When Your Mother Isn’t Your Role-Model

Make sure there are other women in your life to inspire you.

Christine Schoenwald
Feb 20 · 7 min read
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Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

We all need someone to look up to and emulate as we grow up. Someone to show us a way forward and inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. When we get older, we may also need role-models to embody the qualities we desire in ourselves.

Many women make excellent role-models: Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, or Malala Yousafzai, to name just a few. But role-models aren’t always famous or iconic.

In many cases, our mothers are our first female role-models. We mimic the things they say and do, and we want to grow up to be just like them, but not all mothers are worthy of imitation.

My mother isn’t someone to idolize or copy.

She’s narcissistic, lacks empathy, and is a proud misogynist. For many women, helping another woman comes naturally.

However, my mother has never lifted me or any female relative. She’s more concerned with aiding the patriarchy than assisting women in realizing their full potential.

Some women have mothers with who they’re close and to whom they can share their secrets and problems. If you have a mother who loves you almost too much and who puts your needs at the top of their list — I envy you because that kind of mothering isn’t what I’ve experienced.

Mother/daughter relationships aren’t always close.

My mother and I disagree on almost every subject and have nearly nothing in common except for a love of animals. We don’t like each other, we couldn’t be further apart politically, and there’s no mutual respect.

Over the years, I’ve come up with ways of coping with her during our limited amounts of contact. I never talk politics, never engage in her conspiracy theories, and when she bad-mouths all womankind, I shut the conversation down.

There’s no excuse for sexism.

She’s getting up there in years, but there are plenty of older women who are feminists and still fight for women.

My mother wasn’t always horrible — at least, not to me. But as she’s aged, she’s become more conservative, sexist, and delusional.

If there’s a T.V. show where a woman triumphs over a man, my mother will immediately turn it off. She can’t stand to see a man made to look foolish — even if they deserve it.

Her behavior mirrors an intense dislike of all females.

When my 5-year-old great-niece was loud in the way overly excited little girls can get, my mother got very annoyed. She didn’t tell my great-niece to shut up — she’s too polite for that; instead, my mother let out a loud wordless shriek. Her motive for doing this was to show, by example, how unsettling my great-niece’s scream was.

My mother didn’t take the time to find out if there was a reason behind my great-niece’s shouting, nor did she show her any compassion; instead, she reacted like a child.

Some women are proud of their misogyny.

My mother thinks her outdated views are correct, and the problem with the world is due to a “permissive society,” one which no longer follows the strict rules of the patriarchy.

According to my mother, if women were at home, raising the children, and men were the breadwinners, things would be better.

Not everyone is a fan of the #Metoo movement.

It’s hard to comprehend women like my mother who believe women who dress provocatively are too incoherent to make smart decisions or are sex workers deserve to be sexually assaulted.

“What do they expect?” My mother says when there’s another news story of a rape or assault.

“They expect not to be raped,” I’ll say.

I’m a woman, so, in my mother’s world, my thoughts aren’t relevant. I wonder how anyone, especially another woman, can justify rape? Where’s their compassion, their sensitivity, their sense of right and wrong?

Some believe it’s in a man’s DNA to be animalistic.

According to my mother's philosophy, men follow their instincts when they sexually abuse women and expect otherwise to be naive.

Believing that when a man does something brutal or abusive, they’re just acting like men, and it’s only right that they should be allowed to express this side of themselves is horrifying to me.

There shouldn’t be different sets of rules for females and males.

One year my mother took it upon herself to tell my niece and nephews precisely what she thought of them. They hadn’t asked for her critique, but that didn’t stop her.

She was especially brutal to my niece, and afterward, my niece told me, “I always knew Grandma didn’t like me, but I wasn’t aware of how much.”

I told my niece not to take it personally — my mother doesn’t like most women. She’s always had double-standards for the people in her life.

If my niece or I visit her, we’re required to do copious amounts of housework, but if one of my nephews comes to her house, she’s happy if they walk her dog.

What kind of parents actively try to end their relationships with their children?

I’ve had many run-ins with my mother over the years — times when she’s stopped speaking to me, written me letters to end our relationship, and called me on the phone to give me a lengthy list of her grievances.

I admire people who can cut their toxic relatives out of their lives, but I can’t completely divorce myself from my mother. When she tries to get me out of her life, it gives me a perverse pleasure to stay put.

How are female misogynists made?

My mother willingly blinds herself to the injustices and harm inflicted upon women every day. Discrimination or oppression doesn’t affect her life, so she doesn’t care.

She grew up privileged — white, middle-class, and attractive. Men were charmed by her, and she used their infatuations to her advantage.

My mother loved both her parents. Her father was a womanizer who cheated on my grandmother, but this didn’t affect how my mother felt about him. When asked how she felt when her father betrayed her mother, and she said she felt nothing.

Female misogyny is selfish.

One thing which feeds my mother’s misogyny is her absolute lack of empathy. She can’t put herself into someone else’s shoes.

The old-fashioned rules about women work for her, and she doesn’t care if they don’t work for other women.

In the narcissist’s mind, they should always come first.

My boyfriend is the kindest man on the planet and has done a lot for my mother, and yet, she doesn’t like him. Why? Because once he took my side in an argument, and because, in her sarcastic words, “He thinks you’re wonderful.”

Most mothers would be thrilled if their daughter found someone who loved them and stood up for them, but my mother sees my boyfriend’s devotion to me as disloyal to her.

You can choose other women to influence you.

I know women who exude strength, compassion, and wisdom. These women show their daughters how to be independent, empowered, and confident. They’re role models, and their love not only supports their children but encourages them to be secure, healthy, and capable.

I’ve had feminist teachers, mentors, or friends who have inspired me not to be afraid and keep striving. Their love gives me a foundation of support so I can keep fighting.

If your relationship with your mother isn’t good, try to find other women whose friendship and love inspire and encourage you to be a better person.

If you don’t have a mother who loves and cares for you with everything they’ve got, then know you’re not alone. Not everybody has a perfect parent. Many of us have mothers who are narcissistic, self-centered, and who damage more than they support their children, but that doesn’t mean you have to be like them.

Be your own role-model.

Role-models are great to have as guidelines for being the kind of person you want to be. However, they’re not necessary for you to become a strong, empowered, and independent woman.

Set goals for yourself on how you wish to grow and the qualities you want to have. If you have a fantastic mother, you still don’t want to be a carbon-copy of her, so let parts of her inspire you to be the best version of yourself possible.

Not all of us win the mother-lottery, and so we must learn how to find our own ways of being. We look to empowered, loving, and creative women as templates of how to live.

What characteristics represent the kind of person you want to be? When you know this, you’re in charge of the direction in which you want to grow.

My mother was a reverse-role-model as she showed me how I didn’t want to be. I’m generous, empathetic, and pro-women — all qualities she doesn’t have or want.

You don’t have to depend on anybody else to show you how to be you.

The Virago

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Thanks to Fearless She Wrote Editorial Team

Christine Schoenwald

Written by

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Startup, Tenderly, Fearless She Wrote, MuddyUm. Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

The Virago

We are a community of strong women who share our personal stories about how we’ve survived and thrived in our lives. We share our messages to heal and help others learn from our experiences

Christine Schoenwald

Written by

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Startup, Tenderly, Fearless She Wrote, MuddyUm. Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

The Virago

We are a community of strong women who share our personal stories about how we’ve survived and thrived in our lives. We share our messages to heal and help others learn from our experiences

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