May 18, 2024

The Mother Wound

The topic of mothering, the womb, birth, and creation have captured us throughout time. The reason the mother archetypes have been studied throughout history is that all life has been born through a mother. The id, ego, superego, the inner-child, and all theories of psychology that give you understanding of who you are and why you do what you do will find roots in your mother.

Our mother, or mother figure, is arguably the most powerful influence on our emotional existence. The connection to our mother is so profound — she is the first touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight we experience in this life. She is the life force from which we grew into this vessel that carries us through the world. Whether or not you have a relationship with your mother, her DNA and womb were your first understanding of home and love. This means that our relationships with our mothers began before we were even born; therefore, we have no control over them. 

The ability for our mother to be present and to take care of herself plays a vital role in defining safety to connect and receive love as a child. According to the attachment theory, secure matriarchal love and attachment, or lack thereof, is shaped from infancy to 24 months. As my belly grows in love each day, my attachment to this baby girl also grows, as does her connection to me. I have learned through my own healing path that my ability to be present as a mother in those first 24 months will directly affect the rest of her life and how she forms relationships. Our attachment is rarely found to be solely secure, but rather can be viewed on a spectrum and varied depending on your absorption and connection to your caregivers. 

As a young mother, I placed a lot of focus on hurrying back to work in order to secure a financially safe existence for my children. Now, as a 41-year-old remarried widow that is currently pregnant, I have learned that some of my choices were rooted in false senses of security. I have also learned where my own mother’s subconscious inner child wounds were handed on to me. I then, in full love, worked to swing the pendulum so far away from my center and parent to prevent what I found to be painful from my own childhood experience. The thing about attachment to our mother is our deep visceral need for them to love us and connect with us. Even after they pass away, we pine for their love and affection. The space between needing their love and what they are capable of giving to us is where all of our emotional security or baggage is created. 

After the loss of my first husband, my daughter and I went to parent-child interaction therapy, a trauma-based play therapy. During our sessions, I learned that children need for their parents to spend 30 seconds to a minute reflecting back on their actions without criticism or telling them what to do while playing. This helps them feel connection and love. So, for example, while you color together, you might say, “I see you are using the red crayon there.” The fundamentals of this is to form communication in a setting that they can get on board with (aka playing) where you acknowledge them without judgment or correction. I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to do this very simple task. At the time, our family life was so out of control and I wanted so desperately to keep my children safe and to control their environment. I wanted them to be okay. And I also wanted other people to see them as okay, not as the “poor kids” who just lost their dad. This formed a subconscious pressure for them to be perfect. My oldest responded with an emotional spectrum that ranged from pushing himself to the limit to a full freeze response when he felt like he could not be perfect. My youngest was energetic and often acted out with impulsivity and anger when others tried to control her. I put a decent amount of blame on cancer, but in reality, the pressure most likely came from me. 

We want to keep our children from pain, harm, and suffering. That is an instinct that we cannot shake. But, the truth is, to provide secure love, we need to create space for them to experience all of their emotions and to stay regulated on their own. We have to hold space for them to fail. We have to love them for who they are, not who we think we need them to be. To do this, we have to block the societal and other external pressures to be “a good mother,” and parent the way our individual children need us to parent. We have to provide safety and basic needs with love and connection being the goal. We need to  remove the pressures of perfection in our homes and our children’s behavior. We aren’t in control of preventing them from experiencing hurt in the world, but we can help them navigate the hurt that comes their way.

As a widow with grieving children, and now being remarried and pregnant, I am often aware that my mind post-loss/trauma no longer fits into the average mother mindset. I refuse to parent from a space of guilt and fear. No matter how strongly those emotions pull me, I do not allow them to be the deciding factor for how I set the boundaries and rules for our children. My goal is to create a home that is safe for all of my children to be loved for who they are, not who I want them to be. That means that hiding who they are from me is not encouraged. I want to see all the flaws, lies, and decisions they make no matter how much they scare the hell out of me. I find that honesty from our kids is something we say we value, but as mothers we often create an environment where they cannot tell us the truth of who they really are and still be safe and loved. My grief and reawakening have freed me from anxieties that many other parents feel; and because of that, I don’t judge parents for making decisions that are different than my own. 

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