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When I first heard the term “mother wound” a few years ago, I didn’t think much of it.
A wound? I’m not hurt. I don’t feel anything painful toward my mother. We’re good!
“Weird term to use,” I thought.
As far as I can remember, I had a good relationship with my mom. She was one of my best friends. We never butted heads too much, even through my tumultuous teen years. I went away to college, and still, I called her up when big and little things happened. As adults, she called me when something was going on in her life. We visited wineries together, enjoyed festivals, and hung out at the beach.
Then, over time yet somehow suddenly, I noticed that I was feeling more and more resentful both before and after our interactions. I would feel tense and stressed leading up to a visit or a phone call. I would get really upset when relaying some of the things my mother said or did back to my partner, as if saying them out loud made them even more inappropriate and unacceptable. I found myself advising her on her problems as if I was the parent and she was the child.
I hated that I felt responsible for keeping her happy and making sure she didn’t feel lonely or left out. It was exhausting.
It started to seep into my consciousness that something was not right about this feeling toward my mother. Why was I having such a strong reaction to her words and actions?
Is this normal?
So, as a true lifelong learner and questioner, I started to dig a little deeper to get to the root of the issue.
Looking back, I was always a mature kid, or “wise beyond my years” as they say. I typically hung out with the adults at any function or took on the “mother role” in any situation. I was always the “work mom” despite not having any children of my own yet. I always made sure that everyone else was taken care of first. I didn’t want to let anyone down, yet I was constantly being let down by friends, family, coworkers, and partners.
Later, as an adult, my relationships took on an eerie resemblance to my mother’s relationships with both my father and her subsequent boyfriends over the years. Just like she did, I saw great potential in the men I dated; I wanted to “fix” them and somehow make them be who I envisioned they could be.
In my mind, if only I could love them hard enough, show them that I was worth it, they might return some of that love back to me. I was emotionally and financially abused in these toxic relationships through my late teen years into my mid-20s.
After college, my career took a lot of twists and turns from my original plan to become an elementary teacher. I had worked in every industry, from education to retail management to health care to food and beverage, and everything in-between—then currently, to entrepreneurship and coaching.
Until recently, I always felt like I was searching for some big purpose, going from job to job, sometimes working three or five gigs at a time rather than one full-time job, and feeling like a total failure because I didn’t stick to the traditional road map to life.
Instead of finding meaningful work that I was proud of, I just felt I was never good enough in any role (until I found coaching).
The mother wound just kept showing up and manifesting itself, even though at the time, I didn’t have the words or awareness to explain what I was going through.
I’m 32 years old, a successful adult. I create my own income, I’m in a loving relationship with my partner of five years, and I have great friends, hobbies, and a happy home.
Everything was starting to finally fall into place, but there was always this feeling of being on the verge of something more for me.
Plot twist: that “thing” was me, plus my own mother wound healing.
I learned what the mother wound really was, not just in theory, but how it was affecting me personally.
The underlying feeling of unworthiness, the relationships with men who needed mothering, the codependence, the perfectionism…anything that had “gone wrong” in my life I could trace back to the mother wound.
Such a sigh of relief when I could finally put words to the disconnection I had been experiencing for my entire life.
I spent so many years feeling like I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be.
I spent so much time and energy trying to figure out my “why” and trying to “find my purpose.”
The realization that the mother wound was much bigger than me—and also that I alone had all the power to heal it—brought me so much clarity and peace.
How to stop the bleeding.
The first thing that I had to make peace with was understanding that my mother was not to blame for all of my pain and suffering. Although, instinctively, that was naturally my first reaction.
(Fortunately, working through my own healing has taught me that even my instinct to blame her is a manifestation of the mother wound.)
The mother wound exists in a much broader sense than simply my biological mother’s mothering skills or lack thereof. According to Bethany Webster, author of Discovering the Inner Mother (highly recommended), it’s a personal, generational, spiritual, and even planetary wound.
Finally, to be able to confirm that yes, what I’ve been experiencing has a name, and no, it’s not my responsibility to mother or coach or heal my own mother was like a giant weight lifted from my shoulders—an extremely heavy load I had been carrying around for far too long.
My relationship with my mother has changed—or reconfigured, if you will.
In fact, I was very open about my choice to explore healing the mother wound, and my mother ended up completely misunderstanding my intent, took it extremely personally, and reacted poorly to that conversation. I had to remind myself that it’s not my responsibility to manage her emotions or reactions. We are still close, but there’s a bit of a space between us that feels strange but right, for now.
I had to learn how to mother myself and give my inner child the love, attention, and care that I did not get from my mother.
I set up boundaries by deciding what was acceptable communication and behavior from her and what would be inappropriate, and even though it was difficult to break the pattern, I stuck to them.
I released the blame and responsibility I felt toward my mother, and I took responsibility for my own capability to heal my relationship with her.
This process has brought me to tears more than I can count. And just like an actual physical wound, it may reopen again, bleed some more, or leave a scar.
That’s okay, because I know I will eventually get to a place where it’s just part of my story.
It became less about what my mother did or didn’t do “right,” or even trying to get her to understand the mother wound, and more about accepting and taking responsibility for my own role in the process—what I could do, daily, in the moments, in my own little way, to make my life, society, and the world better.
Healing the mother wound for the sake of my future family, that I’m creating with my future husband so that my future children will never feel the sense of disconnection to self and not-good-enough-ness that I felt. That way, they would never have to go through life being the parent when they should be the child.
No daughter or son of mine should ever feel that they aren’t worthy of love…that’s my “why.”
That’s why I will always continue working to stop the mother wound from bleeding and repeating, and heal.