A Letter to Children of Emotionally Distant Moms

Dear You,

If you’re reading this letter, you may be wondering… was my mom emotionally distant? Here are some signs that she may have been…

  • During childhood, you spent a lot of time alone, being looked after by siblings, or looking after siblings.
  • Your mom didn’t come to your recitals, shows, or games.
  • Your mom didn’t look at or comment on your grades (or, only did if they were extremely bad or good).
  • She had extremely rigid rules.
  • She was / is overly controlling or critical.
  • She doesn’t ask how you are feeling or doing. Or she asks, but doesn’t seem to listen to the answer.
  • She seems most concerned about how you reflect on the reputation of the family and/or herself.

If your mom was emotionally distant, Mother’s Day may be difficult for you.

Maybe it brings up unpleasant memories of Mother’s Days past.

Maybe you worry whether or not your mom will like your gift to her this year. Maybe you dread calling her because of the guilt trip you know is coming, i.e., “Too bad you only ever call me on Mother’s Day!”

Maybe you see these wonderful, gushing posts about moms on Instagram or Facebook and feel envious.

These negative or mixed feelings may be compounded by guilt: This day is supposed to be about her, not me.

It’s okay to have mixed emotions about this day, and to let yourself feel them.

Others of you are estranged from your emotionally distant mom. You may be toying with the idea of calling or texting her. The decision may be putting a lot of pressure on you.

Or perhaps you already know you aren’t going to reach out to your mom, and are feeling guilty about it.

It’s okay to feel guilty. AND it’s okay not to contact her.

Still others of you may be thinking of an emotionally distant mom who has died. You may be grieving not only the loss of her, but also, the relationship you never had with her. Let yourself grieve.

If you feel nothing for your dead mother, let yourself feel nothing.

Know that whatever your situation, whatever you’re feeing is normal, and okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

Also, there’s no comparing how you feel towards your mom with others – not even your siblings. Your relationship with your mom is entirely unique to the two of you, and may change by the year, the month, or even the moment.

This Mother’s Day, give yourself permission to feel however you feel.

Take care of yourself in the ways you wish your mom took care of you.

I am holding each and every one of you in the light today.



Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.

Published by rebeccaogle

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