This morning I was tagged in a thread on Facebook in which someone shared an article about why unloved daughters struggle to escape shame. Several women commented that this had been (and in some cases still is) their experience.

“This is my personal story. I wish I had a mother that loved me. I’ve always been to blame. It’s a sad reality.”

And several others sort of tut-tutted (this is my interpretation) about how sad it must be. A pall fell over the conversation (also my interpretation).

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Given my work, it’s not surprising that I hear things like this:

“My mother doesn’t love me.”

“My daughter hates me.”

“My mother has told me she wishes she didn’t have kids and wonders what her life would have been like if she didn’t have me.”

“I don’t understand what I did wrong.”

“My mother told me she thinks her life would have been so much better if she hadn’t had children. It feels like she’s saying she wishes I was dead.”

The pain and suffering are palpable. And understandable.

I’ve written about this before (Do [Did] You Ever Question Your Mother’s Love For You?) and (This Is How Peaceful Daughter’s Call Each Other In) because I want to help women stop suffering (if that’s what they want for themselves).

But there’s something else that bothers me…the idea that it’s a “sad reality” if a mother can’t or won’t love her daughter. As if it’s etched in stone and, as a result, the daughter’s capacity for joy and potential will remain stunted for the rest of her life. She becomes someone who is pitied.

Don’t get me wrong: I know the pain of wondering if my mother loves me. I know what it’s like to grow up in an environment saturated in shame. I know the pain of being rejected by my mother. I know that PTSD from growing up with Adverse Childhood Experiences is real. I know the oddly satisfying feeling of being pitied.

And? I also know – like really know deep in my bones and in my cells – that I have an infinite capacity for joy and that my potential is equally as infinite.

And so do you.

While there is certainly room in my life for sadness, and I welcome grief when it’s needed, my life is far from a sad reality. That wasn’t always the case. For many years I thought, “There will forever be something wrong, or not quite right, with me and my life.”

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The logical part of our brains say things like, “I understand that my mother’s feelings and regrets have nothing to do with me and my worth,” and yet the little girl part feels hurt. Maybe even tremendous hurt. Of course!! Maybe the logical part is trying to protect the hurt part.
In the book Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening by Martha Beck, the main character, Diana, was abandoned at birth by her mother, who put her in a garbage dumpster. She was eventually adopted by an abusive couple and she ran away. In a fantastical story, Diana meets Herself, a very smart wild boar.

“The mirror image of suffering is the truth. Try it. Change the story. Change the course of your entire history. Right now,” Herself says.

“You want me to lie about my past?” Diana asks, wiping tears from her face with the back of her hand.

“No, tell the story a truer way,” says Herself. “Any story can be told infinite ways, dear, but listen to me. Listen well. If a story liberates your soul, believe it. But if a story imprisons you, believe its mirror image. Use language to free and wild yourself, not keep you tame and in bondage.”

Diana used to believe: “They left me because I was a stupid piece of garbage.”

The mirror opposite? “I left them. Because I am a brilliant, beautiful treasure.”

Diana used to believe: “I wasn’t good enough to have parents.”

The mirror opposite? “I was too good to have parents.”

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“All I needed from my parents was to bring me into this amazing world to experience my own life! I’m so emotionally and intuitively deep they couldn’t possibly begin to nurture me the way I needed. I had to leave them so I could grow into the woman I want to be.” ~ a daughter who has changed the course of her history, which includes a mother who told her, more than once, “I never wanted kids and I wish I never had them. My life would have been so much better.”

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Would it be better if mothers didn’t say things like that? Would it be better if women who felt that way didn’t have kids in the first place?

Really, the question is, how can we challenge, dismantle, and heal internalized misogyny?

Getting back to that thread on Facebook this morning…

I responded, but not fully. Not with the fire of what I know to be true. What I wanted to do is jump up and down and say, exuberantly:

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!

I chose not to have children and I can tell you right now that if I’d had the child I was carrying at age 21, I’d have some regrets. I might wish I hadn’t had her. And? I might even have told her so. I have done enough shadow work to know that I am capable of being mean and horrible.

Having a mother who can’t or won’t love you doesn’t have to be a sad reality. You are not doomed. It’s not a given, even though we’re programmed by society to judge both mothers and daughters when they have a relationship that is considered “less than.” And then, because we don’t know what else to say, we reply, “how sad.”

Nope. Not going to do it.

I am taking this stand with you. 

Because I am not willing to let you be a lesser version of yourself.

P.S. This doesn’t mean tolerating abusive or dysfunctional behavior. That’s what boundaries are for.

“If we don’t own our own evil, we will always project it elsewhere and attack it there. Only people who recognize their own evil, or at least their complicity in evil, stop this unconscious scapegoating pattern. Their experience of radical union with God makes it possible for them to own their own shadow, their own capacity for evil, and not need to hate it in other people. Fully conscious people do not scapegoat; unconscious people do almost nothing else.” ~ Richard Rohr (with thanks to Monical Herald)

 

Pssst…O Magazine, pay attention to this.