To the Mom Whose Own Mom Isn't There for Her
Oh, mama. My heart breaks with you—for you. Trying to mother when your own mother is physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually unavailable is an unpublished kind of pain. The kind that makes us yell, then sob in the lonely of our own homes.
Now maybe we're lucky enough to have a fantastic husband, or father, or sister, or godmother, or mother-in-law.
It's not the same.
Because we still long for our own mother. We want her here—available, present, connected, involved. With her grandchildren. With us.
But she isn't.
She isn't able to lend a hand when we need serious help with meals and laundry and bathing and shopping and soothing the baby (or us) as we fall through the days that follow giving birth. She isn't able to watch the kids so we can dash to the doctor or the bank or the therapist or or work or meeting. She isn't able to support our parenting, relate to our mom-fears, suggest remedies for kid sickness or offer advice on behavior issues. She isn't able to validate the difficult job we're doing, the beautiful children we're trying to raise (without a village). She isn't able to offer help when we need to escape—for a few sanity minutes or God time or vacation or the shortest of seriously overdue dates with our husband. She isn't able to play big trucks or pretty ponies, to read books, to snuggle, to take kids on fun Grandma dates, to cheer them on. She isn't able to say "I love you," or "I am so proud of you" or "oh, honey, come here" with a warm hug and gaze that meets the eyes of our child—or us.
Maybe our mother is deceased. Maybe she's far away—in road miles, or the miles of her own mind. Maybe her emotions are stony, flat, absent. Maybe she's an addict, and still addicted. Maybe she's physically present, but we can't seem to get along. Maybe she leans on us for support. Maybe something else takes her away—other family members, a job, abuse, scandal, illness, unresolved conflict, or deep, personal wounds.
Whatever the reason, it hurts.
It's a lonely, raw, heart-wrenching kind of pain to be without her. Without her hands, her ears, her head, her eyes, her heart. Without her comfort, her insight, her help, her approval.
And while it won't be the same, while it won't be a total fix for our struggle, there's something those of us who miss our mothers can do.
We can mother each other.
It sounds silly. If you just rolled your eyes, I get it.
Hear me out.
We must give away the tiniest bit of what we most need—we must mother another mother.
Because who on earth can better recognize and mitigate this motherless hurt, this hole, than us?
It doesn't have to be a colossal effort.
We can volunteer to watch another mother's kids (without her asking) for a couple hours. So she can go on a date or get her haircut or spend some quality time reconnecting with God. We can watch her kids when she asks, too—so she can get to that critical appointment or work, even though daycare is closed. We can share our personal mothering struggles, in an open and honest way that makes her feel safe to share her own. We can listen and nod, with judgement-free eyebrows and soft, short murmurs that encourage her to continue, and don't cut her off with proposed solutions. We can tell her we look up to her, to the amazing job she is doing. We can tell her how she is a really good mom, how we admire her beautiful family. We can ask her how in the world she does it all, and so well—how she makes mothering look so natural and easy.
We can do for her what she needs—what we need—without making it less sincere by asking or expecting her to return the favor.
Because there still is a return favor, a karma-like effect, a boomerang grace.
Somehow, giving away of exactly what we want brings us the most unlikely kind of satisfaction. I can't explain why it works; it just does.
And trust me, mama—it's healing.
Points to Ponder + Discuss:
- Is your own mother available to you?
- What do mothers most need from their own mother?
- What motherly connections do you specifically crave or miss?
- How can we help and better serve struggling, "motherless" mothers?
- Ponder / discuss the following verse as it might relate to this article's topic: