from them as well.

larizac larizac

I really empathize with your situation.  Like you, I expected (hoped) to better understand my mother but was left with more disdain and contempt for her than ever.  Together with the resentment of how I was treated, it turned into an unhealthy hatred I needed to get over.  Now that my daughter is five, and I have a second daughter, I'm not as hypervigilent about giving them what I didn't get from her.  I have the confidence to be the parent my girls need, while giving them the attention, love and compassion they want. I also accept that I may falter every now and then, and have more work to do, but that I'll never be like her.  Trust me when I tell you that If you work on it, there will come a day that you will be at peace with this.  I now understand that my mother is a very sick, sad person with very limited capabilities and an alternative reality.  Like yours, she doesn't know how to love because she hates herself.  For that I feel genuine compassion for her. I had a sucky childhood, but my children are for the better for it.  They are both incredibly secure, compassionate, and loving and do not 'shut down' for fear that they will be hit or degraded should they so much as open their mouths or cry.  I wish you the best of luck.  I'm confident that you will get through this.  PS:  therapy helps :O

dearg76 dearg76

I am so sorry - but thankfully you aren't repeating the circle. At least you had enough insite to know that is not how a mother should be. 

My mother was nowhere as bad as yours was, but mine made me never ever want to treat my children the way she treated us. I can't say we were mentally / emotionally abused but none of us came out of my parents home without issues. I will always let my children know how much they are loved and will always try my hardest to be there for them.

Felly... FellyScarlett

My grandmother was a horrible person and treated my mother like shit. My mom turned out to be the greatest mom in the world, so don't worry too much :) It's good that you realized your mom is not going to change. It took mine 40 years to finally accept that, and she is much happier.

SuzyB... SuzyBarno

I too had a horrible mother and my story sounds just like everyone else's. When I was pregnant with my first child I had a horrible anxiety attack about 3 weeks before she was born. I was sick to my stomach. I wanted to go back in time and unmarry my husband and not be pregnant with my child. I couldn't fathom how I would ever be a good mother, if I haven't had anyone to show me how. I spoke with my father about it and he assured me that I am ALREADY being a better mother than my mother was. He assured me that all I have to do is do better than my parents did. Just the simple fact that I was in a committed relationship and had a drug free pregnancy, I was already a success. I've never forgotten that and I try each day to just do my best. Sometimes I over compensate, but really, who cares?! You'll be fine, just do better than your mother did for you and your daughter will understand and love you.

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