True Mothering – from a Daughter’s Perspective

When I was a small child I held a connection with my mother like nobody else. For the first 5 days of my life it was just her and I in a hospital room, all the staff and nurses simply left us to be with each other knowing I was the 4th child born in the family and that mum knew exactly how to be with her new born.

I knew what love was, it was the warmth my mother wrapped me in with her eyes, as well as the swaddled and delicate way she held me. She cared for me unreservedly, and from the very beginning I knew I was supported to simply be myself.

Then I began to mother my own mother…

As I was growing up and to this day, the connection between us has never swayed, however it became cloudy with emotional needs and our relationship, that was founded on the love of who we are, became more about helping each other out. I could feel she felt responsible for me, my actions and my emotions, and I the same for her.

The draining and exhausting kind of mothering…

This underlying neediness we had together was rather sneaky, because it would let me think I was supporting her when I was actually taking on everything she was feeling. In fact, not truly supporting her at all but rather listening and then choosing to indulge in sympathy with her or trying to find solutions for her situations.

Quite simply, I would walk away from our interactions wondering what I could do to support her more, help her out with her own choices or make things better. It was never that she complained or outwardly imposed her situations onto me; I could just tell if she was feeling drained by her day or sad about something, and I felt I needed to do something to help.

Now most people would think there’s nothing wrong in that but I began to question: how equipped was I to truly help, if the sympathy I felt meant I too would feel drained as I took on the same emotions or worries as her? I always knew when something was up, when she was not feeling like the beautiful and naturally joyous woman I know her to be and I can see I had pulled (and relied upon) the emotional needs of my mum, thinking I was being supportive in our relationship. Yet if I wasn’t living in a way that was truly supporting me, how could I have truly been supporting her?

True mothering comes from within me first

Every honest and self-loving choice that I make in my own life supports every relationship that I have – including my relationship with her. I’m not hard on myself for not bringing solutions or sympathy anymore because what I can bring is a grand and never-ending amount of love; much like the love she wrapped me in from birth.

As I have grown to know myself more over these past few years, the relationship between my mother and I has become more truly loving, without perfection (as I am always learning) and I now don’t want to make things better for her, instead I am choosing to truly support her in life – by simply being all of me.

This has brought a huge opportunity to redevelop our relationship with a greater awareness of how we speak, treat and simply be with each other. Allowing our connection to deepen without the heaviness of emotional needs and sympathy and with the lightness that comes when we just enjoy who we are.

Could true mothering start with love and appreciation of ourselves?

by Cherise Holt, 30, Nurse, Australia

You may also like:

My Relationship with my Mother by Suzanne Cox
And Mum and Me by Jacqui McCoach and Mary-Louise Myers


344 thoughts on “True Mothering – from a Daughter’s Perspective

  1. I love the simplicity that we can just be ourselves together and that there is nothing to do but everything to be.

  2. “instead I am choosing to truly support her in life – by simply being all of me.” Beautiful and inspiring another to equally simply be all they are.

  3. A great question Cherise – my answer is yes, yes, yes.
    “Could true mothering start with love and appreciation of ourselves?”

  4. ‘Could true mothering start with love and appreciation of ourselves?’ Thank you for asking this question Cherise because without a true foundation to our relationship with ourselves we do not have the resources to just be in our essence and meet another without our neediness being an unwelcome interloper in all our interactions.

  5. When we have built a foundation of love and appreciation for ourselves then this is what we take into all our relationships. Without these ingredients all our relationships will be built on quicksand.

  6. I recognise this pattern in how I used to be with my Mum, instead of reading the situation and allowing my Mum to make changes if and when she wanted to, ‘ I would walk away from our interactions wondering what I could do to support her more, help her out with her own choices or make things better.’

  7. I have seen in my life and other people’s relationships how need turns the potential of true love sour. It stops us from simply loving ourselves and each other as we are, without any demands or expectations. To me true mothering is like this, the warm holding and care we feel as a baby.

  8. Yes, it is very draining, poisoning, and exhausting when we go into sympathy for another, ‘This underlying neediness we had together was rather sneaky, because it would let me think I was supporting her when I was actually taking on everything she was feeling. In fact, not truly supporting her at all but rather listening and then choosing to indulge in sympathy with her or trying to find solutions for her situations.’ These behaviours are sneaky, and great to recognise and call out.

  9. “Every honest and self-loving choice that I make in my own life supports every relationship that I have.” I so agree Cherise. When we love ourselves we can truly love another. If we don’t do this we look to another to fill us up and feel let down if we don’t get what we need. Taking responsibility for our own emotions feels very important.

  10. “True mothering comes from within me first”. Really interesting to consider this as I remember before my first child was born feeling that I had no clue about ‘being a mother’. Although it came very naturally to me once my baby arrived, how wonderful would it be for others is we were brought up knowing that the qualities that it takes to be a mother to ourselves are already within us and that they just have to be nurtured as we grow. It would take away so much angst and fear about what it means to be a ‘mother to a child’ whatever age they are.

  11. I used to think it was my fault when I contacted my mum and she was not herself. I would blame myself and then go into trying to make things better. It was a vicious circle I put myself on and it lasted many years playing out in other relationships too. What I have come to realise is that I am not responsible for another and how they are feeling and when I come into contact with another and they are not themselves it is not my responsibility to fix them but hold them in love through the connection to myself. To sense an energy that is not who I am is very powerful as in the renouncing it no longer has a hold on me.

  12. This blog reminded me of the relationship I used to have with my mother that was similar and we were emotionally entangled with each other, it was very draining having this sort of relationship with her. These days my relationship with my mum is totally different, I don’t hold any pictures about needing her to be a certain way with me and this gives space for us to enjoy each other and connect in a more true way.

    1. Having pictures and expectations of another is imposing on the potential of the relationship to expand and allow for both parties to grow.

  13. Cherise it is very inspiring to read how you began to expose the sympathy you had in your relationship with your mother, when we begin to let these patterns go there is space for us to have a more true and loving connection with each other.

  14. “simply being all of me.” This is the most beautiful, powerful and supportive lesson we can all learn and appreciate in all our relationships.

  15. So true, many people think indulging in others issues with them and going into sympathy is supporting them but this is actually not true at all. I noticed the other day that I still felt responsible for my mothers wellbeing at times and how much this is an unhealthy pattern as it is draining. It is draining because we cannot help people in that way, the choice is always with the other person if they want to change or not. We can support by living in a responsible way and be inspiring ourselves but never solve someone else’s problems. And it is very beautiful for the other person to receive as well when we give them space because the wanting to solve their issues can be very imposing as well.

  16. True mothering cannot come from sympathy (= pandering); it has to be founded on the connection to ourselves and the ability to discern and read what is truly needed. If not, mothering should really be spelt smothering.

  17. “Could true mothering start with love and appreciation of ourselves?” This is a beautiful and inspiring question Cherise. Imagine if we did look after, love and apprecaite ourselves as we do our babies, children, partners etc, what a difference this would make to our lives, our families and beyond.

  18. I have been reflecting on of late what it is to be our own Mother and Father and to bring these qualities to myself. From the loving but firm Universal Laws there are to obey to the clear call of obedience from our Father, together with the nourishing and nurturing ways of a deep and all encompassing Motherly love remind us of the qualities inherent within us all.

  19. It is great to look at the set up’s that we have in our relationships and the unwritten contracts that we have with each other to then bring a more true foundation that allows others their choices but brings a deeper understanding and love.

  20. I love the realization you came to that every honest and self loving choice you make in your own life supports every relationship you have. We cannot go wrong when we make this the foundation of our life for it then becomes the foundation of everything we are a part of and it is truly beautiful to watch how our relationships change and grow when they are based on love and truth first and foremost

  21. When I was very young I took on the role of mothering for my whole family and always wanted to fix things and to make it right but now see that this was preventing them from standing on their own two feet and also showed the lack of love I held for myself in the process. True mothering is allowing ourselves the space and care and nurture us first and the reflection we offer for others from that point is golden.

  22. In the past I have felt responsible for my mothers happiness and if she was feeling sad I felt it was my duty to fix it. It is interesting how we take on roles from very young based on what is going on within and around us. Sympathising and ‘saving’ another is exhausting and abusive to the body. It disempowers and belittles another as the victim ends up with resentment, bitterness and other emotions in the body.

  23. The more I love and appreciate myself – the more I can love and appreciate my daughter. Simple as that. I have a rhythm of allowing myself the space each morning to get ready – without that my whole day is off.

  24. This is really interesting, I too am incredibly close to my mum and it is a relationship I really enjoy. The times I havent is when I have found myself emotionally responsible for her happiness – of course I wasnt but I certainly took that on as a belief in my head. There is much for me to consider in what you have shared here, thank you.

  25. “Could true mothering start with love and appreciation of ourselves?” . . . if we replace the word ‘mothering’ with the word ‘nurturing’ we can see that only by nurturing ourselves can we really be there for another without falling into the trap of trying to fix or solve their situation. For by being truly loving and appreciative of all we are and all we bring we make it paramount that we are taking care of ourselves in a way that truly honours us and this in turn truly honours another for it simply does not allow sympathy to get a foot in.

  26. True mothering comes from within and indeed every true relationship must come from within or else it will be a construct of what we thing is the way to do things, full of pictures and comparisons and with no true connection

  27. Beautiful contributions for all mothers and daughters to read. The way you hold your mother in so much love is touching. It can be difficult to recognise when you are being sympathetic and when you are being caring in a relationship that has always had needs and emotional entanglements. I think you have done very well to feel what bits of your relationship were holding you back from going deeper and expanding more true love with your mother.

  28. ‘Every honest and self-loving choice that I make in my own life supports every relationship that I have’. So true Cherise when we take responsibility for our relationship with ourselves we have a steady foundation that supports us and others too.

  29. We can only inspire each other by being a true reflection. I have learned the last years how crucial it is for my own wellbeing to not go into sympathy but to stay with myself. The other thing what it brought to me is that I loved finding solutions for others, indulging in my mind going over and over it again and again in what I thought was the right way to go for someone. It was a way of distraction to not feel where I was at and where I needed to work on.

  30. This is a great sharing Cherise. Mothering is often seen as making sure others are not in too much tension, taking things of their shoulders, making others feel better yet there are a couple of things that are not healthy and true about this. First it is the persons own responsibility to love themselves and support themselves when they don’t feel good about themselves, otherwise they will always need someone else to confirm them. Second what you shared about sympathy and taking things on is for the ‘mothering’ person not healthy as it is not something they are really responsible for doing and can’t truly change as it is not their issue, in other words it is always the choice of the other person to stay in the issue or move on. I am learning too to not take things on and observe what someone is choosing for themselves and learning to make loving myself the first focus so I can be a truly supportive reflection.

  31. This is a beautiful reminder of how we all, mostly, very clearly knew what love was and how love felt, and the fact is that this knowing never truly leaves us; it is not possible, as within we are this love.

  32. This is a great example of a very tricky mother daughter entanglement where supporting by fixing and solving problems gets mistaken for love and keeps both parties our of their true power as women. It is very beautiful how you are now truly supporting her in life – by simply being all of you as this allows her to be all of her.

  33. Thank you Cherise, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I still find I have an autopilot habit to get involved, to want to help, to be sympathetic and take things on. It’s great to just be aware of it because that’s an awesome first step in the healing process. The truth is that emotion is quite toxic and me being sympathetic means I absorb it and it spreads beyond the one initially experiencing it. Neither of us is raised up or healed in that equation.

  34. I love the concept that you being you supported your mother far more than you helping her or taking on her issues ever could have? I know its been a game changer seeing it this way for myself.

  35. i love how you have described sympathy as being the drain that it is. I am so aware of how it all impacts now, I don’t like to be on the sympathy receiving end anymore, i can feel what it actually does and that is not for me. I much prefer to receive support that acknowledges how I feel and also allows me to take responsibility for what I have taken on too. Its worlds away in terms of being truly empowering.

  36. Thank you Cherise, I can really feel what true mothering is from your blog! And I can very much relate to the investment in people and how I can lose myself by trying to help them and find solutions for them.

  37. When you talk about nothing starting with loving and appreciating ourselves Cherise, I realise that mothering is actually not a role or a job or something that we are to our children. It’s actually a quality, a way that we can be with ourselves, which very much influences the way we are with others. No neediness required, ever.

  38. With the depth of bond most of us experience with our mothers, this relationship offers such a key learning ground as to our way of relationship overall. If we know our mothers to the bone, there will naturally need to be sympathies and entanglements the relationship calls us to look at and work through (if we so choose).
    For me, it’s been about acceptance – acceptance at an ever-deepening level of another’s choices in life, and that they are just that (i.e. another’s choices and not my own). I need not take responsibility for another, nor fix, carry her burdens or otherwise. This has opened up the most tremendous understanding of humanity – way beyond the personal one-on-one relationship – an absolute blessing, if not challenging deeply at times…

  39. ‘Could true mothering start with love and appreciation of ourselves?’. A resounding yes to this question Cherise; a lesson I have learnt late in life but none-the-less learnt and now lived; certainly without perfection. Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom.

  40. Why is it so easy to take advantage of those that we call ‘family’ and yet we equally wouldn’t dream of doing so to someone that we say we ‘love’ so much? Doesn’t this just expose the games and trickery that it is to separate ourselves into one family as opposed to living in a way that holds all people as equal family to us. There is a lot that is allowed to go on under the guise of family dynamics but it too is an equal expose of the manipulative and controlling ways we are with everyone.

  41. I have experienced taking on another’s emotions and from that point of view not true support can be given as if you were trying to help someone out of a hole how could you possibly help them out when you decide to join them in the hole also?

  42. A woman who knows her natural state of being, her stillness and innate quality of observation is able to mother the whole world in the true sense of what mothering means. She does not take anyone else’s issues, beliefs or expectations on thus leaving her free to be in the space of herself and her own body, unimposed upon and equally capable to deliver the wisdom to any other who requires it to be heard.

    1. This reminds me of something I read about sacredness being a form of true mothering, and it makes sense to me that it is because when we hold true to our soul we can reflect to others who they are, there is no greater gift. We are in a sense birthing another back to themselves if they have separated from their soul.

  43. “Every honest and self-loving choice that I make in my own life supports every relationship that I have” I have found this statement to be very true Cherise in ways that can be quite magical.

  44. Cherise to bring your Wisdom as a woman to your child is such a beautiful opportunity, allowing and nurturing the essence of the child to flourish, devoid of the old mothering ways. That’s reimprinting motherhood for all.

  45. Family is easy for us to take advantage of each other – ask for favours, money, getting away with things – but is this really love? Since my understanding of love has been redefined, I. Now know what abuse is and how taking advantage of a family member feels abusive – and so it is a development of the relationship where we get to the understanding of holding each other in love and having relationships from this point.

  46. Three years on from writing this blog and I now have a child of my own, it’s interesting to re-read of my own experience with my mother and to not only appreciate how much we have learnt together since; but also how much deeper there actually is to go with my own choices of responsibility and their impacts on relationships. By this I mean that I have a greater understanding of the responsibility I have to uphold myself and not entertain anyone else’ situations as my own worries, there is a greater sense of detachment I am beginning to claim between myself and my family members (and in fact, equally everyone I know) and it all (still) begins with the relationship I have with myself first. There is a solidness and a knowing that comes with being a woman and of course a mother and this is the truest support that I could ever provide and share with anyone.

    1. What a gift to be able to re-read what you wrote and apply it to your life and relationship with your daughter. “It all still begins with the relationship I have with myself”

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