16 thoughts on “The Child Ignored: 6 Effects of Having a Dismissive Mother

  • August 13, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Thank you for this!

    It’s so frustrating trying to explain how toxic my mother is when she’s not cruel or nasty or physically abusive. In fact, 95% of the time she’s perfectly pleasant. She’s just completely indifferent and dismissive. She doesn’t care at all about my life or my pain or my experience. And her boundaries are miles away, so that even as a child I couldn’t get anywhere near her. The pain of her not caring at all has been overwhelming, and when I eventually did confront her about it, she said my perceptions were wrong. According to her, they always are.

    Thanks for another great post, Peg!

    • August 13, 2018 at 11:39 am

      Understood. Again, what’s emotionally confusing is the lack of nasty.

    • August 14, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Dusty, I have a very similar experience. With my mum, it has become more obvious since I left home. I adored my mum gowing up, and since my dad was very emotionally unavailable, I tended to focus on my mum more. Things changed when I became a teen and was less adoring, more difficult. She has became much harder and colder as the years have gone by, and seems to have built a wall around herself and my dad. Only asks the most perfunctory questions (and doesn’t really listen to the answers if they take more than 10 seconds, or are too detailed) and our conversations tend to be superficial and only focussed on her. I can never tell her if I’m experiencing problems in my life, and if I do dare to express a less than positive feeling, she’ll just dismiss it. I don’t know how much of this is down to her own childhood issues, but she also started drinking in adulthood, and seems to be addicted. I have tried getting closer (despite living abroad now) but even when I visit her, she keeps me at a distance. I am 52 and am still trying to get close to my mum! It’s sad, and probably futile, but I keep thinking that if only I do this, or say that, then maybe she”ll open up.

  • August 14, 2018 at 7:33 am

    At 60 I am still reeling from learning two years ago that I suffered a near-drowning at the age of 2. It was never mentioned by my mother, instead I was belittled for being “different”, the mistake she never wanted, how she tried everything to get rid of me stopping short of knitting needles. Photos of me pre-drowning show a happy, beautiful little girl – the perfect child for my narcissistic mother to be proud of. A psychiatrist , on seeing the post-drowning photos recoiled and stated “if ever trauma was written on a child’s face” – it felt good to be finally validated. I was the youngest of five children, the others were a generation older than me – the psychiatrist said “considering the ages of your siblings and the fact your parents were not there the day of your accident I don’t believe this was an accident”. I was the family secret, the scapegoat yet the chosen one when she needed a primary carer near her end. To say I am left floundering in so much confusion but I recognise, finally, her narcissistic qualities and the damage done to so many of us. I now have your book, Peg, and hope further enlightenment and healing will be fortchcoming. Meanwhile I mourn that beautiful child and what she endured. Namaste xx

    • August 14, 2018 at 4:23 pm

      Dear Lorna, I am very sorry to learn about your story. You deserved so much better than how you were parented and treated!!! The near drowning is so shocking. I’m glad you got help and that it pointed out things that you may not otherwise have seen by yourself. I understand that this trauma is life-changing. I really hope that you have found a way to live your life with some sense of peace. It really is upsetting to hear a story like yours. But if you can find a way to break through once and for all, and heal the trauma, that is wonderful.

  • August 15, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Boy oh boy….you’ve pegged me. My mother never hit me, never called me horrible names, always made sure I had what I physically needed….but….I remember putting my arm around her once camping and the response was an annoyed, “don’t, it’s too hot”. I remember literally walking up to a wall and talking to it in front of her because she never listened to me and I knew it and wanted her to know I knew it. I remember hearing, “stop moping around” when I wanted to hear, “what’s wrong”. I thank God every day for my dad who was the complete opposite. Now I’m in my 50’s and married and my husband has never hit me, never called me horrible names and always made sure I had any “things” I might want or need…and so the cycle repeats itself. I ache to be able to open up, to stand up for myself and be true to myself but that ability seems so far gone.

    • January 25, 2020 at 11:10 am

      you deserve better, maryanne.

  • August 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

    My mother never asked me what I wanted to eat. It was never a consideration. I was too afraid of her to ever complain, even though it sometimes gagged me. Tied to a dining room chair for hours once because I couldn’t make myself eat her cold vegetable soup.” 61, Never married, never dated, never mattered.

    • August 16, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Your mother should have gone to jail, in truth.

    • August 18, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      Yes, constant exposure to toxicity takes a long while to get over. It’s like the sensation of long term poisoning ( I imagine). You sound poisoned but not poisonous – there’s a difference. Despite your experience, you’re actually still young, with the intelligence to be interested enough to search for, and respond honestly to a web site. That takes insight, resilience and drive, and I can’t say that many people have those qualities. Good on you, and good luck with your future non-toxic life.

  • October 5, 2018 at 4:46 am

    I have to keep going …. a beautiful son still at home a beautiful dog who needs me
    All my life (am 57) have been blamed the scapegoat sent away to anyone who would have me …. even a theatrical agent with no children made it quite clear she didn’t like me …. adored my sister but I was still sent to her twice
    My only ‘real’ sister thirteen months younger than I … when I was six or seven our stepfather had us in the playroom (perhaps been with him only a couple of years) for he wanted us to get into a school ….. I was unable to learn the alphabet (till I had a child of my own and sing it!!) especially times tables maybe capitals of the world ok
    He would scream at me threaten me nonstop ……I was never good at school? But my sister always the people pleaser am sure this is how it started ….. we were never close
    She looked down on me
    I was lost
    Our mother had left a violent alcoholic
    A spoilt man an only child …. the son of a mill owner who had to entertain and loved it too much….. to care for his wife and children even giving her “crabs”
    I had never been close to either my mother we would never talk there was never any care only blame….,
    My first boyfriend words that still haunt me “what have they done to u?”!!
    He even gave me two black eyes?
    My sister ended up being sexually abused by so called “friends” of theirs she babysat for….. the husband and wife ….. an advertising man
    She loved the car had a crush on him
    Sucked in
    I never knew till I was 20/21??
    We should have been close??
    Separate schools
    Wasn’t till last year …… my whole life a mess a mess
    I love nature the walks with my dogs and child a life saviour the simple things
    Even neighbours have tried to destroy me
    Bad luck? A bullying man poured weed killer over three separate occasions
    A woman with five children on the other side this went on as stuff traumas I had to cope with
    My sister lost everything ten years ago the banks crashed
    Her property business her family her home
    Our mother blamed it on her heroin addiction but if she had never been abused our stepfather called her a dirty little whore??!!!!!! Her fault. Huh
    She went on to self harm
    She was bright then the heroin
    But after five attempts she got off it
    Got her life going
    We would see each other occasionally
    And sometimes when I needed help she wasn’t there
    So when I heard she was homeless last year and her banking husband looking after the children …. at uni he was paying off debts (they were both as bad as each other screaming at each other abusive) sleeping on his sisters floor flat…… his father had left their mother (four kids) took them away for eight years she never saw them
    I love my sister and she did me but communication lousy always
    It wasn’t enough the hurt all the years passed
    I heard thousands of pounds had also been given to her …. from stepfather
    And later on our mother after he had died
    Our mother was adored by our stepfather…… I tried to kill myself at 15 ….. I never got close to anyone
    Everyone I have known have made success of their lives
    I want a big pill but my son and dog still need me

  • April 13, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    I have always been ignored by my mother from childhood. I m the younger of the two. Though I lived with my mother I was mostly raised by an Aunty who lived with us. So I was very attached and loved my aunty a lot. My elder sister was a problem child always throwing tantrums, cutting her hands, screaming to get attention. My mother always asked me to adjust and gave priority to her asking me to be patient as I was the “understanding one”. I was 12-13 then, my mother would leave me for months and go to live with my sister where she studied. I used to cry secretly for her and wipe my tears but no one ever understood that I want my mother too. When I was 17, my aunty, my love was thrown out of my house as my sister hated her for loving me so much. I begged to my parent not to but they didnt listen. My father loves me a lot but she could never go over my mother’s decision. Now I m 30. My sister has a girl child. My mother’s world is centered around my sister and her daughter. Her ignorance has increased even more. I am tired of asking for her attention and I still don’t get it. When I confront her she says everything is my imagination and she can’t help it. Still now I cry in pain. I don’t know when I will be able to accept this.

  • June 3, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    My mother alternates between nice and nasty. I am never sure what I am going to get. She never acknowledges my accomplishments—and in fact called me a loser when I reverted back to my old career after a mid-lifecareer change. She even got her brother to verbally attack and humiliate me about it in public. She denies all this and more now, of course. She also takes great joy in pointing out every year around my birthday that for many years she couldn’t remember my exact birthdate. What mother doesn’t remember that, and why would you ever admit that to your daughter if it were true? She also loves telling me of other people’s kid’s accomplishments, some of which were easier to obtain than the degrees and struggles I have endured. I am continually reminded in what she thinks are subtle ways that she thinks I am a failure—or wants me to feel like a failure. I finally woke up to all this, and now I actually marvel at how mentally ill she must be to alternate between nice and vile like she does. I hate to say it, but part of me feels like I will be free when she dies.

  • August 22, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Knowing that my mother was dismissive and not feeling like I had a right to complain because technically wasn’t an orphan..but I always felt like one.
    Never said I love you or a hug..ever.
    To me or my sister but my brothers now…they got that and they knew it was f’ed up.
    Once she was screaming at me for something and then screamed “GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! YOU MAKE ME SICK!” While she was in her bed and I was standing at the end near the doorway, and I tried to turn to leave but I couldn’t move.
    Frozen in fear! I couldn’t talk either. Just standing there trying to move and she didn’t realize looking at me.
    Kept yelling and I remember trying so hard to move and wondering why I couldn’t and simultaneously acknowledging she seriously meant that.
    I felt my eyes were wide and bulging cause that’s the only thing I could move.
    And fear finally let me take a step back and I then turn and walk out but my body was shaken up for a long time.. I was six.
    That’s how it was..no “Ok honey let’s talk about what happened so you understand why you’re in trouble “
    No talking about anything!!
    I was fourteen and starved for HER attention! Teenager desperate for female guidance! So when she walked through the hallway I decided to put my hands on the walls to block her AND then she will have to look at me and SEE ME!
    She said what “are you doing” and I smiled hoping she would laugh and be happy but she said “move” and I said “No”!
    She said “what are you doing, Move!”
    I stood my ground looking into her eyes for something ANYTHING..and then moved aside because I didn’t know what to say. Because I didn’t know how to talk to her or any grown up.
    But I did have a friend who lived down the street when I was nine.
    I loved to go to her house and play because her house was so beautiful and her mother was so nice and gentle and caring.
    That was the first time I could actually feel love. Even though it wasn’t mine but it was in that house.
    And that’s when I swore to myself if I ever have children I will always hug them and tell them I love you.
    I have three daughters and I did my best! But it’s hard not having an example.
    They’re all gone now so it’s just me.
    I never wanted to get married because I knew that nobody could really see and love me and I was seriously ok with that and still am.
    I was married for twelve years though,
    It was horrible. I was easy pickings for a predator narcissist.
    My siblings are all alone too.
    My mother hated that she got pregnant with me and had to get married because she told me how I ruined her life.
    And she hated being a woman because she never got the respect she craved from her father because she was a girl.
    I think she had postpartum depression after the third pregnancy in three years, and no help.
    I have thought over the years..Imagine one generation with no abuse or neglect.. I can’t.

  • September 14, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    In my 75th year, I’m still grappling with the damage sustained from having had a dismissive, critical, manipulative, neglectful mother. The ripples just go on and on, affecting every area of my life. The closed, traditional community that I was born into, and still am a part of, loved my mother. She died 15 years ago, but people still come up to me and tell me how she was their favorite aunt, or wonderful neighbor, how caring and kind she was, how much she did for them. I smile and change the subject.

    My marriage ended in a painful divorce. Life scraping by as a single parent was rough for years. I am still resource-poor, which I keep as hidden as possible. I have little confidence in myself.

    After my mother died, my much older sister – mom’s princess – plastered and painted over mom’s memory, and grew impatient with my less idyllic version of things until finally we became estranged. My sister died last year, but she had insured that her children and grandchildren were part of the estrangement – it was a package deal – making it painfully awkward for me to run into them at social events, to this day.

    I’ve tried to be a better mother than the one I had, and I’m proud of my children. But it’s been rough going at times with the daughter-in-laws, who bring their own troubled childhoods into the mix. I have one grandchild, who I’ve never been able to build a relationship with.

    I feel shame over these broken relationships even though I know it can’t all be my fault. I have to go on pretending that my mother was the person that people believed her to be, pretend that my sister and I had a functioning healthy relationship, pretend that my nieces and nephews are not strangers, pretend that my grandchild loves me. I am isolated. I am afraid to let anyone get close to me, because then it will all come out, and I will be to blame.

  • July 1, 2020 at 1:38 am

    thanks for your article, your work is meaningful to me. I also had an avoidant mother and mindfulness is helping me. Now I am a mom too and I am afraid: because although I have changed a lot and i’m working on myself, I see in me those same avoidance attitudes towards my 4 year old child. I would love to have some advice.


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