The impact of an absent mother

When having a baby, it’s natural to think about what we will be like as a parent as we begin to try and see ourselves or adapt into our new role and identity as a mother or a father. Many of our ideals about what we will be like may be shaped by our own parents, and the role that our own parents or role models played in our lives.  

Why this can impact us

Our mothers are usually the first, and most significant relationship that we have as humans. 

Not having a mother present in our childhood, or having a relationship that was too damaging to hold on to, can impact on our sense of loss and lead us to feel more vulnerable when becoming a new parent ourselves. For some, our mothers may have been physically absent, while in other cases a mother may have been physically present, but not emotionally available or connected with her children. 

In either case, as we begin to transform our sense of self and identity into this new role, not having a maternal figure in our lives can increase our feelings of vulnerability and sense of loss, as we evolve into becoming a parent, that is or was, absent in your own life.

I was imagining what life would be like as a new mum, and what I would be like as a new mum. This got me thinking about my own mum and what she was like with me, which was pretty sad. 

Expectant and new parents often describe that moving through the different stages to becoming a parent can lead to feelings of grief resurfacing, as they reflect and wonder how this experience may have been for their own mother. They wonder what their own mother may have done in certain situations, or how their mother felt in this role when they were the infant. For others, it’s about wanting their mother around to share and guide them in their new role.

As I looked at my newborn baby in my arms just wished my mum was here to share and guide me. I wondered if mum felt the same way that I did towards me, and what she would say. It made me really miss her.

For some, this may lead to feelings of added distress at this life stage. It can also increase the risk of developing anxiety, depression or managing other mental health conditions during pregnancy and in the early years after having a baby. 

What can help? 

Understanding the impacts of an absent mother is an important starting point. Connecting and talking to others about how you are feeling can also help.

There are professionals who provide counselling and support to assist parents who may be struggling in their transition to becoming a parent, due to the absence of parental figures or other risk factors.