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Are we pre-destined to blame our mother?

The bonds we share with our mothers are as intricate as the most complex tapestries. They’re woven over time, colored by experience, and often frayed by expectations and disappointments.

And I can’t help but wonder: Are we pre-destined to blame our mother?

Mother Archetypes

I find myself contemplating this question as I sift through memories and stories—some mine, some others—that dwell in the corners of my consciousness. It seems to me that no matter what “type” of mother we have, no matter how bad or good our relationship is, we still seem to find fault.

The “Damaged” or “Toxic” Mother

If you have or had a narcissistic mother, it is easy to blame her for all of your own shortcomings … and nobody will blame you for blaming her. This is the woman whose love always felt like a mirage in the scorching desert. A tantalizing, shimmering promise that recedes the closer you get. She embodies the classic case—a mother who fails to nurture, support, and love.

Or maybe your mother was “damaged” or “toxic” in some other way, such as from drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness, or maybe she was just simply overwhelmed and unable to adequately provide for your needs. Whatever the cause, when scars form over emotional wounds, it’s easy to understand the impulse to point a blaming finger. After all, if the role of a mother is to offer unconditional love and she fails to deliver, who else could possibly be at fault?

The “Perfect” Mother

Then there’s the “perfect” mother. Ah, she’s a glowing sun, almost too brilliant to look at directly. Her marriage? Ideal. Career? Flawless. Children? Straight out of a storybook. And her cooking? Don’t even get me started.

But, her light casts long shadows, and living in them can make anyone feel small and insignificant. How can you possibly measure up to this paragon of maternal virtue? In blaming her, you perhaps aim to alleviate your sense of inadequacy, convinced that if she were any less perfect, you might feel worthier. Could it be that in such cases, the blame is a misplaced form of envy? A coping mechanism, perhaps?

The “Good” Mother

Now let us turn to the “good” mother, the epitome of love and affection. She adored her children and grandchildren with an intensity that could light up the darkest rooms.

Yet, in all her giving, she forgot one crucial aspect: herself. Her light dimmed far too early, snuffed out by a life relinquished to everyone but herself. And you, her child, felt robbed, betrayed even. You loved her, but can you prevent a part of you from blaming her? Does a corner of your heart resent her for not taking better care of herself—for leaving you when you needed her the most?

My Thoughts

The mother types portrayed above are extremes to illustrate my point. In each of these examples, blame might feel like the most natural recourse, but perhaps it’s also the easiest. The act of blaming often comes from a place of personal hurt and disappointment; it is an external projection of an internal struggle.

We blame our mother because it offers a semblance of control, an illusion that we’ve pinned down as the cause of our discontent.

As I ponder these vignettes, I can’t help but think of the cycles we’re born into—the generational narratives that shape us. Maybe it’s time to ask if the act of blaming our mother is actually a collective pre-destiny—a communal script passed down like a treasured yet burdensome family heirloom.

Could it be that this script serves as a shield, deflecting attention from our own vulnerabilities?

To break free, we must first recognize the chains for what they are: not our destiny, but constructs of human relationships and human failings. Only then can we start to untangle the complex web of emotions and expectations that bind us, and perhaps, in that newfound freedom, we can rewrite the story we believe about our mothers and, in turn, change the way we think of ourselves.

Additional Points to Consider

I was talking with my daughter, and she brought up the fact that society also places a tremendous amount of blame on mothers.

There is certainly a catch-22:

  • working mothers in dual-income households are often viewed as somewhat cold and selfish for “choosing” to work when they don’t have to, thereby not spending “enough” time with their children;
  • single working moms are blamed for “putting themselves” in a situation that can result in a less than ideal scenario of the latch-key child;
  • while stay-at-home mothers are often shamed for not financially contributing to the family and are portrayed as less intelligent, or at the very least, less motivated, than working moms.

Of course, nobody can heap the blame on as much as the mothers themselves who are more likely than anyone to blame themselves, feeling stretched thin and inadequate at best … or depressed, deflated, and defeated … or even worse.

Perhaps we, as a society, need to collectively remove the tremendous amount of blame that has been heaped upon women, particularly mothers, and realize that they are, after all, only humans.