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Happy Mother’s Day! Or is it?

By Rachel Parodneck, LCSW

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, the topic of mothers may be at the forefront of your mind. This may spark a flurry of mixed emotions. Many people have a complicated relationship with their mother. If you’re lucky, you have had a caring and loving mother. That’s not the case with all and it can wreak havoc on your life as an adult.

During the formative years, we develop an attachment style based on our relationship with our primary caregiver. The most important tenet is that young children need to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for normal social and emotional development. If that relationship was a safe and loving one, a person would develop a secure attachment style. This is the exact opposite for fractured or abusive relationships. They can set the tone for much of our adult lives, especially relationships. Without a secure attachment growing up, this can lead to a distorted perception of how relationships work. Check out our article on attachment styles and how they impact our dating life here.

The four attachment styles are:
Secure: trusting, independent but close, and open to expressing affection in confident ways with their partners.
Anxious-preoccupied: needing reassurance from their partners, seeking closeness and intimacy more intensely and often more quickly than their partner is ready.
Dismissive-avoidant: aloof, do not feel comfortable with emotional intimacy, and tend to pull away from close others if they feel hurt or rejected.
Fearful-avoidant: a combination of avoidant and anxious, often confused and giving mixed signals of pushing away and craving more connection.

These can develop due to the caregiver’s poor mental health and/or the prevalence of personality disorders. Many speak about having a narcissistic mother. The old adage of being in therapy because of one’s mother rings true here.

If you have a healthy relationship with your mother or primary caregiver, great! If not, we have some tips for you:

1. Set boundaries: with mothers that are overbearing, this can be especially helpful. Don’t be afraid to lay out your needs and set a new precedent in your relationship. For example, if your mother calls and expects to speak for an hour, give her a time limit that you feel you can better handle.

2. Don’t be afraid to take some space: this can be challenging, especially with enmeshed relationships. If your mental health is suffering, it’s very important to step away and reassess what is best for you. This can look like taking a breather and disconnecting from communicating until you feel you are in a headspace to do that.

3. Stand up for yourself: If you are used to a relationship where your needs were never met, it’s not too late to start now. Express yourself! If your mother imposes her beliefs onto you and you strongly disagree, make your voice heard.

4. End the relationship: either temporarily or permanently. Some relationships may never mend and the best thing you can do for yourself is to step away. Although that could be the most painful choice, if your relationship with your mother seems unsalvageable, this might be the only option for optimal mental health.

5. Reach out to others for support: For many, their mothers may never be their primary source of support. Much as that hurts, you may need to seek support elsewhere. Diversify your support system. Is there a sibling you feel especially close to? A partner who is there after a long day? A best friend you cherish? Reach out to them instead when you need support.

6. Go to therapy! Seeking help from a professional is often the best thing you can do for yourself to process your emotions about your mother and truly heal. You can book an appointment with one of our amazing therapists here!

Protecting yourself and your mental health is key in unhealthy relationships with a mother or caregiver. That may mean implementing one or all of the tips above. For more ways to cope, speak to your therapist about positive coping skills and additional self-care tips.