What does it feel like to grow up without your mother? Not to have any memory of a time when your mother held you, kissed you, or did those other things that people who have mothers remember?
Nothing. It feels like nothing.
There is no real sense of missing, because there is nothing to miss. It’s a blank. You see and hear other people talking about these things – “I need to skype with my mother”… “Oh, it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow” … “This weekend I am going to pass by my mum’s, we need to catch up”- but it is as if they are telling you about a trip they went on without you. You can listen and say “uh-huh” but – it is not something that you are part of.
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child (or do I?)
My mother left me when I was about three months old. I do have contact with her now, and we have discussed what happened, more than once. She had her reasons, and I know that this situation caused her, as well as me, a lot of pain. She has other children, and has been there for them.
There were other women too, who took care of me at different times. Shortly after the break up of my parents, I was fostered, by a wonderful family, for the next six years or so. They treated me as their own. Later my dad remarried and I lived with him and my stepmother. She also did her best to care for me, although I was quite a damaged little boy by then.
There is a flicker of recognition with my own mother that is different. Something in me recognises her – but that is all. We have almost no shared memories. Somewhere, deep inside, are feelings of grief and anger – but they are mostly private. Those feelings are not directed at anyone – they are more like a formless cloud that occasionally surfaces.
There is a big disconnect here, and it is pretty much unavoidable. We can have adult conversations about what happened, and I can hear and accept explanations or apologies. I can understand, as I would understand the story of anyone. But also – within me – there is a part that has been deeply wounded and betrayed – and that is as impossible to change, just like the past itself.
This is it; we cannot change the past. Some will say that you can “leave it behind” – but, what does that actually mean? I am not walking around making this a part of my daily life. I would far rather not think of it. But – my childhood is simply a part of me. When you have suffered this type of trauma, before you even knew that you yourself existed – you know that this is not something that you can leave behind. You must not try to. To do that is to try to abandon a fundamental part of yourself. Your emotional survival depends on facing yourself and what is within you.
If you try to push this under the carpet, it will come back to haunt you. This will not be good.
The question is : what exactly is it that we are dealing with? And how can we do this? After all – most of the time – not having a mother feels like … nothing at all.
If my mind were some kind of device (let us say a car), with a malfunction – the problem would be hidden from view. So, to fix things, we need to start looking under the bonnet, and we need to start looking at what really happened all those years ago. Perhaps this seems like a bit of a mechanical way of looking at things – of course, we are not machines. Please bear with me. Indeed, we are humans, not machines – but when it comes to repairing things, it helps to have an understanding, a model, of how things work. One step at a time.