The 5 Common Types of

Mothers Who Can’t Love

Based On the Healing Guide for Daughters Written By Susan Forward and Donna Frazier Glynn

My Mother Makes Me Depressed mother wound

5 Common Types of Mothers Who Can’t Love

“My Mother Makes Me Depressed”

If you often find yourself thinking or even saying out loud

“My mother makes me depressed”

“My mother wants me to fail”

“My mother suffocates me”

“My mother hates me”

“My mother hates me but loves my siblings”

“My mother is mentally unstable”

or something similar, you may have a dysfunctional mother.

Here are five common types:

1 | The Severely Narcissistic Mother 

Drama, Deflection, Denial

  • Deeply insecure and filled with self-doubt which drives their hunger for approval and admiration
  • As children age more stress occurs for mother while less adulation is received
  • Mother progressively sees children, especially daughters, as their rival
  • May be intermittently affectionate
  • Takes credit for others’ accomplishments but blames others for her failures
  • Has an Insatiable appetite for attention
  • Overly dependent on other people’s opinions
  • Compelled to prove herself
  • Jealous & envious
  • Lacks empathy
  • Behaves emotionally & dramatically, even to the point of being bizarre
  • Disagreement with this mother triggers inner turmoil for her
  • Makes others feel guilty for pointing out her behavior
  • Overlooks her own shortcomings and emphasizes children (often daughters) deficits
  • Refuses to acknowledge her wrongdoing
  • She is above reproach
  • Lies/gaslights

“That never happened”

“I was only kidding”

“You’re being dramatic”


  • Challenges the child’s memory, their ability to think rationally and their worth
  • May assign a child that can do no wrong and a child that is the family scapegoat
  • Lack self-awareness and ability to be reflective
  • At their core is a deeply engrained personality disorder
  • There was likely rivalry in this mother’s upbringing


Daughters of The Severely Narcissistic Mothers

  • Often lack self-confidence & enthusiasm
  • Fantasize about being powerful and admired
  • Often go to great lengths for intermittent affection
  • Distrustful of praise
  • Live in their mother’s shadow during childhood
  • May have been “the child that can do no wrong” or the “family scapegoat”
  • Want to believe their mother has their wellbeing at heart & may resist accepting otherwise



2 | The Overly Enmeshed Mother

Bonding Turned To Bondage

  • Their “closeness” is often suffocating, invasive and one way
  • The enmeshment dynamic soothes their own fear of abandonment
  • Can’t let go, pushes herself onto the children
  • Makes herself the center of the child’s world
  • Does not encourage her children to have their own free will
  • Hovers, rescues, advocates for child
  • This mother does not allow the child to have differing needs, desires, or feelings
  • Creates a dependent child
  • Hard to see where the child’s life ends and the mother’s life begins
  • Mother places the burden of their happiness on the child
  • Offers resources & support that illicit a sense of obligation and dependence
  • The child’s “best friend”
  • Does not respect privacy

“Let me do it for you”


Daughters of The Overly Enmeshed Mothers

  • Feel inadequate
  • Unable to develop their strengths
  • Not provided the space and opportunity to persevere
  • May lack the skills to problem solve
  • Difficulty enforcing boundaries with mother
  • Love equates to giving up their own desires
  • Feelings of guilt when expressing their own feelings
  • May be an adult, but often still a child emotionally
  • Feel they can’t survive without their mother
  • Lack autonomy
  • Attuned to mother’s emotional state
  • Putting themselves first feels like a crime
  • Lack confidence in their abilities
  • Both moth and daughter are clinging frightened children



3 | The Control Freak Mother

“you’re doing it wrong”

  • Director of the environment, people, and project
  • Domineering, not subtle, authoritarian, possibly a bully
  • Controlling or bullying gives her a sense of power
  • Criticizes, insults, threatens
  • Children’s feelings and wants do not matter
  • Bossy or even cruel
  • All or nothing thinking
  • Likely doesn’t work well with others
  • This mother may have been the “preferred child” growing up
  • May feel underappreciated but refuse to let others help or heavily criticizes help
  • Micromanager and sees others as incompetent
  • Pays attention to details
  • May hold child to impossible standards
  • Rules, routines, drills
  • Typically this mother is displeased with her life
  • May have also had a controlling mother
  • Without a sense of empowerment, they feel lost


Daughters of The Control Freak Mothers

  • Learn to be a target; quiet, passive, tolerant
  • May fantasize about escaping
  • Feel the need to exert control as an adult
  • May put others needs before their own
  • Don’t trust their own judgment
  • Lack dignity and self-respect
  • Vulnerable
  • As adult may rebel or become a bully to exert their longing desire for autonomy (repeating the cycle)
  • May partake in self-destructive behaviors due to enormous anger that has built up
  • May be a people pleaser, bully, or perfectionist



4 | Mothers Who Need Mothering

Sounds like someone’s got a case of the Mondays

  • Missing in Action
  • Checked out
  • Puts any energy they have into their own survival
  • Not available; shuts herself in her room or lays on couch for long periods of time
  • Doesn’t get kids ready for school
  • Withdrawn into their own world
  • May be at home, but not present
  • Will not notice your accomplishments
  • May sleep, watch TV, complain often, abuse drugs and alcohol
  • Doesn’t make meals
  • Mother morphs into a helpless and needy child
  • In a dark spiral of depression, ill and suffering
  • May not care for children or even herself
  • Lacks rules, discipline, and boundaries


Daughters of The Mother Who Needs Mothering

  • Take on role of parent
  • Try to make everything better
  • Pity their mother
  • Wise beyond their years
  • Responsible
  • Likely become caretakers by profession; often nursing, social work, and counseling
  • Ability to be cool, collected and capable
  • Often support others success and happiness but overlook their own
  • Do not put themselves first
  • May have protected mother, lied for her, defended her, been her confidant
  • Overdeveloped sense of guilt
  • Asking for help makes them feel weak
  • May feel angry, unappreciated or used
  • Ignores own feelings
  • A child in this role was not given opportunity to fully explore and develop their individual self
  • Trained to be an expert in others’ needs
  • Carries horrendous emotional load
  • Vigilantly anticipates possible difficulties to diffuse problems before they occur
  • Feels ashamed and inadequate that they cannot save their mother
  • Do too much, give too much
  • Has a treadmill of problems to be solved
  • Confuses love with pity
  • Do not understand reciprocal relationships that are free of the need to rescue
  • Have a sense of being an alien or being different
  • Have been robbed of a childhood
  • Chronically find themselves in a counseling/caregiving role (repetition compulsion)

Repetition compulsion; the need to repeat old behavioral patterns with the hope of getting different results



5| Mothers Who Neglect, Betray, and Batter 

Mother becomes monster

  • Unavailable, distant, cold
  • Preoccupied with themselves, self-centered
  • May overlook sexual abuse of children in order to avoid being abandoned themselves
  • Unwilling to pull children safety
  • May even blame children for being abused or molested
  • Children become a dumping ground for the mothers unresolved emotional baggage
  • Resent children, treat them as objects, blame them
  • Fail to protect them from predators and may abuse
  • May have been severely traumatized or from a loveless household
  • Never learned tenderness or empathy
  • Stranger to love
  • Children are the scapegoat for mother’s anger and feeling of helplessness
  • Look away and rationalize their children being abused
  • The truth becomes the enemy


Daughters of The Mothers who Neglect, Betray, and Batter

  • Fearful, angry, hungry for affection
  • Struggle to find themselves
  • Feel invisible, unwanted, ignored
  • Starved of attention, warmth, touch and support
  • Feel guilty and that things are their fault
  • Often expect the worst of people (may become an overprotective parent)
  • Paradoxically, may be desperate for love, overlook red flags; become a victim, again
  • Do not feel worthy of love
  • Feel angry inside which may lead them to become abusers
  • Feel violated, damaged and isolated
  • Unconsciously pulled towards unstable or dangerous partners


Never Underestimate The Power of Familiar


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A helpful book

Mother’s Who Can’t Love

Along with defining common mothers who can’t love this book it also has techniques to overcome the damage. Some of the techniques include acknowledging the painful feelings, tapping into the wisdom within the anger and grief, changing behaviors, and setting boundaries.

Overcoming the mother wound is TOUGH but it’s important to address it. Our mothers are fundamental figures in our lives. Not feeling loved by them creates really intense feelings of low self-worth. We are also more likely to be mistreated or even repeat the cycle, which many of us swore we would never do.

My mother had been dead for 15 years. She actually had been dead for more years of my life than she was alive. But the impact she had on me still controlled my daily life. & I’m not exaggerating.

I stopped stuffing my feelings away, stopped distracting myself, and with a lot of help from a therapist, groups, and books I started to actually process the trauma. I was ‘trauma locked’ for 15 years, and to anyone who has experienced that; you know that you’re not really living, you’re just surviving. 

Your mother may have taught you how you should think of yourself, and that can be deeply engrained. Think about your inner feelings of yourself, your inner dialogue, where did it come from? If you’re on this post, you’re pain is likely yearning to be addressed. 

You deserve to heal, seriously. 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”

Maya Angelou


Healing comes from looking at what happened, how it impacted you, and what you can do about it now

The Effects of Neglect and Abuse from Mothers Can Be Severe

But The Healing Can Be Equally Dramatic.

You were wounded, not ruined.


The Lasting Effects

Many people that can relate to these words have experienced a lot of loss, abuse, or other form of emotional pain. This means you’re more likely to have formed negative thoughts about yourself, have anxiety, depression, PTSD and other thought cognitive beliefs that can be counterproductive for you.

If that sounds like something that applies to you, you might want to check out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to shift the thought patterns you commonly have, into healthier ones. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps a person identify negative thought patterns so they can change them.

The underlying principle is that thought patterns are learned, and therefore can be unlearned. Replacing negative thought patterns can improve symptoms for many mental health disorders in the DSM 5. There is more information about CBT below.

CBT Information


More resources you may find helpful: Here are some some free programs I’ve personally used

Hope Recovery

A non profit organization that offers TONS of free support. They have individualized therapy and support groups for eating disorders, abuse, PTSD, dissociation, sexual trauma, grief and loss, self esteem, self care, men’s support groups, and substance abuse.

They have one on one services and group/workshops. I have joined many of their PTSD groups.


Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families  | ACOA

Another amazing place to heal a mother wound. ACOA changed my life. (I know that many others feel the same admiration for this program)

The mother wound is a common theme within the group that unfortunately, many experience. Many times it is because of the environment we were forced to endure. Dysfunction and abuse comes in a lot of forms. So many people come together and accept each other, as they are, in ACOA.

You never have to turn on a camera or mic, or speak at all. I sometimes just join to listen to others. Don’t be turned off if you’re not from an alcoholic family; alcohol aside; there are tons of people that are just as welcome as anyone else.



Disclosure: One of the links above is an affiliate link. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.