It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE
It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

April 28, 2021

A Deeper Look into the Mother Wound

E:
66
with
Bethany Webster
Author

What You'll Learn

  • A brief introduction on the mother wound
  • Origination of the mother wound
  • Determine if we’re mothering out of trauma
  • Setting boundaries with our own moms
  • Impact of the mother wound on men
  • Coping with jealousy toward partners or friends who have a close relationship with Mom

Has your relationship with your mother changed since becoming a mother? Author, international speaker, and transformation coach Bethany Webster has been here with us before to talk about the mother wound, and it really resonated with my community. So many people had questions about Bethany’s work, she’s back today to answer audience-submitted questions. And as a special surprise, we’ll end with how to get a free offering if you feel you need additional resources.

A Brief Introduction On The Mother Wound

Episode 57 is almost a prerequisite for this, but for anyone who may have missed it, “The mother wound is the fact that we as women have lived in a patriarchal society all of our lives,” Bethany said. “The patriarchy is a backdrop to how the mother wound shows up.”

She went on to explain that, “The mother wound is how we internalize our mother’s trauma or internalized oppression. So, we don’t just bond with our moms but also her trauma and limiting beliefs.” Sometimes in this situation, the mom is trying to protect her daughter, but the mother wound goes across a whole spectrum with mothers and daughters who have great relationships all the way to mothers who are abusive of their daughters.

We don’t just bond with our moms but also her trauma and limiting beliefs.

“We can have a harmonious relationship with our mom and this mother wound can still be activated,” Bethany said. The mother wound isn’t about blaming our mothers. It’s about looking at our upbringing with a critical eye, so we can break the cycle. And this doesn’t mean that your mother didn’t do the best she could. Societies fail mothers all the time, and our mothers may not have been set up for success. Looking at the mother wound isn’t just about healing the trauma but also looking at the way our mother parented in a patriarchal society with compassion.

The Origination of the Mother Wound

“The best book I can find is called The Creation of Patriarchy By Gerda Lerner,” Bethany told us. Lerner tracks patriarchy as a historical era, and all eras have beginnings and ends, so we’re living through this moment in time. And moms are playing a huge role in this and the changes that may come out of it. “Moms are at the cutting edge of the world to come,” Bethany said.  “The book really puts into perspective the macro level of this.” 

Our brain and bodies are shaped by our moms. The mom is the most important relationship we have. “Adrian Rich said ‘the mother-child relationship is the first relationship distorted by the patriarch.’” Bethany explained. Healing ourselves as women is the first step to building a world that works. “If society was built around secure attachment, what would that look like?” she asked. That would allow us to form a society that worked for everyone.

If society was built around secure attachment, what would that look like?

“The legacy of the mother wound is female shame,” she told us.  So, by doing the work to heal the mother wound, we’re creating space in our mind for a better society.  “It starts in our mind,” she said.

A lot of friction between daughters and their mothers tends to occur around the teen years and young adulthood. Young adults are looking for encouragement and independence, and a lot of moms aren’t equipped to say, “Go off on your own and fly.”  Bethany explained, “There tends to be this cultural expectation of continued enmeshment between mothers and daughters.” And there is a subtle discouragement of women trying to do things in a new way.

It takes a lot of work to step away from our families and say we’re going to step into our own paths and be a role model for other women.

Determining If We’re Mothering Out of Trauma

Any sense of urgency or desperation is a key sign that we’re in a traumatized childhood lens. Black and white thinking is also a sign of this. Vowing to do or not to do something, because someone else did it may also be a sign you’re parenting out of trauma. 

When we react out of trauma what’s really happening is we’re looking for safety. Our inner child is freaking out and wants to be safe. “So, what we really need to do is soothe that little girl,” Bethany said. And it’s not hard to do. What’s hard is remembering to do it. “It’s about inner safety. It’s like an emergency--a red button that needs to be pushed,” she explained.

That triggered inner child can translate into we need to keep our child safe, because no one kept us safe. But the mother wound teaches better strategies than controlling our environment or our child’s environment because of a past memory. 

When we’re attempting to control our environment—or our child’s—because of a past event, we’re not focusing on what’s actually going on now. That’s a trauma response. 

There is nothing wrong with that. Our brains are wired to seek solutions, so when we remember a trauma, it’s normal to try to prevent experiencing it again. But there are better ways to handle it.

We may not realize we’re responding out of trauma until the situation has passed, but Bethany told us, “With practice though, we can start to see the signs really early and turn really inward.” 

If we can nurture that child inside, we’re able to stay in control of our adult nervous system and respond appropriately. We can avoid getting swept up into—and getting our nervous system caught up into—the flashback of that trauma.

Setting Boundaries With Our Own Moms

Setting boundaries against your mother’s behaviours is the most powerful place to claim your power. If you can set boundaries with your mom, you can do it with anyone.

If you can set boundaries with your mom, you can do it with anyone.

Part of the process of claiming that power is creating a space where you are on your own. You don’t need to communicate this to your mother. You can just take a step to create a boundary or space. It gives you a connection with yourself where you’ll start to find your own strength.

Decide what you need to set boundaries with Mom about and why. That’s pre-work and then you can move onto the practical pieces, because once you know why it gives you the strength to implement the changes. 

“What would the ideal relationship with your mom look like and feel like? How would it be different?” Bethany asked. She explained that would be a good place to start journaling. And this ideal relationship can be whatever we need it to. For some people, it’s “I want to talk to my mom less.” For others, it’s “My mom is very instructive with how I handle my child, and I don’t invite that.” Or, “There are some things I’d rather not talk about with my mom, but she wants to keep talking about it.”

Once we’re clear on where we really need boundaries, we can start working toward them. “Unless there is some kind of abuse or trauma, I recommend starting small,” Bethany explained. 

“But I do have a client whose mother is really hard on her son,” Bethany said. “And the client is seeing that her mother is treating her son the way she was treated as a child. She’s seeing that her mother has a fear based reaction to the world, and it has to do with her mother’s own inner child. Her son enjoys a particular activity, and her mom thinks if he likes that he’s not going to be good enough at school. So, she’s had to create boundaries with her mom that you can talk to me about this, but please don’t talk about this in front of my child. And the client had to create this firm boundary really fast, because it’s not helpful for the child to be hearing these negative things. And her mom has actually adapted to this, so it’s working out. The client catches it and reminds Mom not to talk about it, and her mom is reacting well to it. But my client has also gained so much confidence, because she’s realizing that she’s protecting her own inner child and giving her own inner child a voice.” 

She's giving her own inner child a voice.

If we were raised in a codependent relationship with our mom where we’re looking to each other for reassurance, we might want a relationship that doesn’t include healthy boundaries. And our ideal relationship with Mom might be one that isn’t realistic or possible. 

Some people have this “impossible dream relationship” that stems from a childhood survival mechanism. Our moms may not have met our needs growing up, so we hold onto this hope as a survival mechanism that “one day she’s going to understand me.” Bethany said. “One day we’re going to connect.”

The reality may be that our mom isn’t capable or willing to meet us in the way we need to be met. So, that’s an “impossible dream,” but it comes from this unmet need and the hope that if we try to be the way she wants us to long enough, one day it’s going to click. That’s another layer to the issue of boundaries.

If we look at what’s causing pain and strife right now, we might see that it’s the hope we’re holding on to for a relationship that isn’t happening. The desperate dream is about failing to realize our mother is a separate person on a separate journey, and we can’t force the relationship ourselves. “A relationship takes two people,” Bethany said.

When we can grieve that ideal relationship it creates so much space and energy in our lives, because we don’t even realize how much energy it takes holding on to the hope that maybe one day, our mom will change.

The Impact of The Mother Wound On Men

“The mother wound definitely impacts men just as intensely, but it shows up differently. “Boys and men are socialized differently than women, so the way it impacts them is very different, but the intensity is the same,” Bethany explained. Boys separate quicker than daughters and moms are socialized to accept this.

A mother may unconsciously use her son as a kind of surrogate spouse, and this happens in some cultures more than others. Another manifestation for men is the son feels more abandoned by his mother and may feel resentment. A son may feel a father was really harsh on him with punishment or spanking, and Mom may stand by and watch it. So, there can be some resentment there.

Men are groomed into masculinity and the patriarchy. For some men they may feel a real emptiness and real disconnect from their own feelings. They may turn to porn, drugs, or subtle addictions to cope with it. Men have a real wound around how to feel connected to themselves aside from violence and sexuality.

Coping with Jealousy Toward Partners or Friends Who Have a Close Relationship with Mom

“Envy is normal,” Bethany explained. “It’s normal to long for that.” So, have compassion for yourself, while you’re dealing with this.

But that envy can also inspire you to grieve and let go of the hope of this ideal relationship with your own mother. We can use it as fuel to do our own inner nurturing. 

Just because we didn’t get the nurturing we needed from our mothers doesn’t mean we didn’t deserve it. We can give that to ourselves now to help us heal, and we can use the jealousy we feel of people who have good relationships with their moms to fuel our own healing. And our children will benefit from us being more supported, because we’ve nurtured ourselves. 

Our children will benefit from us being more supported.

Bethany’s course and community is a great place to feel connected to other people who are trying to work through this when we may not have people going through the same things in our own life. 

People form a really tight sisterhood in this community, and it forms a kind of motherline where we get the support and nurturing from other women who have experienced the same thing. 

Discovering the Inner Mother

Bethany teaches a course called Discovering the Inner Mother. It’s an online 8 week course, and it walks you through the healing process both cognitively and emotionally to help you recover from the mother wound. 

The course is designed with the 7 steps of healing the mother wound and each step has a module: 

  1. Understanding Your Mother as Your Foundation — This focuses on your mother’s beliefs and how we inherited them to form the foundation of what we deal with today.
  2. Looking at the Stereotypes of Mothering — Myths like moms and daughters should be best friends and “the perfect family.” Any kind of taboo myth that can cause you shame.
  3. The Mother Gap — This looks at how we may not feel nurtured by our moms and how we’re trying to compensate for that and really explores the burdens that may be putting on our other relationships.
  4. The Impossible Dream — Are we operating under the hope that if we just do XYZ, one day we’ll have the connection we crave with our Mom?
  5. Grieving — In grieving, we’re letting go of the loss and making room for the new. This step is about giving yourself the support to grieve.
  6. Transforming the Inner Mother — This is the nuts and bolts of mothering our inner child. What are some ways we can show up for ourselves and fill the mother gap? This is about creating inner safety, so our inner child no longer shows up and causes problems in our current lives.
  7. Emergence — This looks at what to expect as you continue to work the practice. Inner mothering is a practice that you live into with more and more layers over time, and as you do this you let go of past traumas. 

“Each module has a video or PDF and then you have an exercise or journaling activity, and then we have the community. When you join you will be embraced and asked to share. I’m extremely active in the group and we do live q&a calls every two weeks, and there is no limit to how many you get. I get to coach with you in real time. It’s a combo of curriculum and community,” Bethany said.

And if you need more resources on how to heal the mother wound, Bethany has a free offering on Reclaiming Yourself, and also the Discovering Your Inner Mother course.

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

The Mother Wound

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

Bethany Webster
Author

Bethany Webster is a writer, international speaker and transformational coach. She started blogging in 2013 about the Mother Wound and quickly experienced worldwide demand for her work. Through blending research on intergenerational trauma, feminist theory, and psychology with her own personal story, Bethany's work is the result of decades of research and her own journey of healing. Bethany speaks, consults and mentors around the world sharing her growing body of work that is raising the standard of women’s leadership and personal development.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

RELATED ARTICLES
February 21, 2024
February 21, 2024
Understanding Postpartum Depression in Dads and Non-Birthing Partners
E:
213
with
Mark Williams
International Advocate for Perinatal Mental Health and Author
February 20, 2024
February 14, 2024
Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key
E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks
February 20, 2024
January 31, 2024
Postpartum Rage vs. Parental Anger: How Social Expectations Create Overwhelmed Moms
E:
210
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder and CEO of Psyched Mommy, licensed clinical psychologist
February 20, 2024
January 24, 2024
You’re Not an Angry Mom: Why We Experience Mom Rage (and What We Can Learn From It)
E:
209
with
Minna Dubin
Author of Mom Rage: The Everyday Crisis of Modern Motherhood
February 20, 2024
January 17, 2024
What Causes Mommy Brain? The Role of the Invisible Load on Forgetfulness and Brain Fog
E:
208
with
Dr. Jodi Pawluski
neuroscientist, psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
January 3, 2024
How Parents Can Avoid Information Overload: Maintaining Confidence in Our Decision-Making
E:
206
with
Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 6, 2023
Navigating Different Sex Drives in Parenthood: What Impacts Libido and How to Reconnect
E:
202
with
Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy & Dr. Jennifer Vencill
Licensed Psychologists and Authors
February 20, 2024
November 29, 2023
Prioritizing the Invisible Load of Motherhood: Valuing Our Own Time and Letting Go of Mental Labor
E:
201
with
Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc
February 20, 2024
November 22, 2023
Erica’s Husband Reflects on Sharing the Invisible Load
E:
200
with
Frenel Djossa
Erica’s Husband & Co-Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 8, 2023
Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Perfectionism? Reframing the Concept of “Perfect” in Motherhood
E:
198
with
Katherine Morgan Schafler
Psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
November 1, 2023
Breaking Out of the Default Parent Role: How to Communicate with Your Partner and Change Patterns
E:
197
with
Erin & Stephen Mitchell
Founders of Couples Counseling for Parents
February 20, 2024
October 18, 2023
Rebuilding Connection and Intimacy After Baby: How Family Systems Can Help Us Navigate Relationship Challenges
E:
195
with
Aaron Steinberg
Co-Founder of Babyproofing Your Relationship
February 20, 2024
October 11, 2023
Embracing the 7 Types of Rest: Why Moms Are Exhausted and What Actually Helps
E:
194
with
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
Board-Certified internal medicine physician and award-winning author
February 20, 2024
October 4, 2023
Interpreting Newborn Hunger Cues and Sleepy Signs: How to Learn Your Baby’s Needs
E:
193
with
Sharon Mazel
Author of Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year
February 20, 2024
September 27, 2023
Understanding Overfunctioning in Relationships: How to Change Dynamics After Baby
E:
192
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert
February 20, 2024
September 20, 2023
Managing Mom Anxiety: Why Millennial Moms Are So Anxious and How to Overcome Our Fears
E:
191
with
Dr. Lauren Cook
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 13, 2023
Embracing Power as Moms: Reshaping Dynamics In and Out of the Home
E:
190
with
Claire Shipman
NYT Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
September 6, 2023
How to Raise Confident Kids: Breaking Cycles of Negative Self-Esteem
E:
189
with
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
Founder of The North Star Developmental Clinic
February 20, 2024
August 23, 2023
Understanding Sensory Self-Care: How Overstimulated Moms Can Regulate and Regain Calm
E:
187
with
Holly Peretz
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
February 20, 2024
August 16, 2023
Navigating Matrescence: The Roller Coaster of Becoming a Mom
E:
186
with
Dr. Catherine Birndorf
Co-Founder and Medical Director of The Motherhood Center of New York
February 20, 2024
August 2, 2023
Establishing Family Values: How to Identify What Matters and Avoid Comparison
E:
184
with
Mell & Joe Hashey
Founders of Strong Family Co.
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
June 21, 2023
Myths About Toddler Behavior: How to Reclaim the "Terrible Twos"
E:
178
with
Dr. Cathryn Tobin
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
April 26, 2023
Working Through Conflict About Growing Your Family: What to Do When Only One Partner Wants Another Baby
E:
170
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
March 29, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 2: Facing Pregnancy After a Traumatic Birth
E:
166
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 22, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 1: How Birth Trauma Impacts Our Family Decision Making
E:
165
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
February 8, 2023
Overcoming Mom Guilt: Rewriting the Motherhood Contract and Charting Your Own Path
E:
159
with
Libby Ward
Founder of Diary of an Honest Mom
February 20, 2024
January 18, 2023
Resolving Conflict in Your Relationship After Baby
E:
156
with
Sheina Schochet
Mental Health Counselor
February 20, 2024
January 4, 2023
Reestablishing Sex After Baby: Why Communication Matters and How to Create a New Normal
E:
154
with
Travis Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
November 23, 2022
The Mental Load of Motherhood: How to Address the Imbalance of Household Labour
E:
148
with
Gemma Hartley
Journalist and Author
February 20, 2024
November 16, 2022
Surviving the Baby Witching Hour: How to Cope With Colicky and Fussy Babies
E:
147
with
Dr. Whitney Casares
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 19, 2022
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Navigating the Emotions, Difficulties, and Challenges
E:
143
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 12, 2022
How to Know if You Have Postpartum Anxiety: Red Flags to Watch for in Pregnancy, Birth, and After Baby
E:
142
with
Dr. Sarah Oreck
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
October 5, 2022
Protecting Maternal Sleep: The Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression
E:
141
with
Dr. Nicole Leistikow
Reproductive Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
September 21, 2022
Encouraging Independent Play: Why Unstructured Play Matters and How to Foster It
E:
139
with
Susie Allison
Founder of Busy Toddler
February 20, 2024
September 14, 2022
Dividing Labour Fairly in the Home: Redistributing the Mental Load of Motherhood
E:
138
with
Dr. Darcy Lockman
Author and Psychologist
February 20, 2024
August 31, 2022
Why Does a Messy House Give Me Anxiety? How to Stress Less About Cleaning and Keep Your House Functioning
E:
136
with
KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care
February 20, 2024
August 3, 2022
Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Why Support Matters and How to Find Resources to Help
E:
132
with
Dr. Wendy Davis
Executive Director of PSI
February 20, 2024
July 27, 2022
Overcoming Working Mom Guilt: Why Moms Should Never Be Ashamed to Be Ambitious
E:
131
with
Lara Bazelon
Law Professor and Author
February 20, 2024
February 16, 2022
What is Matrescence? The Transition into Motherhood (And Why Being a New Mom is Hard)
E:
108
with
Dr. Katayune Kaeni
Perinatal Psychologist
February 20, 2024
February 2, 2022
Discover Your Personal Core Values
E:
106
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
January 26, 2022
When Mommy Rage Strikes: How to Prevent and Control the Anger
E:
105
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
January 5, 2022
Sleep Training Doesn't Have To Be Scary
E:
102
with
Dr. Aubrie DeBear
Founder of Baby Sleep Dr.
February 20, 2024
January 19, 2022
Carrying the Mental Load: How to Redistribute the Burden and Give Moms More Freedom
E:
104
with
Eve Rodsky
New York Times Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
January 12, 2022
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Spot the Signs So You Can Seek Support
E:
103
with
Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
December 29, 2021
Decluttering: The Secret of an Easy to Tidy Home
E:
101
with
Katy Wells
Declutter Expert
February 20, 2024
December 22, 2021
100th Episode: Erica’s Husband Tells All
E:
100
with
Frenel Djossa
February 20, 2024
December 15, 2021
The Pressure to Get It Right
E:
99
with
Dr. Jen Douglas
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 8, 2021
Learning to Fight Fair
E:
98
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 24, 2021
Overcoming Gender Disappointment
E:
96
with
Dr. Renée Miller
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 17, 2021
Adding a Sibling to Your Family
E:
95
with
Bryana Kappadakunnel
Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 10, 2021
Regulating Your Nervous System
E:
94
with
Dr. Quincee Gideon
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 3, 2021
Setting Boundaries With Moms & Mothers-In-Law
E:
93
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
October 27, 2021
Co-Parenting and Blending Families
E:
92
with
Abbey Williams
Therapist