Unmothered Daughters

Guest Post by Susan Tolles

It was last year when I heard the term “unmothered daughters” for the first time. It made me shiver and brought a flood of memories about my own mother and the volatile relationship we’d had.

Adopted as an infant, I never connected with my adoptive mother. I had a great childhood and most everything I needed growing up in small townEast Texas. An only child, I often wished for siblings. I remember asking my mother why they didn’t get me a brother or sister. She said they were so happy with me that they never really thought about it. My best friend was also an only child, and we grew up together like sisters.

My mother and I had a typical relationship until I became a teenager. As hormones kicked in and I started thinking about deeper things, I realized I really didn’t have much in common with her. We fought often, and I resented that she wasn’t my “real” mother. I know she loved me in her way, but her own life growing up in a family riddled with depression had not provided a good model for parenting. I remember times when she’d have an outburst in public, making me even angrier at her. I could hardly wait to leave home for college. I moved away as a 17-year-old freshman and never returned.

After I married Jim, we began attendingFirstBaptistChurchinHouston. For the first time I saw what relationships grounded in faith looked like. The Sunday School teacher in our Newlywed Class was deeply interested in our spiritual growth as couples. We were surrounded by Christian friends, many of whom we still see often. The pulpit teaching was powerful. A tidbit from one particular sermon would profoundly impact the mother I was to become.

I don’t remember what the sermon was about, but I do remember vividly the picture that Brother John painted while describing his wife’s close relationship with their daughter. They spent time together lying across the daughter’s bed in the evenings, talking for hours as the mother shared God’s love and wisdom. They shopped together and went on trips, just the two of them.

That morning I vowed to be that kind of mother, one who would have such a close relationship to God and her daughter that joy would be inevitable.

My own two daughters asked me once, “How did you turn out to be the mother you did with the mother you had?” I told them I knew what I didn’t want, and that I’d seen what I wanted to be reflected in the women who surrounded me as a young bride. Sometimes our childhood experiences shape us in unexpected ways, and we resolve to be better than what we’ve seen.

There are many “unmothered daughters” in the world. Some have been orphaned, some have had to grow up too early in single-parent homes, and some have been overlooked in families overflowing with children. Many of us have not had the nurturing love of a gentle, kind mother, but all of us have seen (or at least read about) a godly mother. The key word is “godly”—one who puts God first, then spends her life taking care of her children as they grow into young adults. Whether she stays at home or has a career, the mother of a “mothered daughter” passes on her rich legacy and is loved for what she has given of herself, not for her accomplishments.

I now anxiously await the arrival of my first grandchild in September, a little girl. I will take great joy in watching my own daughter become a mother to her precious baby. I will be by her side to guide her when needed, but I have full confidence that she will be a godly mother, nurturing her own daughter with the love and devotion that I gave her.

With God’s help, I will do everything I can to leave no “unmothered daughters” in my own legacy.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.  Proverbs 31: 10,28


 P.S. We’d love to know your thoughts; be sure to share in the comments section below. This month we will draw TEN winners from our commenters and the winners will receive one of these two  books, Hope for a Hurting Heart or To Let You Know I Care by our featured author this month, Cheryl Karpen


Susan Tolles is an Expert in Midlife Reinventions who inspires and equips women around the world to flourish in midlife and beyond.  As a Certified Dream Coach®, website creator and published author, Susan helps women celebrate and enrich their true inner and outer beauty as they live life to the fullest.  Her website FlourishOver50.com gives them the resources and tools to radiate outer beauty with style, health and balance. Her Midlife Reinventions Road Trip in a Red Convertible™ and Powerful Me™ programs teach women how to live more purposeful, soul-driven lives as they flourish from the inside out. Susan would love for you to contact her at susan@flourishover50.com

Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)

21 thoughts on “Unmothered Daughters

  1. I hope and pray that my daughter (who is expecting her first child, a son) can be a more Godly mother than I was for her. She is on the right path, and I hope and pray with all that I am, that the depression so prevalent in our family will pass her by and she can parent him with joy, with hope, with the grace of God, and she won’t find herself in the same black hole that has surrounded me for so much of her life.

  2. There are no guarantees in life though. I had a horrible relationship with my mother as she did not want me. She would have had an abortion had it been legal. I made a promise that when I had children I would love them with every ounce of my being…I have 2 sons and 1 daughter that I poured my live into and my daughter and I are not close.

    It hurts so much and I pray that one day our relationship can change…

  3. I’ve never heard the phrase “unmothered daughter” before, but that is what I am. I appreciate the phrase – because giving something a name always helps me understand it better. I am an unmothered daughter. My mother was mentally ill, severely depressed, and unattached to her children. We grew up with no experience of nuture, connection, protection, encouragement, or love. My mother was abusive in her language and touch, and unavailable emotionally. Even though I’m in my 50’s, I still ache with missing having had an attached/interested/loving mom. Her legacy is sad. She did not teach her kids how to love or support each other, so I hardly ever hear from my adult siblings – not on birthdays, holidays, or really, at all. Everyone flew the nest, and didn’t want to look back. Though my mother died a year ago, there is not turning to each other for “family.” Interestingly, I could not bear children. We adopted one daughter, and I poured all the mothering I never received into her. She didn’t want it. She resented having been adopted, had an attachment disorder, and left my husband and me in her early twenties. We don’t know where she is. Jesus alone knows the ache, the sorrow, the grief…and the lonliness in this unmothered, “undaughtered” woman. He continues to heal me, encourage me, sustain me, and love me through my husband, His Word, and His Spirit. He is my hope and stay. When my mother died, He spoke to my heart and assured me that the love my mother could never give me in this life I will experience in heaven. I will see her whole. Whole people can love wholly. Until then, my heart is safely tucked away in the heart of Jesus. Most of the time. I still have my ouch times – Mother’s Day is tough. Holidays are tough. But most of the time – I’m resting in Him. Thanks for this great post – the words penetrate my heart because I rarely, rarely read about this. Most mothers/daughters/peers can’t relate – so I never talk about it. Thanks for the opportunity to do so. 🙂

    • Kathy, my heart goes out to you, and I can certainly relate to everything you described. I experienced a powerful beginning on my healing journey last fall, and I am a little more at peace now. Here is an earlier post about that day. http://writewhereithurts.org/2012/02/the-mother-connection/
      I don’t know how women get through the pain without our Heavenly Father’s love and mercy to sustain them. I am grateful that He holds you in the palm of His hand on your tough days, as He does me. We will all be “whole” one day, as you describe, and we will joyfully reunite with our mothers and daughters who have also clung to Him daily. For now, we can cling to each other as sisters in Christ who know what one another is going through. Please feel free to contact me any time if you need to talk to someone who knows how you feel

  4. I, too, was raised by a Mom who was clueless to my needs as her daughter…very into herself and her insecurities…she did not protect me from a Dad who molested me. I vowed to have the kind of relationship with my kids that I never knew and established a new generation of closeness with my daughter that has been wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story with us as I am sure there are many out there who had Moms who never connected with them as they were growing up….Bless You!!!

    • Thank you, Dixie! Having girlfriends on this healing journey is so very important, and it is such a wonderful blessing have the support of this community in my own catharsis. Congratulations on having a warm relationship with your daughter! That itself can heal many wounds.
      Hugs, Susan

  5. Thanks to all of you for the heartfelt comments. For those of you who had loving relationships with your mothers, you are blessed! For those of you who, like me, yearned for that sweet, nurturing love from your mothers, Praise God that He has given us godly women in our lives as role models.
    I asked my daughters this week what is the greatest piece of advice I have given them. They both replied: (1) Family is #1, and more important than money, (2) Love your husband unconditionally, and show him affection in public, and (3) Give generously. I am grateful that they have seen the kind of mother in me that I wanted to be, and that the cycle of “unmothered daughters” has been broken in my legacy.
    I have not included my son in this post, but I hope he has seen in me the kind of woman he wants to marry. I know he will raise his own children in a loving godly home because he loves the Lord, as his father does.
    Most of my posts on this site have been about my mother/birthmother relationships. Thank you, JoAnn and Lisa, for providing this place for healing and renewal.
    Happy Mother’s Day, Everyone!

  6. I knew the minute I first heard I was going to have a baby that more than anything my child would have a sober parent at all times, someone to be there in the middle of the night if he was scared, to call for a ride home anytime no questions asked, to speak his mind and to hate me if he needed to.

    The memories of not being able to wake my mother in the middle of the night made me angry once i realized it was because she had passed out.
    But God is good he changed my mother in ways I can’t even describe from around her 55th birthday she became a believer and lived the faith in an almost fierce way never bending never yielding. I almost turned away but then I realized her faith had saved he physically as well as spiritually and for her to dishonor it in anyway would take her back to perilous times. She prayed before she did everything and trusted that no matter how anything turned out God would turn all things to good.

    • Cindy, how lucky you were to see your mother change. You are a wonderful mother and grandmother! God is so good to teach us through His love and mercy, and I know you are passing it on through your sons.

  7. I ask my husband today at lunch…”So this is what alone feels like?” I am an unmothered and unfathered daughter. I grew up in a family where I was not cherished. I realized recently that I never truly felt loved during my childhood and early young adult life. I am estranged from my parents. They have thrown me away because I cannot take care of them. They only wanted me for what I could do for them. I do have a wonderful husband who loves me and takes care of me. He makes me want to be in this world. Thank you for the post and for giving me the words to describe what I am feeling.

    • Susan, I hope you have found other “mothers” throughout your life to help fill the void. There were several women in my newlywed years who influenced me, and I saw in them what I wanted to be. I have been searching for my birthmother for 20 years and God has not made that connection for me yet. I dream about finally having that mother/daughter closeness that I missed my entire life, but that may not happen. My adoptive father was a kind, generous man and I learned so much from him. I am looking forward to sharing something more “upbeat” next month as we write about fathers! So far, all of my posts have certainly fit right in with “Write Where It Hurts,” and I have experienced healing and forgiveness through allowing the words to flow through me from God. I highly recommend journaling for your own journey to wholeness.
      Hugs to you, Susan

    • I have lived such a similar experience it seems. I was adopted, neither one of my parents made me feel loved. I was fed, clothed and not physically or sexually abused. I was verbally put down a lot though , and always made to feel that I didn’t measure up to the dead daughter that they replaced with me. When the best accolades you can give your parents is that they didn’t rape, and beat you and that your physical yet emotional needs were never met. They aren’t winning any parents of the year awards to say the least. As early as the age of 9 years old my friends would say, and I quote. Why does your mother act as if she doesn’t know you?

  8. My brother and I were born to parents who were much too young at the times of our birth, which soon gave way to my father graduating college and pursuing his career in another state and divorcing my mother. We grew up extremely poor with no financial help from my father and my mother essentially had to quit college to raise us. Life was not easy, nor was my mother very loving. We had the bare minimum and I always felt like she resented us. Only giving us what was required, but never giving us hugs, kisses, i love yous. I know life was hard for her and her family wasn’t very supportive either. Fortunately, I was always drawn to God and frequently going to mass by myself. I had a strong faith, but not sure what that all meant at the time. I was a shy girl growing up, not speaking unless spoken to, a people pleaser. When I got married, culture shock was the biggest thing to adjust to at that point, along with trying to establish boundaries with in-laws, etc. Unfortunately I married a very controlling person who showed me little respect and still “listened” to his parents. I had two girls with him, and was quickly undermined by my husband and his family. It quickly became clear that my opinion mattered little and I became greatly depressed. I vowed to be a loving mother to my girls, giving them the love, attention, self-confidence that I never got. Keeping them safe and happy. And despite the familial resistance, I still gave them unforgettable memories, fun and laughter. We did all we could together. I went on every school trip, every school dance, knew all their teachers, friends and friends parents. Unfortunately, after 10 years of depression and counseling, I divorced their father. But most unfortunately, I did it in an instance, a breaking point when I could take no more. So, I didn’t get to explain things to them like I would have liked. They chose to stay with their father in the house they grew up in. My girls were 12 and 14. Since the divorce my relationship with my oldest has suffered the most. Now, she is 19 1/2. She refuses to speak to me. We always had disagreements, she is always full of drama, disrespectful and I didn’t like the young woman she is becomming. She acts and talks like her aunt, her father’s sister, with whom she now lives. Her behavior Is not very becomming and anything I say to her she is just unreasonable and disrespectful to me. She now praises her aunt and how she “loves” her and gives her everything she wants. Its easy for someone to give to their neice or nephew when the parental oblligation doesn’t totally weigh on them. But knowing how this woman spoils her own children terribly, I can just see how my daughter is just being shown that that is what a mother is supposed to do. It saddens me immensely knowing time that this little girl who I gave so much for and to,could be so superficial to just believe she is satisfied with whatever needs her aunt is meeting. I have a very good relationship with my young daughter. So, I mourn my daughter who chooses to ignore my calls or texts, who hasn’t wished me a happy mother’s day, happy birthday or merry christmas in 3 years. Our last conversation was that she felt I didn’t support her at all in what she did. I’m at a loss to what she means by that. I do need healing because I don’t know what to do anymore. I keep praying for her to get away from the devil and see how much love I have and always have had for her. No matter was disagreements arise, you have love of family and respect for each other to resolve the problems. If you could give me any advice, thanks.

  9. I would love to learn more about ministries that are actively reaching out to unmothered daughters. Most of the resources are from new ages sources. I know God cares deeply for unmothered daughters and that Jesus is the answer to our pain. Yet when I go looking for healing I don’t find help from understanding and accepting Christains instead I am often met by unbelief. Most mothered people can’t understand what it feels like to grow up unmothered. I feel this is a area that God wants to move in so what can we do to bring God to the unmothered and heal them like Jesus would.

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