I love this question because it speaks to what many of us daughters of emotionally absent mothers want but can't get: our mom's validation. Our moms weren't like other moms who acted as mirrors, reflecting what they saw in their daughters: their talents, their insecurities, their dreams, their fears, and their passions. Our moms were too self-absorbed, too overwhelmed, too damaged, or too closed off to even realize that this was a crucial role they should play. They weren't withholding it out of cruelty but because they were clueless. With that insight, we should forgive them and move forward.
Without moms to act as mirrors, we grew up not knowing ourselves. Sadly, many of us still struggle with our identities even as adults. If we truly knew and valued ourselves, though, we wouldn't be troubled by our mothers' inability to see us.
We would be able to step back, realize their limitations, and accept that reality. Instead, we continue to fight the truth, wanting our moms to be different. Our stubborn lack of acceptance causes us undue stress and tons of unhappiness. If we would let go of the need for our mother's validation, we would finally have peace.
This letting goes finally happened for me a number of years ago when staying at my mom's house. I was looking through old scrapbooks, reading notes, cards, and poems I'd written to her when I was a girl. In them, I acknowledged her achievements at work, complimented her ability to get along with her co-workers, and lauded her performance as a wife, mother, neighbor, cook, housekeeper, and community member.
The role reversal in our relationship was glaring as I tried to be her mirror and boost her self-confidence. Reading my writings transported me back to my childhood when flattering my mother was the only way to get her attention. She was always so frenetic and frazzled, but if I lauded her, she made time for me.
When I was in my 40's, a wife and mother myself, my mom sent me one of those “to my darling daughter” Hallmark cards. I was shocked to receive it and, even more so, when I saw that she had added a few handwritten lines. Yet, they didn't at all reflect who I was and all I'd overcome in life.
At first, I wept as her words confirmed how little she knew of me. Then, I began to chuckle. At that moment, I was able to stand back and look at the situation objectively, not emotionally, and thought: At least she tried!
Moreover, this episode didn't hurt my feelings or damage my self-image because I knew who I was at that point. It was irrelevant whether or not my mother saw me and approved of me because I saw me and approved of me. I knew that I was a person of integrity, perseverance, kindness, and compassion. I was no longer that insecure little girl who just wanted to be seen by her mother.
You may want to read my article entitled, “How an Emotionally Absent Mother Impacts a Daughter: From Infancy to Adulthood.”