You may have heard of “daddy issues” — the catchall phrase that’s often used to explain a woman’s behaviour, particularly in reference to her romantic relationships. Neurologist Sigmund Freud first used the term “father complex” and later developed his studies to explain the emotional relationship between children and their fathers. But what about “mommy issues”? While every person’s experience of growing up, family structures and parental relationship dynamics is unique to them, it stands to reason that your adulthood could be equally or greater impacted by your childhood relationship with your mother versus your father.
With this mind, let’s explore the term: what are mommy issues, and can certain signs pinpoint if you may have them?
What does having mommy issues mean?
Mommy issues can mean different things to different people, but generally, it refers to personal issues stemming from your relationship with your mother or mother figure. Specifically, having had a strained or complicated relationship with your mother as a child can bleed into your life as an adult. You may experience difficulties maintaining healthy romantic and personal relationships, or find that it has impacted your mental health or general wellbeing.
Why causes mommy issues?
Oftentimes, mothers treat their children similarly to how they were treated by their mothers. Studies have shown that if a woman felt their mother raised them with love and support, then they are more likely to have the same balanced, healthy relationship with their own children. Not only did being accepted by their mothers allow them to form secure attachments with their kids, but in other relationships as well.
Alternatively, those who felt their mothers were overly critical, dismissive or even overly protective often went on to form insecure or avoidant attachments with their own children.
7 potential signs of mommy issues
While the idea of mommy issues is loosely defined, there are some signs to look out. These types of issues can impact how we navigate professional, personal and romantic relationships, so it’s important to take the time to assess your behaviours.
Note: This is not intended to substitute as advice of a qualified healthcare professional. As always, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or affected by issues concerning your mental health, always speak with a registered health care provider.
Here are some potential signs of mommy issues:
1. You suffer from low self-esteem
If you’ve continually dealt with low self-esteem, it could be a sign of having a poor relationship with your mother as a child. If you have negative experiences with your mother, such as experiencing little affection or affirmations of love, it can impede your ability to develop a healthy sense of self-worth.
2. You tend to be clingy or insecure
Feeling the need to physically or emotionally cling to your partner or friends can indicate an adult attachment condition that comes from your mommy issues. You may crave constant touch or need to be in contact with loved ones at all times.
3. You’re under chronic stress
If you’re frequently finding yourself stressed out in everyday situations — especially as you transition to parenthood — this may be connected to your mommy issues. Stop to think about the root cause of this stress — do you have a fear of abandonment or are worried about your performance as a parent?
4. You are unaffectionate
If you struggle with intimacy, avoid sexual contact with your partner or have general difficulty expressing affection, it could be a sign that your mother was closed off to you emotionally.
5. You’re overly critical
While research shows that mothers are generally more supportive and tolerant of their children than fathers are, it’s not always the case. If your mother was overly critical of you or didn’t celebrate your achievements, you may have inherited this trait in an attempt to gain control over the situation.
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6. You have a lack of independence
If your mother was negligent, or contrarily overbearing, you may find yourself relying too much on the support of other people. You may be overly dependent on a partner financially or seek out partners who will take care of you.
7. You’re sexually inhibited or shameful
Feelings of fear or disapproval can make their way into the bedroom, resulting in an unspoken shame surrounding your sexuality. In an effort to protect their children, a mother may overburden herself to keep them safe, such as by dressing modestly. “The Mother Wound” suggests women may keep themselves sexually small because they don’t want to threaten other women or call too much attention to themselves.