Motherhood is often referred to as one of the most rewarding and joyous experiences in life. But not all mothers are emotionally available, supportive, and loving. In some unfortunate cases, children are raised by toxic mothers whose damaging behavior has a lasting impact on their offspring. In this article, we will delve into the 8 most common signs of being raised by a toxic mother, the consequences of such parenting, and how to overcome the difficulties faced due to a toxic upbringing. We will hear from experts in the field of psychology, as well as individuals who have survived toxic parenting.
1. Your emotional needs were consistently ignored or dismissed
Toxic mothers often lack empathy and emotional intelligence, causing them to dismiss their children’s emotional needs. Dr. Julie Alvarez, a clinical psychologist specializing in family relationships, explains that children of toxic mothers “may have been continually invalidated, ignored, or criticized when expressing their feelings, creating a deep sense of unworthiness in the child.”
2. You were subject to excessive control and micromanagement
Some toxic mothers exert exceptionally high levels of control over their children’s lives, often leading to stunted emotional growth and independence. Jane*, a 34-year-old survivor of a toxic upbringing, shares her experiences: “My mother had to know my every move and decision. She controlled everything – from the clothes I wore to the people I hung out with.”
3. You were constantly criticized and compared
In an unhealthy parent-child relationship, mothers may subject their children to constant criticism, shaming, and unrealistic expectations. This can have long-lasting effects on their child’s self-esteem and self-worth. Dr. Alvarez notes that “children raised by these mothers often grow up believing they are never good enough or that their worth depends on others’ approval.”
4. Emotional manipulation was a constant reality
Consistent manipulation tactics can cause children to feel trapped in a web of guilt and even fear. Tactics such as guilt-tripping, passive aggression or silent treatments can result in feelings of helplessness and confusion.
5. The relationship was conditional based on your achievements
Toxic mothers may set unrealistic expectations for their children, withholding love unless their children meet those demands. As a result, children raised by toxic mothers learn early that their worth is based solely on their ability to perform and achieve.
6. You were made to feel responsible for your mother’s emotional well-being
Children of toxic mothers are often burdened with the responsibility of managing their mother’s emotions. Caring for a volatile and emotionally unstable parent is draining and can cause lasting emotional scars.
7. Your boundaries were consistently violated
For toxic mothers, respecting their children’s boundaries is not a priority. Boundaries may be violated in various ways, such as invading their personal space or disregarding their opinions and feelings.
8. Your accomplishments were dismissed or undermined
Toxic mothers may downplay or undercut their child’s accomplishments, minimizing any sense of pride and achievement. In these instances, the mother’s insecurities often overshadow the child’s success.
Overcoming the Challenges Posed by a Toxic Upbringing
Navigating the aftermath of a toxic upbringing may feel like wading through a murky swamp with your wellies stuck in the mud. But remember, the sunshine isn’t far away.
Firstly, acknowledging the toxicity and its impact on your life is akin to finding a compass in our swamp metaphor. It’s not about blaming or harbouring resentment, but about understanding the patterns of behaviour that you’ve experienced.
Next up, remember that building self-worth isn’t as elusive as finding a unicorn in your back garden. According to psychologist Dr. Alvarez, “Self-worth comes from one thing – believing that you are worthy. Start by setting small, achievable goals for yourself and celebrate when you reach them.”
Seeking professional help can be as helpful as having a word with Mary Poppins’ therapist. Seasoned professionals can provide you with strategies to cope, heal, and move forward. Therapy can be remarkably enlightening – think of it as turning on a light in a dark room.
Finally, establish and enforce boundaries like a border patrol officer with an affinity for personal space. It is perfectly acceptable to limit contact or distance yourself from a toxic parent. Assert your personal boundaries and protect your mental and emotional space.
Remember, even if you had a rocky start, it doesn’t define your journey or your destination. You’re much more than the product of your upbringing, just like a well-baked Victoria Sponge is more than just flour and eggs!
Self-Care is Not Selfish, It’s a Necessity
Let’s be honest. Navigating life with the weight of a toxic upbringing is about as fun as a picnic in a hailstorm. One crucial aspect that is often overlooked is self-care. Not the Instagrammable, rose-petal-filled-bathtub kind, but the everyday acts of kindness towards yourself.
Think of self-care as the act of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup, and it’s equally challenging to bloom when your roots were planted in an unhealthy environment.
Start by identifying activities that make you feel good — it could be as simple as reading a good book, taking a brisk walk in the park, or brewing yourself a cup of your favourite tea. Remember, self-care isn’t one-size-fits-all, much like a pair of those old school Levi’s jeans.
Also, understand that it’s completely acceptable to make time for yourself and to say ‘no’ to others. Maintaining your mental health is like keeping a delicate equilibrium on a seesaw. Tipping too much on one side can lead to exhaustion and burnout.