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What do I do when my mother hates me?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I really believe my mother hates/resents me and I have believed that for the entirety of my life. There is so much to contribute to this but I will try to sum it up.

Background: Small family. I have my mother, 2 brothers, 1 aunt, 1 cousin and now 2 children of my own. I’m divorced for a year now and moved back home with my mom due to financial strain of the divorce. Don’t get much child support so although I make ok money I can’t afford daycare for 2 small children and all other bills associated with being on my own with no raise in sight since the down-turn of the economy. So, to say the very least this is a horrible situation.

I really feel like my mother has hated me and resented her role of being a mother my entire life. My mom divorced my dad when I was 8 and left us. We saw her once in 3 years and finally moved in with her when my dad had a mid-life crisis and turned to drugs. Both my father and mother are very intelligent people, so it’s a bit confusing. My mother has never been maternal and I feel like she missed an important growing point in my life and always been hurt by her leaving us with my dad. This has been over 20 years ago and I never really forgave her 100% because anytime i would talk to her or try and get through some of the pain I had I was always shut down and told that she wasn’t going to talk about it. She won’t only talk about this but anything that has to do with feelings. She has always favored my brothers and is more like a boy than a girl in many senses. She doesn’t like girly things, she doesn’t like to chit chat, and she isn’t affectionate. She has never been one to give me a hug or tell me she loves me. I can’t remember the last time I was hugged by my mother. I think she may have when I was little, but honestly I can’t remember of 1 time. Not even in my darkest or happiest days. So, in the back of my head I’ve always thought she didn’t love me bc she didn’t show it. She never asks me how my day is or if she goes to the store she will ask my brothers what they want but never me. It’s always been her way or no way.

Growing up I always stayed at my friends houses so I could feel apart of their family because always felt like my mother didn’t love me. My friends mothers would always see what I was talking about and be baffled by it. Also, anytime we have an argument because I may bring up why she doesn’t think of me (it isn’t often bc I know it will end the same everytime) she will be irate and tell me how I make stuff up and I always think someone is out to get me. But, she is the only one I have relationship problems with. I’ve never had anyone say that to me my whole life. I’ve always been the best friend, so I know I don’t make it up, but she does try to turn it everytime. She will say that it’s this or that about me and never take ownership. I try and say yes I do this or that but you do this, and she won’t have it she’ll end the conversation. She came from a good childhood, so I can’t understand.

After 28 years I still don’t understand, and I think being a mother it’s made it even worse. I would never treat me kids the way she has. If my kids doubted I loved them and told me that I would do anything and everything to get to the bottom of it. Talk it out, show them, and try to understand their point of view. She never tries to fix anything and 5 minutes later she will bring something trivial up like nothing ever happened. I have told her how I feel and it’s hard for me to act like she has never acted this way my entire life, but if I don’t my life will be hell. I have so much pent up frustration and I’m so hurt. I don’t have much family and all I want is a mother. How can I get through to a mother that can’t even seem to get out of her head to give a two licks about anyone even her daughter???!!! I don’t want this to be what my kids see and I don’t want it to be this way. please help me understand!!!

As painful as this is for you, as much as I’d like to help you understand your mother, I can’t. I’d need to have an in-depth talk with your mom in order to do any kind of reasonable analysis. My guess is that she wouldn’t tolerate such a talk.

What I can do is respond to you. There is still an abandoned little girl inside of you who desperately wants her mommy. It’s totally understandable. She left you. Then in a way, your dad “left” you by becoming drug-involved. Then you went back to a mother who can’t or won’t “mother.” Most kids in situations like these think that if only they could figure out what to do, their mom would love them. It’s just too scary to acknowledge that maybe the mom they depend on really isn’t interested. So the kids hold on to the hope and keep going back and going back and going back to their mother, hoping that this time it will be different. But since the person they are returning to is incapable of connecting emotionally, the kids always end up hurt and disappointed.

For reasons you and I (and maybe even she) will never understand, your mother isn’t able to connect with her daughter. It’s time you accepted that. Nothing you do is going to make a difference. Your mother is who she is and is unwilling to either acknowledge that she has a problem or make changes. Going back to her is like going back to a door you know is locked when you don’t have a key.

There is a solution to your pain, though. Your “family” is only as small as you make it. You need to look for older women friends who can give you the support, advice, and even love, that your mother isn’t able to give you. Your kids need honorary “aunties” who will witness their growth, spoil them a little, and show them that you are a person who is loved and respected. Expand your notion of family so you can bring more people into the embrace of your own family. Get involved with the ladies in your church. Seek out a book club or womens’ club or hobby group. Friendships can span the generations.

It’s unfortunate you are living with your mother. I hope you will keep working on getting financially stable so that you can get a place of your own. Living with her is a daily, even hourly, reminder of all that you missed. It’s not healthy for either of you – or your children. In the meantime, be polite and appreciative for what your mother can give you (a roof over your head may be all she can do but that’s actually a lot). And stop shaming her and disappointing yourself with requests and demands for an emotional involvement she can’t provide. You’ll both be happier.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Updated: October 2018

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