To the Moms Who Didn’t Have a Mom …

To the Moms Who Didn't Have a Mom ...

I’d love to reach out to all the moms out there who maybe didn’t have a mom. Or at least not the kind you’d ever call Mom. You didn’t have a Mom who would put a band-aid on your knee when you fell skating, or maybe you never even got to skate with her. You didn’t have the kind of Mom you could go to when you broke your ceramic candlestick in second grade, or when your friend didn’t invite you to her sleepover party, or when you got your period. She wasn’t there for you – at least not in the way you needed – when you got married, and she certainly wasn’t there for you when the baby came helping teach you how to nurse, doing the extra laundry and getting some groceries.

And yet, here you are, grown up, with a family all your own. Now YOU are Mom. And maybe sometimes it feels confusing. How do you lead someone down a path on which no one ever lead you? It can feel like you are carrying the weight of not just the childhood you want to give your child, but also the weight of the childhood you never had but always longed for. And now that magical childhood is here but it’s someone else’s – your child’s. And weirdly you find yourself jealous sometimes. How come they get this amazing care you never did? And sometimes you find yourself at a loss. Wanting to give them just the right kind of leadership and love but quite literally not knowing what to do. It’s not in your bones. No one ever put it there.

What you need to know is this … You were worthy of love always. You were worth band-aids and Kleenex and messy kitchens full of birthday dinners and all of it. And if you didn’t get it, it’s not because of you. It’s because maybe your Mom never got it and didn’t know how to pass it on. Maybe she was ill and couldn’t. Maybe she was working to make ends meet and didn’t have the support she needed to give you what you needed. Chances are she probably needed a lot more help and support too.

See, we aren’t meant to walk this journey alone. And when we try to, everyone suffers. And yet, we have this idea that we will somehow just know how to parent. That loving our children automatically comes with the ability to parent them. But as with most things in life, parenting is something we learn. Either we learn it as a child, receiving the love and care in such a way that we are able to pass it on because in our bones we know it. Or we know it in our hearts but not in our bones, and then we have to learn how to transmit it. Or, some of us are busy unlearning what we learned so we can re-learn something new entirely.

Learning is no shame. It is an honor, a bravery. An act of courage that says I know what I got, but I am more than that. I have a dream in my heart that is bigger than my reality. And I am going to be brave enough to learn how to make it happen. I am going to rewrite that which was written down before me and handed to me. I will make it my story, and then it will be my children’s. And they will make it theirs.

So if this is you, please know that you aren’t alone. And that if it is not all coming naturally, be kind to yourself. It is simply an invitation to go inside, get clear on what you do want your life to look like. What kind of mom do you want to be, regardless of what you were handed? Because it is possible to rewrite the future. And in so doing, you also get to heal the past.


About the author: Abigail Wald

Abigail is the mom of two terrific guys, 8 and 10. She assumed she would know how to parent them just because she loved them, and was surprised to learn that love is not enough, and that parenting lovingly and effectively actually requires a set of skills you can learn! After many years of research, these days she is a certified Hand in Hand Parenting Consultant. She is deeply passionate about sharing these amazing and counterintuitive tools with parents and loves that they are as supportive to the parents as they are to the kids! She can be reached at RealTimeParenting.com. She is kind, funny, and honest, and will give you a free 15 minutes any day to listen to your story and help in whatever way she can. 

7 Comments

Linda

Thank you, I grew up in foster care and none of the “mother’s” were motherly.

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Sim

So very beautiful written. I got goosebumps when I ready I was worthy of love always.

You nailed it – How very odd that sometimes I feel jealous of the great childhood that I’m creating for my wonderful children.

How painful it is sometimes to remember I never went skating, shopping for clothes or to the movies with my mum but I also tell a better story now. The lack in my childhood has meaning now.

It made me desire to give my children the best I could and while she never put a bandaid on my knee, that also made me much stronger and self reliant.

I try and balance the two extremes with my own children. I show them unconditional love, support and fun but also the ability to find their own strength from backing away when it’s just a bandaid they need. Sometimes I swing from one extreme to the other but that’s OK. I dont be perfect.

You see I’m not only self soothing here but reminding anyone reading this that being there for our children and bonding with them can be enough.

I use articles like these to see where I’m at. So far I’m feeling great about my role as mum. I hope I end up like the mum above ^^^ who’s wonderful mothering created a new cycle of happiness and hopefully will give my daughters some kind of understanding what they can achieve as a mother in the future. They have the blue print now and I’m sure they will get better and better as the generations are created.

The new cycle started with us ladies (and gents). Be very proud.

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Lisa

Thank you for your article. I suffered not only from unloving parents.. Because I never knew what real love is.. I married a man who just like my parents for 29 years.
Now I am still trying to amend my relationship with my young adult kids. It is never to late to learn how to show love from your heart and I still believe that I will be loved and experience the true love relationship in the future.

Reply
Judy

This hit me so hard! I would have loved to hear these words when I was raising my children. As a mother who didn’t have a mother emotionally – sometimes I was at a loss when raising my own children. I did know however that I couldn’t go very wrong if I did everything with a loving heart. I now have two adult children who are raising their children and I couldn’t be more proud of the job I did and they job they are doing! Thank- you for your wise words – may they help another motherless mother raising children today!

Reply
Melissa

Thank you so much for your response you took the words right of my head. I am raising 4,8,10,12. I find it reassuring that although I am clueless most often my heart is full of love and that is enough

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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