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"Mothers Who Can't Love"

“Mothers Who Can’t Love” As a girl, she became a child “parent” to her mother who could never do anything. The girl had to make her own lunches, run the bath for her mother at night, and tuck her into bed. Her mother could not live without the help of her daughter. A second girl was constantly controlled and criticized by her mother. Her opinions were dismissed, and her creativity was squashed. A third girl would sneak out of her bedroom window to stay overnight with her boyfriend. Her mother never knew or never cared. There were never any rules placed on her. A fourth girl was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. When she told her mom, her mom said it was probably her daughter’s own fault. All of these women grew up to be church workers. They have been carrying around with them deep hidden emotional scars and shame. As adults, they have struggled with self-esteem issues, troubled relationships, and often depression and anxiety. They represent many church workers who had mothers who could not love appropriately. Each was raised by a mother who falls into defined categories: disengaged, enmeshed, super controlling, hyper-critical, abusive or sadistic. Many of them know the pain of keeping the secrecy of “silence” about what went on in their homes.

They still carry the notion that it was their own fault that they could not stop their mothers from behaving like they did. Dr. Susan Forward, a psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of these wounded daughters, has written an exceptional book entitled “Mothers Who Can’t Love.” She writes that while many mothers do a good to great job loving their daughters, nurturing and comforting them, guiding them, and keeping them safe, there are some mothers who can’t love; they control or criticize relentlessly, or disengage by drinking, drug use or mental illness, or they blur all of the boundaries in the relationship. Some of these mothers are narcissistic and self-centered so their daughters cannot develop their own “self.” While the first half of her book gives many real examples of women who struggle with their mothers, the second part gives many prescriptions to regain self-esteem, manage their anger, ways to focus on their own needs, and how to reclaim their beliefs and values different from their mothers. Dr. Forward offers ways to release the secrets and to tell the truth. She offers healing and growth to many women injured by their mothers while she praises mothers who love, nurture, teach and protect their daughters.

One Minute is written by Ron Rehrer, Counselor for Church Workers for our District. For consultation, counseling and referral contact Ron at 949.433.5182 or E-mail at

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