What Does Mothering Mean To Us?




What Does Mother Mean To Us?

The term Mother means different things to different people. Maybe our stereotypical view of a mother is an ideal one: a maternal figure who is kind, caring, understanding, fun and helpful, “my rock”?

However, our own experience of our mother may be far from the above description. In reality, our mother may have been many different things at different times perhaps including being: critical, very strict, frightened, unstable, depressed, frightening.


So How Has Our Experience Of Our Mother Affected Us?

Do we copy learnt behaviour from our mother? Or do we try very hard not to be anything like our own mother? How many of us have caught ourselves saying exactly the same thing to our children that our mother said to us?

Freud’s well-known theory of the “compulsion to repeat” says that we unconsciously repeat what happened to us in our childhood. This is fine if we had a mainly positive childhood but not so healthy if we had a more difficult one.

We usually carry on unconsciously repeating our patterns until one day when we realise that things aren’t working well anymore and something needs to change.


What Can We Do About It?

The next step is to figure out what we are doing which is unhealthy. Once we have worked out what we are unknowingly repeating from the past we can then become more aware of what we are doing in the here and now.

Over time, we are able to catch ourselves in the moment, link our understanding of the past to the present and choose to do something different going forwards. This trains our brain with new neural pathways so that we automatically choose a healthier action in the future.


An Example

could be a mum who’s own mother had been depressed when she was a baby. The depressed mother found nurturing her daughter difficult. She struggled to bond with her baby and as a result, the baby did not receive good enough nurturing from her mother.

Over time, the baby found it difficult to trust that her mother understood her feelings and her practical needs so she compensated for this by looking after herself emotionally. The baby grew up without a healthy first relationship and, in turn, went on to find emotional intimacy difficult. Her friendships were superficial and unfulfilling and she chose inappropriate partners. When she herself became a mum she felt very lonely and worried that it was difficult to bond with her baby not wanting him to have the same experience that she did.


Change can happen following insight and/or intervention such as:

  • Talking at an honest, deeper level with our partner or a trusted friend


Being a mum isn’t easy. We can be very hard on ourselves at times and often need to be kinder to ourselves, aiming for “good enough” not perfection.

Taking time out to look objectively at our relationship with our mother can be really helpful. It can give us more understanding of who we are which can improve our relationships with our partner, colleagues, friends, children and, of course, our mothers.




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