Spotting the emotionally unavailable mother
The children of these mothers are emotionally neglected, though that may be hard for them to recognize because their external needs aren’t just adequately met but, often, met with care; these mothers curate their lives carefully, with beautifully kept homes and nicely dressed children. While they may have fabulous rose bushes and be active in their communities, they pay no attention to their children’s emotional needs or their emotional selves, for that matter. These mothers may be avoidantly attached themselves or they may simply not like the demands of motherhood; that is how Alexis perceived her own mother:
“My mother was turned off by neediness and the needier you were, the less attention she paid to you. She saw crying as a sign of weakness and she’d turn on you for that. I learned young to ask for little because she was actually nicer when you didn’t make demands. My brother and I responded to her in the same way and it wasn’t until I was in my teens and got to see how my friends’ mothers acted that I realized how cold my mother was. I have had years of therapy and it’s still hard for me to ask for help or affection or anything else. I am 45 and as armored as ever.”
How an emotionally unavailable mother affects you
Unlike a controlling mother or one high in narcissistic traits who deliberately puts her child in the position of being a satellite circling her planet, the emotionally unavailable mother does it unintentionally; the truth is that she wants as little to do with her child except on a superficial level. Yearning for her mother’s love and attention is the hallmark of this daughter and she’ll deal with it by either cutting off her emotions and emotional needs both consciously and unconsciously or becoming subsumed by that yearning. Those who armor themselves suffer from trust issues, an inability to sustain connection, and trouble identifying feelings, and display a dismissive-avoidant or fearful-avoidant style of attachment. Those who are subsumed by their yearning keep trying to get their mothers’ attention, sometimes turning to unhealthy substitutes to fill the hole in their hearts.
Recognizing the emotional neglect she’s suffered is often a long road, as one daughter, 43, explained: