We’re a bit more comfortable with talking about daddy issues than we are with mommy issues. In my culture, your mama is simply off limits! She kept us, raised us, and she deserves credit for it. With this stance, many people do not get the help they need because of the fear of dishonoring her.
This blog post is meant to dispel the idea that talking about your mother is out of bounds. In order to heal your mommy issues, you’re going to have to talk, but not in the way you think. Your healing is not about badmouthing your mother. It’s about working through your issues so you can move from this emotional stuck place in your life.
Where can Mommy Issues start?
As the first person in your life who has the opportunity to show you unconditional love, she plays a very important role in your emotional development. If you didn’t get that from her, you likely started off at a deficit. Hopefully, you had someone who came in and filled that position. If you didn’t, you may have some mommy issues and some healing to do.
I dealt with my own mommy issues even though it came from my maternal grandmother. As a young person, I thought she was one of a kind. I couldn’t imagine anyone else who had a mother figure quite like her! However, as I grew up and became a mental health provider, I began to see it day in and day out. There were a lot of people struggling with mommy issues. So much so that I decided to create content around the subject to help them. Working Through Mommy Issues is a tiny workbook I developed to help my clients process their emotions, thoughts, and feelings around their mothers. You can also find a hard copy here.
Peek into my healing process…
The disappointments I faced around my grandmother were also the catalyst to me writing my first novel A Time to Heal. It was my attempt at correcting the relationship she neglected to have with her children. In my mind, if she made amends with them, her relationship with the grandchildren would naturally improve. Of course, because I’m a follower of Christ, I also included the possibility of the family allowing God to step in and help us all heal.
What are signs of Mommy Issues?
If you had a strained or toxic maternal relationship you may be experiencing signs and symptoms. People-pleasing is a huge one that I see in more women than men. Fear of being abandoned or rejected can cause you to behave in a way to attempt to never allow someone to get upset with you or leave your life. Typically, people do not admit to needing help with problems around mommy issues. It usually comes out in the process.
What I see more in men are trust issues when it comes to women. You may even come across a man who wants to be with a woman, but who doesn’t respect women. Because his heart was broken by his first woman, he leaves behind a string of broken-hearted women.
In either case, for both men and women with mommy issues, your relationships may be negatively affected until you acknowledge and work through these issues. You have been damaged but not beyond total repair. It is painful work but it’s also necessary if you want to heal.
How do Christians handle mommy issues?
Ephesians 6:1-4 in the TLV states “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (which is the first commandment with a promise), ‘so that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
When you read this scripture in context, children have a part to play and so do parents. Not provoking your children to anger is a responsibility of your parents. Honoring your father and mother is your responsibility so that your life will not be cut short.
Although this may not be how you choose to process your thoughts and feelings from now on, I do want to encourage you to try it. In this article I’m going to share 7 journal prompts for mommy issues to help you reach the freedom you so greatly deserve. From this blog you can expect to work through a process along with me. I will give you the prompt, show you how I would respond to it, offer my best explanation of why the question or command is here, and how you can walk it out in your life. If you don’t have a journal, check out the one linked here. For now, grab your pen, paper, and get ready to write!
Describe your mother from your perspective.
Honestly, the mother figure I grew up having issues with is my maternal grandmother. I’m not sure if she’s incapable of having a relationship or simply has no desire. She left all four of her children to go off to find work. However, once she found it, she did not return for them. She was forced to raise my mother and her older sister, but left my aunt and uncle to be raised by someone else.
She could honestly take us or leave us. Unless there is a financial reward in sight for her, she’s uninterested in any of her children or grandchildren. I grew up thinking she didn’t like me. Of course, I found out later, that she treats all of us the same. I didn’t realize that other people had mothers like her until I became a counselor.
You want to be able to describe exactly how you feel about your mother and why. The more concrete behaviors, thoughts, and feelings you can put your finger on, the easier it will be to process through them. You should understand that most people will not view her the same way you do, even if you have siblings. It’s important for you not to compare notes to anyone to avoid frustrating yourself. Only focus on your experience with your mother so that your work will be as authentic as possible for you.
Use your journal prompts for mommy issues to identify exactly what your issues are with her. This is a subject that is difficult for most people to admit to themselves, let alone talk to others about. Know, in this moment, that your feelings are valid and you are not being judged for however you feel about your mother.
Allow yourself to take as much time as you need. I would suggest starting from the age you are now and working your way back. All sorts of thoughts may come to your mind. So, don’t try to stick to the timeline if something out of sequence comes up. Journaling tends to trigger subconscious thoughts. Things you haven’t thought about in years may spring up. Events you don’t remember could emerge as well. Do not be alarmed. This is normal.
If this becomes too difficult, know it’s okay to stop. Understand where you are mentally and emotionally. If you need help, get the help you need. Find a therapist, psychiatrist, coach, mentor or whatever type of mental health provider you need. If you find yourself in crisis or simply do not know where else to turn you can dial or text 988 nationwide, 24/7.
What would you change about your mother if you could.
I had another grandmother in my life whom I lovingly called Granny. I wished that my maternal grandmother could have been more like her. I know it’s a setup to compare people to others. So, what I will say is that the characteristics my Granny had are those I would change my other grandmother into.
She would be loving, caring, and thoughtful. She would have at least loved me as much as she loved herself. She would want to spend time with me and have a relationship with me. She would never expect money from me which would make me more inclined to give it to her. She would think the world of me and all her children and grandchildren. I’m not looking for her to worship the ground I walk on. Just the opportunity to be loved just because I’m here.
You may never get to tell your mother what you would change about her and that’s not the point of this journal prompt. When you struggle with mommy issues you want to know the things you would change to potentially lessen your struggle if you could. You may never get any of it from her but it may give you a glimpse into who you might find as a surrogate.
Focus on what you would like rather than what you don’t. Paying more attention to the negative brings more negative. If you can shift to the positive you will move toward it as well. You don’t have to hope that your mom changes in order for you to be happy. A mother figure who possesses the characteristics you need may serve you better than your biological mother ever could.
Allow yourself to be as honest as you want to be. If you even stopped to read these journal prompts, it’s highly likely that you are dissatisfied with the relationship you have with your mother. When you journal, no one sees but you and God unless you decide to share. So, there’s no need for you to hold anything back.
Write out all of the characteristics you dislike about your mother. Make note of how each of those things makes you feel. Then, write the opposite of that behavior or a replacement action you would much rather see from her. You can turn your mother into a dream on paper! Remember, this is not to try and force her into changing. You’re doing this so you can process your own feelings. It also gives you an opportunity to find what you need in other healthy relationships.
Release the person you wanted her to be.
“Big Mama, I let you off the hook. I understand now that you cannot be the person I want you to be. You’re who you want to be or at least think you want to be. I no longer need you to be like my Granny. I’m learning to live with who you’ve chosen to be. It has nothing to do with me. Your behavior is no reflection of the person I am. I know that nothing I do or don’t will make you change. I vow to love you with boundaries. I will not continue to hurt myself because you can’t be who I want you to be. I will accept you for who you are and I will govern myself according to your choices. I will make decisions that protect me from harm regardless of how it affects you.”
It’s important for you to let go of the mother you wish you had so you can figure out if you can have any sort of relationship with her. Holding onto who you wish she was holds you captive. It keeps you in bondage. Your happiness is based on whether she changes or not. You must break free of that mindset.
If you want to get on the road to healing from your mommy issues you have to release her. It doesn’t mean you forget about her, but it does mean that you set yourself free of the things you want from her. You don’t want anyone to have that much power over your ability to be happy.
Use the brief letter I wrote in the first paragraph of this prompt. Write a letter to your mother forgiving and releasing her from becoming the person you wish she could be. Practice it as one of your journal prompts first and then consider re-writing it on another sheet of paper that you may give to her, if you care to. Journaling first, is for you. It’s purpose is to release you and nothing else. Anything you do with it after that is up to you and what you feel you need to complete your healing process.
If she never changes, what kind of relationship can you have with her?
I no longer expect my grandmother to change. And now, I don’t really care if she does. I have determined that I will visit her once a month because that’s all I can handle. She’s 87 years old at the time I’m creating this blog post. She’s still the same person I’ve always known her to be. I have learned that my desire for her to be different is next to impossible because she is set in her ways. So, now I get to make my decision about how I relate to her. I choose not to fellowship with her very often so as not to subject myself to any ill feelings between us.
Your situation may be different. No one is going to have the exact same circumstance. You want to know in your heart whether you want a relationship with your mother or not. If you don’t, that’s completely up to you no matter what anyone has to say about it. If you do want a relationship, you have work to do. You have to figure out how to do that without hurting yourself. Either way you decide is fine.
You can do this the old-fashioned way by using your journal prompts. If your mother never changes, yet you want to have a relationship with her, you have to set your boundaries. Get honest and comfortable with the behaviors you will not accept and the consequences you will enforce if it comes to that.
You do not set boundaries to control your mother’s behaviors. You set boundaries to control the affect your mother’s behaviors have on you. You want to minimize your injury or loss of peace. So, if that means you can only handle a five-minute phone call once a month, that’s all you do. Remember, she gets to decide how she behaves and so do you.
What boundaries do you need to set with your mother?
My mother has always been the buffer between me and my grandmother. My mother has always been a financial help to her so she treats me a bit better because she believes my mom will cut her off if she doesn’t. She will curse other family members out. She is always upset with them. She feels like they should do everything for her for free, but she charges them for her assistance.
One of the boundaries I’ve set with my grandmother is never to give her money. It makes me feel used, unappreciated, and unloved. So, I don’t do it. Another boundary is seeing her in person once per month or less. I’m seeing her at all out of honor for her being my grandmother. Not because I have any connection to her or desire to see her. The last boundary I have is about not allowing her to manipulate me. I listen closely to what she does to other people, and I make sure she doesn’t get me like she gets them.
You want to know that exact boundaries you need to set with your mother. Boundary setting needs to be as specific as possible. Sure, you may have certain boundaries you set across the board, with everyone. However, you should have some “mommy issues specific” boundaries that only pertain to her.
You want to acknowledge each problem you have with her. For each problem you must decide how you want to be treated instead of the way you are currently being treated. You must think about how you’re going to teach this lesson. It may be good a idea to think of some alternatives to what you will not accept. That way you don’t leave it up to your mother to figure out what she can do.
You can tell her what she can do instead of what she normally does. You must also lay out the consequences. What will happen if your boundary is crossed? Remember, do not set a consequence that you would be unwilling to enforce. Finally, you must have the conversation with your mother about the boundaries and the consequences you are putting into place. No boundary is set unless the person with whom you are setting it knows it’s there.
Write a letter of forgiveness to your mother.
“I forgive you for not being the mother figure I thought you should have been. I admit that I had another grandmother whom I thought the world of and it baffled me that you were nothing like her. I forgive you for not treating my mother and her siblings the way I thought you should have. I also blamed you for my uncle’s death and I apologize for holding something against you that you didn’t even know about.”
“I forgive you because now I believe you might have simply been trying to live your life the best you could. I forgive you for leaving your children with other people to raise. I forgive you for not having a relationship with me. I thought I needed it, but I really just wanted it. Even though you probably didn’t know you were on the hook, I’ve let you off. Starting today, we have a clean slate.”
In my opinion, forgiveness is the first step to mental and emotional freedom. Unforgiveness can cause more pain than the initial incident. It keeps the hurt fresh in your mind and in your body. You carry the toxic thoughts and feelings every day, everywhere. It’s important for you to forgive your mother if you want to rid yourself of those mommy issues.
Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to forget. I often say it’s okay to both forgive and remember. Because depending on how you’ve been hurt, forgetting could be dangerous. Forgetting could put you back into the same trouble and trauma you’re trying to work your way out of. Forgiveness releases you from the hold your mother has on you. Unforgiveness is keeping you tied to those negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The sooner you forgive, the sooner you release yourself.
Refer back to the short letter I wrote in the first paragraph of this prompt. Forgive your mother for every offense you feel she committed against you. Admit those things to yourself. No, it’s not okay that those things happened to you. But, not acknowledging what happened, doesn’t help you. It’s possible that your mother doesn’t remember some of the things. And of course, she wouldn’t have seen them from the same perspective you did.
The point of this is not necessarily to give the letter to your mother. It’s to release you. If you want to be completely released, you need to be able to admit what happened to you. You may also need to forgive yourself while you’re at it! None of it was your fault, but consciously or subconsciously you may hold yourself responsible for some of it. After you write the letter you may decide to burn it or give it to her. That’s completely up to you. Remember, she may not have mommy issues. You do. This is about you.
How can you honor your mother without dishonoring yourself?
I honor my grandmother by visiting her once per month. I go to her birthday parties. I hang out with the family. I hug her when I see her. I acknowledge her when it’s appropriate. I don’t hate her, but I don’t like her either. I’m respectful when I’m around her. I’m simply not around her much. Because I’ve set boundaries that protect my peace when it comes to her, I can love her better.
Doing these things to honor her do not dishonor me in any way. I’m not subjecting myself to undue stress or strain to show up at family functions. That’s because I can leave anytime I want to and I’m not obligated to do any of it. I’m doing it out of honor. However, if there came a time where I felt disrespected or dishonored, I could simply enforce my boundaries and the consequences that come along with them.
Even though this journal prompt for mommy issues is one that everyone can benefit from, I included it specifically for Christians. Because we have a commandment to “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This commandment has a promise attached to it that has nothing to do with our parents. If we honor them, we get to have a long life.
If you’re not a Christian, you don’t have this commandment. However, honoring your mother is a good thing to do simply because she’s a person. At the same token, you don’t deserve to be dishonored in order to show honor to her. You’re a person too! Your feelings matter as much as hers do. You must find the delicate balance if you’re in relationship with her. If you’re not in relationship you can honor her without dishonoring yourself by refraining from talking about her at all.
This is going back to setting boundaries. When you have mommy issues it can be difficult to honor her. Use this journal prompt to work through those difficulties. Ask yourself what she likes or loves. Can you do any of those things for her or with her without much effort? If you can, do it in honor of her. If you can’t, think of something else.
Does a five-minute phone call a week cause you too much pain or pressure? If not, do that. If weekly is too much, stretch it out. This is also where you have to decide if any contact at all with her is too much for you. If it is, then you have a no-contact situation. You go back to honoring her by simply not speaking negatively about her or not talking about her at all.
Final Thoughts On Journal Prompts for Mommy Issues
Mommy Issues are almost a forbidden topic in some communities and cultures. However, as a mental health professional, I specialize in talking about difficult subjects. When it comes to mommy issues, I want you to know that I see you and I empathize with you. This work is about you and not her. Even if she never changes, you still have the right to heal. If people struggle with daddy issues it’s only natural that there would be a need to address mommy issues as well.
No matter what hurts you’ve experienced, you always have the opportunity to heal. I always encourage anyone I work with to be proactive about your mental health. The 7 journal prompts for mommy issues I’ve outlined in this blog will help you get on the road to doing just that! If you need additional resources, check out Psychology Today. If you’re in crisis you can dial or text 988 at any time, nationwide.