As May welcomes Mother’s Day, the world is flooded with notions of gratitude and appreciation for mothers and their immeasurable contributions to our lives. However, for many, this day brings an echo of something less celebratory—a reminder of strained relationships and unresolved emotions tied to one pivotal figure: our mother. “Mommy issues,” a term often tossed around in pop psychology, carries profound implications for our psychological and emotional well-being, affecting every facet of life. The term “mommy issues” may be casually thrown around to describe a strained mother relationship, yet through exploring how secure or insecure attachments with our mothers shape us from infancy into adulthood, we can work towards healing and wholeness.

Understanding Attachment Styles

Attachment theory, first developed by psychologist John Bowlby, proposes that the bonds formed in early childhood with primary caregivers significantly influence personality development and behavior in later relationships. These early interactions lay the foundation for secure or insecure attachment styles.

  • Secure Attachment arises from consistent, responsive caregiving, instilling in children a sense of security and worthiness. These individuals often grow up to be confident, resilient, and capable of forming healthy, independent relationships.
  • Insecure Attachment, on the other hand, can develop from inconsistent, neglectful, or intrusive parenting. It’s often categorized into anxious, avoidant, and disorganized types, leading to challenges in trusting others, fear of intimacy, or a heightened sense of vigilance against perceived threats in relationships.

The Ripple Effects of Early Experiences

Our early bond with our mother doesn’t just affect subsequent romantic relationships; it also touches upon self-esteem, coping mechanisms, and overall mental health. Those grappling with unresolved mommy issues might notice recurring themes in their lives, such as difficulty in maintaining lasting relationships, an underlying fear of rejection, or an incessant quest for validation.

Recognizing the Signs

Both men and women are affected by unresolved mommy issues, albeit sometimes in different ways. 

Recognizing Mommy Issues in Men: 

In men, the manifestation of mommy issues often reveals itself through an over-dependence on significant others, signaling a deep-seated need for maternal nurturing missed in childhood. This can be coupled with a pronounced difficulty in trusting others, especially in romantic relationships, stemming from unresolved maternal relationships. Many men with mommy issues exhibit low self-esteem, frequently seeking validation to compensate for affirmations they lacked from their mother figure. Attachment issues are also prevalent, with some struggling to form healthy relationships, oscillating between extreme closeness and distance as they grapple with internalized fears of abandonment or being alone.

Recognizing Mommy Issues in Women: 

For women, mommy issues can similarly surface as over-dependency and attachment issues but are often nuanced by how they perceive and establish boundaries in relationships. Women might find themselves in a pattern of mirroring the maternal bond they experienced or lacked, leading to issues with setting healthy limits or understanding personal space within relationships. Difficulty trusting others, especially female figures who may symbolize a maternal role, can signal unresolved feelings towards their own mothers. Low self-esteem and a pervasive fear of being alone might push women into staying in unhealthy relationships as a way to avoid confronting deep-rooted insecurities and abandonment fears tied to their maternal relationship.

Pathways to Healing

The journey toward overcoming the negative ramifications of insecure attachment is neither linear nor easy, but it is undoubtedly worthwhile. Key strategies include:

  • Therapy and Counseling: Professional guidance can unearth underlying issues and offer tools for building healthier relational patterns.
  • Self-Reflection and Awareness: Conscious recognition of ingrained behaviors and thought patterns facilitates personal growth and healing.
  • Establishing Boundaries: Learning to set healthy boundaries is crucial for emotional well-being and the cultivation of mutually respectful relationships.
  • Building Secure Relationships: Fostering connections with individuals who exhibit secure attachment traits can gradually help recalibrate one’s expectations and experiences of love and trust.

Voice of Experience

While I never looked at my relationship with my mother and identified myself as having “mommy issues,” I knew that there were some complicated feelings that I had toward her ability to protect me. It wasn’t until I was invited to be part of a therapy group centered around the book Mother Hunger by Kelly McDaniel that I realized the deep and layered effects the relationship I had with my mother had on my life. 

As a young girl, I was sexually abused by my father. While my mother was a loving, doting, and caring mother, she was unable to ultimately protect me from the abuse even after learning about it. This lack of protection and her inability to face the truth about my father led to feelings of resentment, betrayal, and the inability to trust others fully.

Through my later teen years and early twenties, I didn’t reflect so much on this strain as my mother became ill and lived with me until she passed. I focused my attention on caring for her and creating positive memories. Her relationship with my father had also changed drastically from my childhood, and we were able to talk about their relationship openly, how she gained the courage to leave him, as well as how he had hurt me. Because we were able to have a more open dialogue surrounding my father, I felt that we moved to a place where healing could take place. What I didn’t realize is that while I had processed the abuse on many levels, I didn’t realize how these events from my childhood formed the way I parented, viewed relationships, and viewed myself. 

Through the Mother Hunger therapy group, I have been able to reflect and evaluate the expansive ways the attachment with my mothers has affected me. While it pains me to see how I have carried on unconscious beliefs and thinking into my parenting and relationships, it is never too late to learn and change. As I discover unhealthy patterns of thinking or past actions, I try to quickly address them to release their weight and remind myself that healing and improving is a lifelong journey.


In conclusion, while mommy issues might shadow elements of our lives, recognizing and addressing these deep-seated patterns paves the way for enriched relationships and a more fulfilling existence. This Mother’s Day (and any day), as we contemplate the complexities of maternal relationships, may we also find space for compassion, understanding, and, most importantly, healing.

*Affiliate Disclosure: I do have affiliate links in this blog post. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.  This comes at no cost to you but is paid by the company.  I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly.  If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product. 

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