The term Mother Hunger hit the scene this past year thanks to trauma therapist Kelly McDaniel’s new book. She refers to “mother hunger” as a way to frame an insecure attachment with your primary maternal figure. Often, this can be a byproduct of inherited generational depression and anxiety. Many women become so accustomed to living without the basic nurturing, protection and guidance, they tend to spend decades “hungry” for it.
If you struggle with insecure attachment, you aren’t alone. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, although this is exactly what shame will try to get you to believe.
It does mean that your needs weren’t entirely met as a child to some degree. Your mother perhaps was abusive, overbearing, critical, needy, high, or not present at all. Maybe she was present, and was controlling, manipulative or overly intent on getting her own needs met over yours. Some of the clients I work with struggle with body image and insecurity; a result of the limiting belief they carry stemming from a mother who strived for perfectionism at all costs. In some way, physically or emotionally, she was not your safe keeper— maybe you learned to be hers.
This is how the cycle continues. Women with Mother Hunger embody the shame. And to manage that shame, they begin to perform, perfect or please others to earn love. They seek out relationships that remind them of this first fractured one. They begin to quite literally live for other people, growing so detached from their own needs and wants. They can’t ask for what they need, or communicate effectively without blowing up or withdrawing. It’s exhausting, confusing and debilitating.
Whether your mother is still in the picture or not, a lot of these adaptive skills you acquired to manage the fracture can slowly become a part of your identity. No longer is it just something that happened to you, but it has become you.
These truths are hard to face. I know at times it can feel terrifying to examine this fracture. But let me remind you something more terrifying — living your life tethered to this fracture. This looks like victimization, people pleasing, anger, confusion and martyr hood.
But these traits aren’t who you are. They were just what you needed to get by safely and to feel temporarily loved and acceptance. You can now heal. You can break cycles. You can set down those old skills for good, as they no longer serve you. You can rewire and begin to respond as a more whole, confident you. As Mother’s Day approaches, give yourself lots of love, grace and compassion.
“You can honor your mother without honoring her wounds.”
Courtney J. Burg
If you are looking for more support during this season, check out my newest course that just launched inside Discover Your Worth. It is called Rising Daughters and is for you if your mother:
was so intent on getting her own needs met that she couldn’t take care of yours
smothered you, attempted to control you, or abandoned you emotionally.
loved you conditionally, based on what you could achieve or do.
made you feel unworthy, ashamed and confused.
was highly critical or judgmental
looked to you for friendship, therapy, guidance and support
have unpredictable moods and behavior.
I am also excited to share that the author of Mother Hunger Kelly McDaniel will join us inside DYW this month to host a Masterclass on Mother Hunger. All DYW members receive instant access, so if you aren’t a member yet and want in on this— now is the time!
More about the membership can be found HERE.