My mother wounds ran deep—too deep to ever look at until God nudged me back to my elderly mother’s side after her debilitating stroke. Before that first trip back home in November 2009, I had written my mother off. Her schizophrenia made her unavailable to me emotionally, although I didn’t label it as that until I started to look at my own emotional deficits and participated in deep healing classes.
But I couldn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault. I was only six years old when she had her nervous breakdown. I didn’t realize how much nurturing I wasn’t getting from her. But I knew I didn’t want to be like her in any way, shape or form. The further the distance I could put between us, the less likely I would be reminded I was her daughter. And the easier it was for me to hide from the stigma of her mental illness and the possibility that I could end up like her.
It was with that “history” that I walked into a healing class several years ago based on the book The Mom Factor by bestselling Christian psychologists Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. These authors identified six common types of mothers: the Phantom Mom, the China Doll Mom, the Controlling Mom, the Trophy Mom, the Still-the-Boss Mom and the American Express Mom. In the class we looked at the characteristics of each of these and identified the result of that type of mothering. I found this process very difficult emotionally. (I had the Phantom Mom.)
I shed many a tear as I started to understand and to grieve what I didn’t get from my mother. I learned how to get my unmet needs met in healthy ways. (The Mom Factor also includes healing steps for the adult children of each mothering type.) I found out it wasn’t too late to get the mothering I hadn’t received. I could be “re-mothered” through the women that God was putting on my path.
Our final class assignment was to write a letter to our mothers about the mothering we received. Although I experienced a lot of healing of my mother wound in this class, I couldn’t do the assignment—at least not according to the instructions. Instead of writing a letter to my mother, I chose to write a letter to my son who was turning 13 at the time. It was a letter admitting my own mothering deficiencies, labeling the type of mother I was, vowing to break the generational curse and, with God’s help, to change my mothering patterns. It was a step in forgiving myself.
One by one the women openly shared their letters to their mothers and then ceremoniously burned them. I waited until last to share my letter—nervous that I would be judged for not doing it right. I openly wept as I read it. There was no judgment or criticism from these other women. We were all on the same journey to wholeness, where grace abounds.
Although I had to wait for God’s timing for the bigger healing of my mother wound as outlined in the story “Walking My Mother Home” (in Journeys to Mother Love), identifying the type of mothering I received was a positive step in the right direction. I know my children are better off for my having done so.
~ Ardis A. Nelson