“Mothers do not have a monopoly of love in the world, nor should it be asked of them. Anyone claiming such a monopoly is likely to be suffering from tunnel vision.” - Jacqueline Rose
Here at the Mother Wound Project, we’re always receiving thoughtful messages over on Instagram and in our Facebook group from you with all sorts of great questions. Since way back in 2017 when we first got started, we’ve been answering your questions about all things mother wound and self-centered, entitled, absent, and abusive moms individually, but then one day in 2021 we had a lightbulb moment. “Why not put together a list of the most frequently asked questions right here on the blog?!”
This blog post is the result of that light bulb moment. Now why it took me four years to figure out that a mother wound FAQ was worth having, well I can’t even begin to tell you. But hey, a good idea is still a good idea no matter how late it arrives, so without any further ado I present to you the mother wound FAQs!
FAQ #1: “What is the mother wound?”
The mother wound is an umbrella term that refers to all the pain and sometimes (but not always) trauma that children of all ages (including adults) experience from their mom. The mother wound can occur in childhood or adulthood. While it's most common for the mother wound to occur in both childhood and adulthood, it's not unusual for it to occur in only one or the other.
FAQ #2: "Is the mother wound the same thing as having a narcissistic mother?"
It’s important to know that the mother wound is not another term for having a narcissistic mother. While some have mistaken the mother wound to be something only children of narcissistic mothers can have, this is a misnomer. In reality, narcissistic mothers make up only a subset of the mothers who cause the mother wound. Other moms who cause the mother wound include:
Emotionally unavailable moms
FAQ #3: "What type of mom causes the mother wound?"
There's no single "type" of mother who causes her children to have the mother wound. Mothers who are capable of harming their children come in all different shapes and sizes. For example, the self-centered mother who under-mothers can cause her child to have the mother wound just as much as the verbally abusive mother who name calls. Both mothers are harmful mothers, albeit in different ways.
The one thing all mothers who cause the mother wound have in common is that they fail in one or more ways to properly care for their children. Our research here at the Mother Wound Project has shown that these mothers demonstrate at least one or more of the following 24 characteristics.:
Low to no empathy
FAQ #4: “Is the mother wound something only women can have?”
Just this week during a session a new client—we'll call him Joe—asked me, “Is it okay that I’m here? I’m not a daughter or a woman or a mother myself, but I relate with absolutely everything the MWP posts about the mother wound.”
Without even a pause my answer to Joe was, “Yes of course it’s okay you’re here. The mother wound can impact anyone regardless of gender, and I’m glad you’re here in counseling getting the help you need and very much deserve.”
Anyone can have the mother wound
While this was my first time speaking with Joe, it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been asked if there was enough space in the mother wound community for people who don’t identify as women. This misconception that in order to have the mother wound someone needs to be a woman just could not be any further from the truth.
Unlike us humans, the mother wound does not discriminate on the basis of gender. Anyone who has a mother is at risk of having the mother wound. This is due to the simple fact that the mother-child relationship begins (like all other parent-child relationships) with an inherent imbalance of power.
Our society values mothers more than children
It’s an incontestable fact in our hierarchical society that we value mothers more than children. For just one example, consider physical assault in the UK, Canada, and the US. In all three countries it is against the law to hit a mother, but perfectly legal for a mother to hit her child. If we valued mothers and children equally, it would be illegal to physically assault mothers AND children.
When mothers matter more this matters for all
Some would have us believe that this society-sanctioned power imbalance between mothers and children is inconsequential and therefore not worthy of discussion as it exists “only for a short period of time.” Three problems with this argument:
Two years shy of two decades is NOT a short amount of time.
Would those adults making this claim also want to wait 18 years to address their own needs (e.g. get a divorce)?
The power imbalance directly coincides with the most critical points in human development (i.e. years 0-18).
Even if it could be successfully argued that valuing children less than mothers is ethical and moral up until a child turns 18 (it can’t be), we still would need to contend with adult children's memory. The human brain doesn’t go a certain number of times around the sun and suddenly forget being treated as less than.
Our minds and our bodies will always remember what it felt like in those first almost two decades of our lives to be seen as less human than our mothers. And then there’s the fact that some of our mothers become even more abusive when both popular opinion and law no longer deem them overlords.
The quick answer to the no-contact question is this: Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. That’s super unsatisfying. I totally get it. But hear me out.
No such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution
As we’ve already discussed, no two mother wounds are exactly alike. This is because there isn’t one set “type” of dysfunctional mother who causes the mother wound. This means that while there are similarities and overlaps, every mother wound is ultimately unique. And so it only makes sense that the path to healing the mother wound can’t be the same for everyone either.
Finding what’s best for you
What’s right for you to heal your mother wound won’t necessarily be best for someone else and vice versa. Just like with so many other complex things in life, mother wound recovery really does come down to figuring out what’s right for you.
For some mother wound survivors going no contact with their mom is absolutely necessary to their healing. For others, a limited form of contact works much better. And then there are those who don’t need to reduce their contact with their mom at all. Typically these are the people whose moms are making the decision to hold themselves accountable and heal alongside them.
Ultimately, the no-contact decision is a very personal one, and you’ll need to do what works best for you. In the meantime, steer clear of any professionals who would have you believe there’s only one right way to go about healing your mother wound.
FAQ #6: “Is forgiveness necessary for healing the mother wound?”
Just like with the decision to go no contact, the decision to forgive one’s mother is an intensely personal one. At the end of the day, how much of a role (if any) forgiveness will play in your mother wound healing journey comes down to one key question: What does forgiveness mean to you?
We don’t all define forgiveness the same way
If I were to ask ten different people how they define forgiveness I would get ten different answers. For some, forgiveness means allowing the feelings regarding the offense to come and go and then moving forward. For others, it means not talking about what happened in the past and reconciling fully with whoever hurt them.
As a clinician, I would be doing a disservice to my clients if I were to assume they use the word forgiveness to mean the same thing I do when I use it. My goal isn’t to convince anybody of some universally correct definition of forgiveness (as if I could be the authority on such a thing anyway) but to meet people where they’re at.
How do you conceptualize forgiveness?
How my clients conceptualize forgiveness determines what role forgiveness needs to play in their mother wound recovery. The same is true for you. Questions I ask my clients that you can ask yourself include:
What do I believe forgiveness looks like?
Do I value being forgiven by others? Why?
What do I believe it means to not forgive someone?
Do I think of forgiveness and reconciliation as the same thing or as two different things?
FAQ #7: “Do people who have the mother wound always hate their moms?”
Some people who have the mother wound report experiencing strong feelings of hate towards their mothers. And then some people who have the mother wound report never experiencing any feelings of hate towards their mothers. How people who have the mother wound feel about their mothers varies widely from person to person.
You don’t have to hate your mom to have the mother wound
Relationships are complicated, so it only makes sense that our feelings about the people we’re in relationships with can be complicated too. This is especially true when the relationship in question is as complex as the one we have with our mother.
Despite what our cultural norms would have us believe, the reality is that people—mother wound or not—feel all sorts of feelings about their moms. How you feel about your mom is 100% valid regardless of how anyone else happens to feel about theirs.