Motherless Mothers

This post is in response to the NaBloPoMoUK challenge: a blog post a day throughout November.

When I was pregnant with my son, friends with children would tell me how their relationship with their own mother was changing, how they were becoming closer, how they now understood one another more.  People told me how much of a support my mother would be once my baby was born.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a mother, and I wondered whether I was going to be seriously disadvantaged.

What kind of support do mothers generally give their daughters when the baby is born?  The mothers of most of my friends came to stay with them for a few days, helping out with night feeds, nappy changes, all the extra washing.  As time progressed, they were there to offer advice about illnesses, teething, weaning.  They offered babysitting services to facilitate a well-deserved break and other practical help like shopping when it seemed impossible to leave the house.  I didn’t have any of that, so I wondered which role models I could look towards in the absence of a mother of my own.  As has happened so often in my life before, I looked to my friends and they were wonderful.  Hubby and I managed the practical side of things between us without disaster and our wonderful friends shared the emotional joy of our little one with us.

I’m absolutely certain that I’m not the only mother in this situation.  I wonder about daughters who are carers for their own mothers as well as their babies and those whose mothers are still in their lives but not to a consistent degree.  There must be mothers with mental health or substance abuse issues who wouldn’t be able to offer support to their daughters.  How do those daughters manage?  At least I knew where I stood and had lived most of my life without maternal support and so was well used to it.  What about those women whose mothers were less consistent?

When my child was first born, I did some research and found various support groups for motherless mothers but they were all based upon the assumption that they were motherless through bereavement.  I wondered about new mothers who are estranged from their mothers.  Would estranged daughters be welcome at such groups?  Ultimately, I didn’t pursue it.  I felt confident in my abilities despite my experience of not really having a mother since forever and the poor parenting I had received.  Towards the birth I briefly wondered whether I was missing something, not missing my own mother but missing having a mother at all.  The answer to that is yes, a little.  I did miss having a mother with whom I could share my pregnancy, the birth of my lovely child, those first happy days and weeks that followed.  But my own mother would not have been capable of sharing that with me so  I can honestly say, as I have really known no different, I don’t think I missed much and I didn’t wonder about it for very long.  Instead I have concentrated on being the best parent I can be to my son.  I can’t change the past, but I can influence the future.

How much support do mothers provide their daughters?  Could you have survived without her in those early days?

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12 Responses to Motherless Mothers

  1. Susanna says:

    Powerful post . I got a lot of support from my mother when the girls were born and now (even though she is 5,000 miles away). But I get a lot of support from friends too, and MIL. Good job on NaBloPoMo, keep it up!

  2. Older Mum says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for days, as it really moved me and not dissimilar to my situation. I echo the above comment – really thought provoking and powerful post. I think there can be an assumption that the new mother will have her own mother on hand but not necessarily the case especially if difficult relationship or they live far away. Sometimes it can be a blessing not to have your mother arond especially if you have radically oppposing views on parenting style.

  3. I don’t know which is more hurtful, not having a mother or having one who habitually – in her own words – keeps herself ‘detached.’ My pregnancies were lonely affairs. She was nowhere to be seen and I had accidentally married someone of a similar disposition to her, but, like you, I didn’t really know any different. I will for ever wish it had been different though. I think the children do miss out – but they are better off without any negative influences, so my mother and I are now more or less estranged and I have divorced my husband. My friends make up for any lack, by choice, all round and this can only be of benefit to all. It seems we all find out way. I will, however, bring this up on my yet to be written guest piece for Older Mum because you have brought it to my attention. Well done you. Thx.

    • Thanks so much for your lovely reply and for being so honest. I’m so glad you found your way through to somewhere you are comfortable with. I agree about being better off without negative influences, very important. Looking forward to your piece for Older Mum. Thanks again for taking the trouble to comment, and so honestly. Polly x

  4. My own mother was a motherless mother. When I was pregnant and had my son, it made me very emotional to think about the fact she never had the mother and the love she so desperately craved. We have talked about it a little since, and interestingly she feels it shaped her parenting style. Almost, that she loved us too much as a consequence. There are three of us, all very close to her, and she has often said that she feels maybe she held us back by loving us too much. I don’t accept this, but it’s fair to say we all found it hard to leave home, in fact, my brother still can’t stop going back! Wonderfully thought provoking and emotional post. x

    • What a lovely story, that your mum knew how to love you all despite not having experienced that herself. My personal view is that you can’t show a child too much love. My little one is very confident and I belive that’s as a result of him being secure in our love for him. I was insecure and therefore very unconfident. Thanks so much for sharing such an honest story. Polly x

  5. mammasaver says:

    Really thought-provoking post.

    I would say, it would depend on the mother. Just as some mothers are purposefully ‘detached’ as mentioned in other posts, some mothers are more ‘attached’ than others.

    Also, I think mothers don’t necessarily mother in the same way as their own mothers. Did that make sense?

    I think if a mum has enough people to provide her with confidence to enjoy her new role in life, then it needn’t come from one particular person.

    However, it must be a strange situation to be a mother and have an estranged mother – especially when feeling the strong connection you have with your own children.

    As much as many mums learn by example, I think alot learn from what they want to avoid doing, too.

  6. Great moving post. I unfortunately am also a motherless mother but due to bereavement. What I found hard was not only the fact that she wasn’t present but the fact that my father (who was always present during our growing up years) didn’t know silly things like what mum did when I was crying all night, did she give dummies, did I get colic. etc. I know he was there but as a father in the late 70s he also worked and wasn’t as hands on as most are today
    Carry on writing – great blog!


    • Hi Ffion, thanks for your lovely comments. I hadn’t thought about putting anything about my dad, but thinking about it now, he’s the same as yours, doesn’t really know the ins and outs. So sorry that your mum is no longer around. That must be harder, because you could have reasonably expected her to be around when you had your own children, whereas I never could.

  7. MotherlessTwice says:

    I stumbled upon this while doing some research and I wanted to share my thoughts. I am a motherless mother, first through bereavement and second through estrangement. My natural mother died suddenly when I was 10 years old. I still remember her well and was still in the idolization period of childhood when my mother could do no wrong, though she was well loved and highly thought of by all that knew her. After her death, my sisters and I were placed in my aunt’s custody as my father was a poor parent. My aunt was not much better, as she had always been a bit of a recluse and my mother’s death, her sister and best friend, took a weighty toll on her. She was abusive and painfully negligent. I moved out at 17 after finishing high school, just to get away from her and move on with my life. During college I became pregnant with my daughter and tried to reach out to my aunt as a source of support, needing a mother figure and realizing I was mourning my mother all over again. She kept her distance and has not played a role in my children’s lives. A couple years ago we moved overseas, which makes the distance an easy excuse why I offer no grandparents for my children, but it still hurts. I still wish I had the nurturing and support that I see other women get, either from their mothers or step-mothers, grandmothers or aunts, even mother-in-laws. I have made friends with other mothers and do an extensive amount of research to make up for my lack of a mother figure, but I still always feel the absence. Despite living almost 2/3 of my life without a mother, I still need her all the time. I learned to be fiercely independent at a young age, to never rely on people because they either let you down or disappear, which makes relying on friends very difficult. But I realized with my second child that a lot of people don’t think about helping out with things that they assume a mother figure is there for. We don’t have anyone to spoil our children or send us things from home. We don’t have anyone to call when our child is doing something new and concerning, so we research it or call the doctor. Sometimes I make a big deal out of things that other mothers take for granted as no big deal because their mothers/mother figure talked to them about it.

    Overall, I do feel being without an active mother figure is a disadvantage and one that not only affects me as a motherless mother, but also my children. I’m a mom, so I don’t have time to whine about it or let it pull me down, but I do see how it affects my mothering, my sensitivity, my worries, and I do set aside time to bridge the gap with reading and research.

    There is perhaps no greater loss in a persons life than that of a mother. She
    connects us to the world by giving us life and nurturing us. If she fails in her duty, then we lose our foundation and we must build our lives on sand rather than rock. If she leaves us too soon, we live as hollow people for much longer than is natural, expected to find our own way in building ourselves up into whole selves. We need a mother for each step of the way, each rite of passage. As adults, I see women who understand and anticipate the phases of their bodies from watching how their mothers mature. I know nothing of this. I am only peripherally aware of things like menopause and that something happens when you near 40. There is so much to learn and I must rely on the kindness of strangers to learn it.

    • Hi LibraryLady, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I think this is an issue which touches so many people in different ways. How awful that your lovely mother was taken from you when you were so young and then have such a different experience with your aunt. It sounds like you did very well to get out of such a destructive situation when you did. Do you find, though, that having such an awful experience makes you a great parent to your own children? For example, my mum just couldn’t be bothered with us, so when my little chap asks for the paddling pool out, for instance, and I might not want to stop what I’m doing, I get up and sort it out for him because I know how it feels to be told “no”, and I don’t want that for him. That is always in my mind. I like your analogy about buildling a life on sand rather than rock, sometimes it does feel like that, very much, especially as you say, in times of crisis. Like you, I also miss the support and nurturing I should have got, but didn’t. And like you, I do feel that I’ve had to teach myself. The only way I can reconcile all that and not let it all drive me crazy is to make sure I am a much, much better parent to my own child. Thanks again for taking the time to share.