Having an emotionally unavailable mother can be difficult. As children, we rely on our mothers to provide us with affection, support, and a nurturing environment. Unfortunately, some mothers struggle to connect with their children emotionally due to their own issues. Here are some common signs that you may have an emotionally unavailable mother.
Struggles with physical affection
An emotionally unavailable mother often struggles with physical affection and touch. She may rarely hug, kiss, or cuddle with her children. This lack of physical closeness can leave children feeling disconnected and craving affection. As adults, her children may also struggle to feel comfortable with physical touch.
Focuses more on perfection than emotions
An unavailable mother tends to focus more on outward appearances and perfection than emotions. She wants the perfect kids, perfect home, and to be viewed by others as a perfect mother. But behind closed doors, she struggles to connect with her kids on an emotional level. She may dismiss, ignore or even punish displays of difficult emotions like anger, sadness, or fear.
Offers little comfort and support
Kids need their mom for comfort and support, but an emotionally absent mother struggles in this area. When her kids are sad, scared, sick or upset, she may lack empathy or the ability to provide real emotional comfort. Her child learns not to go to mom with problems and to suppress emotions. This can lead kids to have difficulty handling challenges later in life.
Rarely talks about emotions
An unavailable mother generally does not talk about emotions – her own or her children’s. Feelings are avoided or dismissed as unnecessary. She may even communicate that emotions are bad or weak. This causes her children to learn not to express their feelings and to disconnect from their own emotions over time.
Focuses more on accomplishments than character
Since emotions make an unavailable mother uncomfortable, she tends to focus mostly on outward accomplishments. Good grades, a tidy room, athletic or musical achievements may earn some praise. But the development of underlying qualities like resilience, self-awareness, integrity and compassion are not nurtured. Kids get the message that who they are on the inside doesn’t matter as much as what they achieve.
Shows love conditionally
Rather than loving children unconditionally, an emotionally absent mother gives love when conditions are met. Love may be withdrawn as punishment or used as a reward to manipulate behavior. The message is: “I don’t accept who you are, so you must earn my love and approval.” This leaves kids feeling like they have to morph into someone else to gain mom’s affection.
Struggles to tune into her kids’ needs
Since an unavailable mother struggles with her own emotions, tuning into the emotions and needs of her kids is challenging. She may not pick up on signs her child is lonely, anxious, sad or in need of help. Even when kids directly ask for support, it goes unnoticed or ignored, leaving them feeling invisible and unimportant.
Overreacts to emotional displays
Expressing emotion makes an unavailable mother uncomfortable, so she may react strongly when her kids display emotions. Laughter may be seen as “too loud.” Tears cause guilt, anger or panic. She may punish emotional reactions or tell kids they are “too sensitive.” This causes kids to learn to hide emotions to avoid upsetting mom.
Prefers excessive independence
An emotionally absent mother values self-sufficiency above age-appropriate needs for nurturing. She wants kids to do everything for themselves and not “need” her. The message is: “It’s not ok to depend on me for comfort and help.” This leads to compulsive self-reliance and problems with intimacy, trust and interdependency later in life.
Uses silent treatment or emotional neglect
One of the cruelest things an unavailable mother might do is deliberately ignore her kids for days or longer. Refusing to speak to her child serves as punishment for perceived wrongs but causes deep emotional wounds and relationship damage. Chronic emotional neglect also leaves marks on a developing child.
The signs of an emotionally absent mother reveal how this parenting deficit harms kids in profound, lasting ways. The good news is that awareness and therapeutic support can help children as well as adult children heal and fill emotional gaps from the past.