I was woefully undermothered as a child. My mother was woefully undermothered as a child. My mother’s mother was woefully undermothered as a child. These wounds run deep. When I had a daughter I went into hyper-mother mode as proof that I was OK.
I wasn’t OK.
I was drawing from a dry well and, due to general low self-esteem and an isolating relationship with my children’s father, I had no support system to draw from. No circle of wise women who wanted me and my children to thrive. I didn’t know what thriving looked like or how to achieve it. What I did find was the Internet and a global circle of women who were starting to name their mutual wounds; shame, guilt, abuse, neglect. I found great relief in the initial high of realizing that I wasn’t crazy or alone, followed by the inevitable heartache felt when I looked at the new, darker rabbit hole of understanding that our childhood horrors are somehow normal.
We bonded through our births, through deaths, through diapers, and holidays. I basically lived on a couple of groups and after a while, I started a couple of groups. I had a very enjoyable Yahoo Group called Empowered Childbirth that taught me how to support women as they make their own choices. I thought I knew a lot about mothering. I didn’t. I still don’t.
As an unmothered mother, I felt trapped with children that brought out both the best and the worst in me. Any admission that I couldn’t care for three children and myself and my husband sent me into turbo-shame cycles because I was behaving in the worst possible way, I was “acting like my mother”.
Back and forth between love and shame, despair and joy.
I didn’t know how to hold my teenager and tell her that everything was going to be all right.
I didn’t know how to teach my boys to communicate their feelings and needs instead of calling each other names and blaming each other for everything wrong in the world.
I didn’t know how to appreciate and compliment my children because no one had ever really complimented me.
It’s taken me a long time to recognize my personal mother wound and claim my experience as an undermothered daughter. My own daughter will never recognize hers. My biggest regret in life is undermothering my daughter who took her own life at the age of 23. Few things in life prepare you for the impact of realizing that you missed all of your child’s cries for help. It rocks the very foundation of our identity as parents, but especially mothers.
So my world is shattered, my support is nonexistent, my surviving children are still suffering from a lifetime of neglect and undermothering. What can I do?
I’m calling it Dynamic Remothering, but Ben thinks that term is dumb. It’s intensive emotional mothering therapy. I’m slowly unlocking the mother within me by mothering myself as if I were the Divine Mother herself (which, technically we all are, depending on your perspective). It’s tedious and challenging but it’s absolutely worth it.