Posted by Diane Gardner

I was moved by a post I read recently on an online support group for "motherless mothers." This new mom wrote, "I'm sorry if this isn't the right group for this, but we cut off contact with my mother last October (when I was pregnant). She has some pretty extreme mental problems that she refuses to get help for. I have noticed though that since having a baby I crave having a mother. Not MY mother, but someone who is motherly. Someone who will just tell me I'm doing a good job and that she's proud of me."

Although her mother is alive, this woman is clearly mourning her mother's absence. This profound loss has been magnified by becoming a parent herself. She is not alone in this experience. Many women do not have a positive model of mothering from their own mothers; perhaps they had prolonged absences, substance dependencies, mental health challenges, or just had little capacity to mother. Like mothers who've experienced loss through death, these mothers of young children don't have their own mothers to learn from and are unable to reap the rewards of support from a maternal presence.

Recognizing the unique needs of mothers who are lacking a positive maternal presence in their lives, the Center for Early Relationship Support© offers a five-week support group called Mothering Without A Model. We are going to respond to the mom who posted this message in the hopes that we might be helpful.

Diane Gardner has been a parent consultant and group leader in the Center for Early Relationship Support since August of 2009. Her interests include helping mothers learn to trust their judgment and choices as well as to help build communities of support. She holds a MSW from Boston University and a MPP from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.