The Unloved Daughters

Image by Annie Spratt

We, the unloved daughters were all taught that mother is always right, hence why it takes a while for psychological and physical abuse by mothers to become understood by children. Sometimes it can be so subtle it goes unnoticed by the child until too much damage has been done to the mind. Sadly in the court of public opinion, when a mother-daughter relationship is damaged, it is always the daughter that is on trial. People safely assume the daughter may be exaggerating or has been irresponsible. Most times this is not so, as many women have scars from dysfunctional relationships they had with their mothers growing up.
Below is a few reason I’ve put together to explain why some daughters can be unloved by their mothers.


The mother who will not love her daughter;
The strained relationship between Alice Walker, a prominent figure in the feminist community, and author of the classic American book The Color Purple and her daughter Rebecca Walker, also a feminist and author of the book Black, White and Jewish proof that complicated mother-daughter relationships transcend race, class or education. In the Walkers’ case, both mother and daughter have spoken about their broken relationship. Alice Walker believed her being a wife and mother was a ‘form of slavery’. Rebecca Walker accused her mother of allowing her feminist perspective to make it difficult to be a mother to her daughter. Alice Walker also tried to suppress maternal instincts in her daughter Rebecca, by not allowing her to play with dolls or stuffed animals. Rebecca has also accused her mother of leaving her with neighbours for many weeks at a time. Alice eventually sent a letter to her daughter ‘resigning from the burden of being her (Rebecca) mother’. Rebecca insists she suffered severe emotional and physical neglect as a child, but is determined to become the opposite of her mother by being maternal. Their relationship suffered more damage when Rebecca became pregnant, her mother didn’t take the news well and has never met her grandson.

When I first read about them, I thought Rebecca was probably telling wild tales, may have been ungrateful, difficult. Like me, a lot of us side with the mother. It’s easier that way, it’s unnatural to not want to mother your children, but the truth is that women like Alice Walker are everywhere around us, they may not have the confidence of Alice Walker but their refusal to love their daughters’ wrecks enormous damage to their children. Rebecca uses writing as a healing therapy.


The unwell mother;
Some mothers are mentally unwell and pick on their daughters. “I was standing outside a friend’s house in Ikeja – Lagos when I heard people screaming and I saw a woman suddenly pull a little girl of about 5 years old off the road. The girl had narrowly escaped being hit by a truck. Her mother shows up, and turns on this child with slaps, kicks, slaps again, and blows. After some time she slowed to catch her breath and continued to plummet this child. At this point, I had to walk towards the scene, another woman was already there, pushing the child away from the mother on one hand and stopping the mother from doing further damage with her other hand. I and the other people around asked if the girl was her child. She said yes, then told us the girl was too clumsy and careless so she needs to be taught a lesson. She makes to hit the child again, spewing expletives as she does this, by now there was a small crowd and a barrier of people preventing her from hitting her. I still have never seen a little child beaten that much till to date. Frustrated, she managed to grab the child roughly by the hand and walked off leaving the now perplexed crowd. Someone in the crowd said he knew the woman, and that she was heavily dependent on hard drugs and would constantly physically and verbally abuse her daughter at the slightest provocation. It’s been years now but I still think about that child. I worry about her fate, in the hands of her mother.


The bitter mother;
Some mothers get bitter and disappointed when the child is a girl. Most women in Africa want male children first and thereafter have a lifelong preference for the boy child. A boy child usually cements a marriage in the eyes of society. A boy child proves that you are capable of helping your husband achieve immortality. My mother once told me how one woman would not stop crying when she was told her child was a girl in the hospital. This was the fourth time she was having a girl child. She had fainted in the labour ward, and was later too ill to breastfeed the baby for a good few weeks. The woman and her family became our neighbours a few months later, I saw how she subjected her girls to a lot of neglect because she was convinced the girl child she bore were boys but had been changed in the womb by her enemies to humiliate her, that they were not her actual children. She also strongly believed a girl’s life was full of troubles and pain, so she didn’t invest too many resources on them. She eventually bore a son and promptly elevated him to the most important person in the house.

Maternal jealousy;
This is usually the most complicated relationship. It’s hard to understand that a mother can be is jealous of her own child. Often times the mother doesn’t even recognise their emotions as jealousy. Both mother and daughter just know that something doesn’t feel right. Normal or healthier mothers are proud of their children regardless of their achievements. In the article Difficult Mothers: 5 reasons mothers get jealous of their daughters, McKenna Meyers says; “My sister and I grew up with a narcissistic mother and it left us both with crippling low self-esteem. She’d compare us to her and always found us coming up short. She’d nitpick our appearance – criticising our weight, hair, skin, clothes, and makeup. She was a great beauty in her own estimation and was troubled by her daughters not being the same. After picking apart our looks, she’d then wonder why we didn’t have the confidence to take on the world – finding boyfriends, becoming popular at school, and getting part-time jobs. Her jealousy continued when we were adults and became mothers ourselves. Our homes were never clean enough, our meals never healthy enough, our kids never well-mannered enough. She’d remember her days as a mother when everything was rosy (not true) and she was super-woman (not true) and wonder why we couldn’t do the same. It boosted her ego to find us lacking.”

My take home from what I’ve shared in this blog, is that being fed, clothed and housed isn’t enough for any child. Unloved daughters grow into adults who cannot fully express their hurts because of the shame and sometimes false belief that other mothers marginalized and put down their daughters as well. They try to normalize the situation until eventually they learn that it’s neither normal nor healthy to abuse a child.

What are your thoughts?

*By guest blogger Chineze Aina.

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