The Hidden Pain of Not Having a Healthy Mother

raised by wolves

Okay, I am not literally talking about being an orphan. What I mean by “not having a mother” is when your parents are physically or emotionally absent. Maybe you were a latchkey kid. Maybe you had a helicopter mom. This can happen if your mom was preoccupied with a sick child, parent, or spouse. If your parents were mentally ill, had substance abuse issues, were workaholics, or were children of dysfunctional families and just didn’t know how to be healthy adults or parents, that could also qualify.

I am surprised at how dismissive mainstream society is about the value of healthy parenting. I see so many people who were neglected who don’t know they were neglected so they don’t see how harmful that was. Some don’t see their own parenting style as harmful. So, let’s look at some of the impacts of not having a mother.

Impacts of Poor Parenting

  • poorer health outcomes at all ages (lowered immune system, digestion, etc.)
  • uncertainty/low confidence/anxiety/indecisiveness
  • low self-esteem
  • more likely to engage in drug use
  • more likely to engage in early sex
  • loneliness
  • more likely to engage in criminal behavior
  • unable to emotionally regulate because they haven’t seen that behavior modeled. Being out of control seems normal.
  • unstable romantic relationships
  • unhealthy friendships or no friends, being or feeling rejected by others
  • feeling worthless
  • more likely to have a low paying job
  • negativity or feeling that the worst is going to happen
  • hypervigilance, can’t relax
  • sadness
  • guilt
  • shame
  • overachieving
  • super responsible
  • adaptable

What Can You Do About It?

First, don’t blame your parent or yourself. It’s over. It happened. Now it’s time to heal. Blame keeps you in a space of wanting something to be different, and you can’t heal from there. It also puts the responsibility of healing in someone else’s lap. Nobody can heal you but you.

Now, acceptance and forgiveness is easier said than done. So if you need help with that, there are many therapy techniques that can make this quicker and easier. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process.

Second, deal with the trauma. The anxiety, depression, insomnia, shame, and hyperviligance are all trauma responses. I know many people don’t think of having a helicopter mom or being a latchkey kid as traumatizing. You probably weren’t beaten and had enough food, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that you didn’t feel safe, valued, or loved. So your nervous system was overloaded. That’s traumatic. You don’t have to have been in fear for your life to have a dysregulated nervous system.

Third, learn the skills that you didn’t get as a child. It’s never too late to learn social skills, healthy boundaries, self care, or how to self regulate. In an ideal world, we are taught that at home when we are children. In a less than ideal world, we learn it when we can. You’re never too damaged to heal and have a happy, functional life.

Parenthood is sacred. Unfortunately, in modern society so many children in all socioeconomic levels are not getting the nurturing they need to become fully functioning adults. When that happens, we may have to start where we are so we can break the cycle.

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