It’s Time We Acknowledge ‘Mommy Issues’

The less famous counterpart of daddy issues, “mommy issues” involve a strained relationship with a child’s mother, one that can often cause issues later in adulthood if not addressed appropriately and faced head-on.

By Simone Hanna4 min read
It’s Time We Acknowledge ‘Mommy Issues’

No parent is perfect, but some are far from it, and it’s important we acknowledge this. We often hear the term “daddy issues,” and while those are more common, absent or abusive mothers can also leave behind just as much damage, sometimes even more so.

We must recognize where these issues are present, or we will inevitably suffer more in our lives. People with unaddressed parental issues often struggle to bond with others later in life, especially romantic partners, where they experience disillusionment, project insecurities, or expect someone to fulfill what their mother failed to do. 

Absent Mothers 

Inattentive mothers, the mothers who walk out, the mothers who neglect their children – all leave behind a void, one that ardently and eagerly craves a love we’re owed from birth: a mother’s love. 

Mothers are supposed to nurture and love us in our developmental stages and beyond. When this care is unavailable or non-existent, it can often leave us feeling inadequate later on in life. Feelings of failure can reveal themselves when we least expect it, becoming prominent or more noticeable with our personal relationships. When we’re left feeling inadequate by the person made to nurture us, it’s natural for these feelings to be projected onto someone else, leaving a person with discontent, doubt, or even trust issues with a loved one. 

Absent mothers make their children feel inadequate.

A caring relationship with a mother is an essential one; experts argue it’s one of the most important, as mothers are the most salient figure in one’s early childhood. In parent-child relationships, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. When the supportive force is absent from a young age, children are forced to become independent more quickly in a way that’s both unnatural and lonely. 

Smothering Mothers

Going to the other extreme, some mothers are just too prominent in their child’s life. We see it plastered all over reality television, but despite many of these programs accentuating these types of parents for dramatic effect, there’s truth to the trope.

The smothering is much like the “pageant mother” we see stereotyped on television or even comedy shows. By projecting their own desires and dreams onto their child, smothering mothers often leave their children overly dependent or resentful of their main caregiver.

But this type of mother isn’t always obsessed with her children; sometimes, she’s obsessed with herself. These mothers often become overbearing due to their own neediness. They often share too much with their daughter and look to her for guidance and support. The parent may fear abandonment from their own child, not allowing them to have the independence they acquire naturally in their adulthood and leaving them in a never-ending trap of caregiving. 

Sometimes the smothering mother becomes overbearing due to her own neediness.

Since this mother often gives boundless praise to her child, the child can be left feeling guilty when the feelings aren’t returned in an equal manner. The children may feel they’re being disloyal to their mother if they don’t appreciate the smothering delivered in the guise of “love” and “affection.” These children can never express their emotions without looking ungrateful and spoiled, so they remain quiet for fear of upsetting their loved one. 

Overbearing, Clingy Mothers

But much like daddy issues, mommy issues don’t just hit women. They can cause heavy detriment to men too. “Momma’s boy” has been a popular insult for years, and there’s a reason for it. More commonly, when a man has mommy issues, he’ll go to the extreme to appease his mother. There’s being attached to your mother, and then there’s remaining reliant on her deep into your adulthood. 

Mothers who mollycoddle their sons can affect their relationships and marriages later in life. In fact, the clingy mother phenomenon was seen prominently in Italy through the early 2000s, when a surge in marriage breakups showed strong links to interfering mothers-in-law bearing a high proportion of the blame in divorce reports. 

Some mothers may see their daughter-in-law as a rival.

Psychologists have called this mothering “excessive,” stating that Italian mothers watch their sons choose another woman, which arouses very complex feelings, including jealousy. Some mothers may see their daughter-in-law as a rival; other mothers have dedicated their lives to their family and expect strong payback in return. As we’ve seen before, “devouring mothers” don’t let their sons become men, resulting in them becoming overly needy or overly dominating forces in their adulthood. If a man’s mother smothers and waits on him hand and foot through his childhood, he will, more likely than not, expect the same from a future spouse.

Narcissistic Mothers 

Narcissistic parents can leave a person with chronic self-blame; an emotionally tone-deaf mother will leave a child with self-doubt and less self-love. When their main caregiver fails to give them love, children can internalize that they’re unlovable or that others are incapable of giving them the love they need– leading them to later either avoid love completely out of fear or chase it furiously out of desperation. 

Narcissistic mothers are often quite shallow. Shallow mothers are perfectionists; they see their children as miniature versions of themselves and seek to perfect them as much as physically possible. These mothers may project their own insecurities onto their children, and more so, their daughters – leaving behind a child with unobtainable standards and personal dissatisfaction. 

They see their kids as mini versions of themselves and seek to perfect them as much as possible. 

A 20-year longitudinal study into parenting styles showed that those raised with the stubborn, shallow, and abusive parenting given by narcissists were more likely to mimic these behaviors and become narcissists themselves – this being driven by pre-exposed nature and developed defense mechanisms.

Strict Mothers 

Though some have credited strict parenting to their child’s success (seen most popular in certain parts of Asia with “tiger moms”), psychological studies over the years have proven that it does anything but, often leading to an array of social problems in school. Since emotional interactions between parents and children form the basis for how children naturally interact with their peers, aggressive interactions with mothers can lead children to act aggressively with their friends.

Children with strict parents are more likely to become alcoholics.

Moreover, children with strict parents have been said to be “more likely to become alcoholics later in life” in order to cope with feelings of inadequacy and imperfection. Researchers have found that children with authoritarian mothers were more likely to become perfectionists, never truly satisfied by their accomplishments in life. 

The Mother-Daughter Relationship

In family studies, the mother-daughter relationship has been shown to be the strongest of all parent-child combinations; as a result, mothers are less likely to become estranged from daughters. 

Since this relationship combination is the strongest, little girls need mothers to look up to and confide in. When she grows up, her mother should become a friend. Much like fathers, mothers shape their child’s view of the opposite sex and shape their perception of what emotional intimacy looks like, leading the child to subconsciously seek familiarity later on in life. If this mother-daughter relationship is unhealthy, future relationships may be too. 

The mother-daughter relationship is the strongest of all parent-child combinations.

As humans, we often crave what our parents gave us as it’s the behavior that feels most natural and “at home” to us. When “home” becomes a negative place, we may crave that same feeling in adulthood – causing additional damage to our psychological wellbeing. 

Mommy Issues vs. Daddy Issues 

There’s no competition, as both mothers and fathers can leave equally disastrous effects on children and their relationships later in life. That said, one is clearly more widely discussed, and that’s daddy issues. 

When the main female figure in your life leaves negative effects on you, it’s only natural that you wire yourself to expect the same from others. Much like women who find relationships with men difficult due to absent or abusive fathers, women can grow to resent other women or find it difficult to bond with them when their past experiences with their mom are negative. 

Women with mommy issues tend to have fewer female friends.

Alike to how women with daddy issues tend to gravitate to more female company, women with mommy issues tend to have fewer female friends, since they surround themselves with more males. Females with mommy issues often become more “alpha” and “tom-boy”-like, valuing independence more and failing to engage with other women as easily. 

If a child feels unloved by one parent, regardless of gender, they may look to their significant other to fill a gap too big for them, creating unrealistic expectations and tense relationships later in time.

Closing Thoughts

Since mommy issues are generally addressed in society less than daddy issues, it’s more than likely that these problems may go ignored. But strained relationships with mothers can be just as disastrous, so it’s important we encourage the importance of strong, loving mothers just as we do with fathers.

It’s recommended that any person with suspected issues or trauma from a parent seek therapeutic help. It’s essential we acknowledge unresolved grievances we hold with a parent – these issues are often deep-rooted, and the longer they’re left unaddressed, the more likely they will cause trouble in our lives. We all deserve love, and we all need happy, healthy relationships. If you’re struggling, you owe it to yourself to find help and healing. 

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