Did you know that growing up with a difficult mother can impact other areas of your life in ways you could never guess? Charlotte Pardy MA is a Psychotherapist and fellow survivor who works with women who have difficult relationships with their mothers to help them heal from their trauma and feel happier and confident in themselves, through psychotherapy, education, and empowerment (www.meditativecounsellor.com). Here she lifts the lid on some of the things you should look out for:

Charlotte Pardy by Simon Trueman

Charlotte Pardy by Simon Trueman

I was born a daughter of a difficult mother, but to start with you would never have guessed. By the time I was seven, my parents divorced, and my mother no longer had someone to balance her out.

She would alternate between me being her confidant, and then ripping my self-esteem to shreds. Her own childhood wounds were slowly but surely being passed on to me.

What followed was quite frankly seven difficult years until I left home to stay with an aunt. During this time, I was caring for my mum’s emotional needs, whilst being gaslighted, manipulated, criticised, undermined, and generally told I was unimportant. It led me down a dark path.

Now I know I’m an extreme case and difficult mums exist on a spectrum, but I know and work with many women who also experience gaslighting, criticism etc in their relationships with their mothers, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about the unexpected ways a difficult mum can affect you, to understand why I need to first tell you about a concept called normalisation.

As young children we have no experience of the world other than what our carers provide. We think of our experiences, no matter how bizarre to others, as normal. This can mean it often surprises people when they realise their issues at work or with their partners stem from this early mother-daughter relationship, because they are repeating some part of this childhood pattern.

By Simon Trueman
By Simon Trueman

Here are three unexpected ways our difficult mother can impact our lives:

The myth of the empath

If mum can very easily flip out you become hypervigilant to her emotions, you try to please her, so she doesn’t shout or tell you off. This can lead to you doing the same in other relationships. This ability to assess others’ emotions quickly, and to take responsibility for how others feel is often called being an empath. Underneath this you often struggle to recognise how you feel and respond appropriately to your own emotions. If this sounds like you, you may find yourself keeping your boss happy, taking on others work, staying later than you should, and taking on too much responsibility.

Romantic relationships

If you are struggling with your romantic relationship, or finding one, the chances are you are repeating patterns from your childhood. If we have a difficult mother, we can be brought up to tolerate increased amounts of aggression, drama, and emotional turmoil, but if we also allow this with our partners, we can find ourselves experiencing domestic abuse.

Trouble at the hairdressers

We build defences as children to protect us from emotional and at times physical damage. One of mine is to flinch when something unexpectedly comes near my face. Inevitably I go to the hairdresser and when I get my hair washed there’s the moment the water hits. Every time it makes me jump. I can recognise this is me avoiding being hit, but I also choose to share it. This is because I have found radical honesty about what has happened to me helps me to heal and say to the hairdresser, can you please just give me a heads up the water is coming!

Understanding the unexpected ways your difficult mother has affected you is key to creating the change you want to see in your life, to be successful despite it all. This is because knowledge is power, and empowered women use their healing and hope to create meaningful change in their own lives, in their work, and for their children if they have them.