Mothering My Daughter Without a Mother

mothering without a mother

Sharing this piece feels deeply personal and oh-so vulnerable, and yet as I sit here on what would have been my mother’s 59th birthday, it’s what is inside of me and I feel compelled to get it out. 


For as long as I can remember, I have had a mother-wound the size of a gaping cavern, and in almost all ways I have mothered without a mother my entire motherhood. It is an incredibly lonely experience. How do you explain the absence of a living mother to yourself and to others? Although this past with her is quite relevant to my present in so many ways that cannot and will not be ignored, it’s not how I’m going to choose to focus this piece. It feels more important to meet my grief where it presently exists.

My mom died somewhat suddenly in May 2020. Her death had been impending for a couple of years due to poor health, however, I was still surprised by how unexpectedly it came. Since her death, I have had so many complicated emotions. Emotions about our difficult relationship, about the ways in which she did and didn’t mother me, and about the loss of hope for a future, healthy relationship when her death permanently closed that door. 

Desire for connection

What has most surprised me is a recent deep desire to connect with her as two mothers who have lived through raising tween daughters. Being my daughter’s mother has humbled me in ways that I cannot yet put into words – and it has also made me see MY mom through a new lens. I remember my harsh judgment of her feelings, behavior, and general person-hood. As I live through my daughter moving through her own period of harshness and judgment toward me, I feel so much compassion toward my own mom.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the circumstances of my life and my daughter’s life are quite different, which makes it difficult to let go of feeling “justified” in how I treated my mom. However, with this new perspective, I’m seeing that despite my knowledge of this being normal adolescent behavior, and however I viewed it from my perspective at the time it still hurts. And that is the point of connection I’m craving. The daughter inside of me wants to run to my mom and say, “Okay, I get it now. I see how hard it must have been for you to be my mom some days.” 

Mothering without a mother has always been difficult

I’ve been grieving that loss since I became a mother – when she was still alive. Grief is such a rocky and unpredictable path, you never know what will come up or what it will show you about yourself or the person you’re grieving the loss of. I know that there will be more of these insights and revelations as I continue to mother my trio and I also know that I will welcome them. Even though it’s painful, it helps me feel just a little more connected to the mother I had, and keeps pushing me to be more of the mother that I wanted.

Are you mothering without a mother? Here are some resources to check out.



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