How do you negotiate caring for a mother that missed the mothering “gene?”

The reality of aging parents is something we cannot avoid as we age. So, for those of us whose parents were less than pleasant, available or nurturing, we have some soul searching to do. What is our responsibility to our old parents?

Do I have to?

The short answer is no, you do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. That is one of the benefits of adulthood. That being said, the answer is more complicated than that and is worth investigating.

What about the rest of my family?

The rest of the family may not know your feeling about the situation and may need to be informed. The best scenario is that you speak first to your parents about their wishes. I often reminded my mother that I was going to “drop her off” at a very nice facility. It became our inside joke when she irritated me, this was often.

Considering parents are not always in the mindset or capable of making their health and well-being decisions, it falls on the family, in this case, it is you. You could reach out to your family and see if they have any ideas. If not, you make a decision that considers your old parent’s but works best for you. This is where you think long and hard about what type of person you are and how do you want to be in the world.

Is it payback time

Will you use this opportunity to take out your frustration, unresolved mom and dad issues out on them? Will you take advantage of their vulnerability and make them remember what they did and did not do for you? I suggest you have some compassion for yourself and your parents and make decisions that feel right to you. Ultimately, you are the one that has to deal with your decisions.

Is it because I am the only girl?

Caregiving has historically been assigned to the girls in the family. I say “nice try.” Do not let tradition force you into a role you do not want. I believe it is the families responsibility to come up with a plan

I prayed for compassion

I had a very difficult relationship with my own mother. There was a list of things that I was angry, disappointed and hurt by during my life. As much as I had justifiable reasons to reject my mother, it went against my character. I could not detach my emotions from my actions, I had to come to terms with the fact that we eventually understand, our parents do the best they can with what they know. Regardless of my mother’s lack of maternal nurturing and protection, she did not treat me with malice. Her parental skills were limited to her lack of emotional and psychological immaturity. When it comes down to it, how do you blame someone for having a deficit, you can’t.



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Angélica V. Hernández, Ph.D.

Angélica V. Hernández, Ph.D.

Angelica Hernandez, Ph.D. @UCLA, Sexual Trauma Expert, Writer, Speaker for RAINN @RAINN01 and Mamasita of 2.