Mother’s Day

Women raising children are warriors. How do you fight for your child(ren)? How did your mother fight for you? If you were not protected by your mother, this day can feel heartbreaking. Maybe you can find a different way to acknowledge Mother’s Day, a way that feels safe and comforting for you. Be the mother you wish you had today.

Mother’s Day Approaches

As Mother’s Day approaches, so many injured voices echo in my brain. Women living with the heartbreak of Mother Hunger struggle to find appropriate, authentic ways to recognize this day. Through hurt, anger, or disgust, the pressure to “honor thy mother” is a heavy task this week. Both wounded daughters and regretful mothers face terrible grief around Mother’s Day. In a world that minimizes women, mothering, and the developmental needs of children, toxic stress interferes with bonding, leaving a legacy of wordless loneliness. The irony of Mother’s Day is difficult to discuss, but if you’re feeling ambivalent, sad, or angry as this day approaches, I hope you know that you’re not alone.


Outlined in my book Ready to Heal are four beliefs about love and sex that women inherit from Disney land culture (McDaniel, 2008, pp. 29-40). In chapter two, I explain how fantasy images of women create an “inescapable” impasse, a sexual double bind. When conflicting rules collide, and choice A or choice B is wrong, women will hide or rage. How have you hidden your beauty? Or used it for pseudo power? What choice did you have? Do you have different choices now?


The concept of a “self” is foreign country for women healing from Mother Hunger. Without a safe early attachment relationship, forming a “self” is congested with survival strategies. As a result, many women are without an “inner compass” to direct life choices. We flounder through life responding to the needs of others, addictively chasing happiness without self-awareness. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to well-being…the “persistent nagging” will stay by our side until we lean into healing mother hunger, and reclaim our buried “self”.



Strange house we must keep and fill.

House that eats and pleads and kills.

House on legs. House on fire. House infested

With desire. Haunted house. Lonely house.

House of trick and suck and shrug.

Give-it-to-me house. I-need-you-baby house.

House whose rooms are pooled with blood.

House with hands. House of guilt. House

That other houses built. House of lies

And pride and bone. House afraid to be alone.

House like an engine that churns and stalls.

House with skin and hair for walls.

House the seasons singe and douse.

House that believes it is not a house.

~ Poet laureate Tracy K Smith
Professor at Princeton University and Pulitzer Prize winner


Since publishing my first book over 10 years ago, I work primarily with adult daughters of compromised mothers and, across the board, one unifying characteristic underlines their pain. Deep within the psyche of each wounded daughter is an unspeakable, metaphorical homelessness. In ASH, Tracy Smith captures the visceral vulnerability of living in a female body. A haunting, bone chilling fear that hides behind desire and denial. I’m taking the liberty of interpretation, of course, viewing this poem through the lens of my research on mothers and daughters… always finding evidence.

Nothing quite captures the primitive longing of what I call Mother Hunger® better than ASH. The silent hunger in an un-mothered daughter who constructs a “house of lies” to hide the shame. A “house that eats” to numb the pain. The woman who builds a “house of guilt” from love gone by, never quite settled, or sure of why. Much like an “engine that churns and stalls”, her heart stays trapped behind its walls. A “lonely house… afraid to be alone”.

with warmth,
Kelly McDaniel, LPC, NCC, CSAT

Cultural Beliefs

Chapter Two of my book Ready to Heal discusses a confining, cultural impasse that exists in our culture for women. If your romantic and relational choices regularly leave you cold and empty, exploring the inherited cultural/sexual double bind that sets you up to feel this way will help unravel unwanted beliefs driving your choices. You might be able to discuss the Four Cultural beliefs in a group of women. Identifying shared pain and confusion is both healing and bonding.


Being Still

Be still…what do you find inside your heart? Is there fear? Restlessness? Anger? Hurt? These emotions can be intolerable to “sit” with. Emotional pain is physical: our body resists it. It’s challenging to find the sweet spot deep inside us, the silence that comforts our being. Can you sit with yourself and invite your deepest emotions to join you? If you’re like most of us, you may not have tried, or you tried, but gave up after a few minutes feeling hopeless or ridiculous. Isn’t it ironic how often we expect friends, family, or lovers to “be with” us when we can’t “be with” ourselves? Try a moment today…even if it’s simply 2 minutes of silence. Light a candle, curl up in a blanket and see what happens.

First Love

A mother’s love guides our “inner compass”, letting us know when we’re safe and when we’re loved. If her needs engulfed us, we struggle to identify our own desires and ambitions. If she was abusive, terror is our baseline “normal”. If we lost our mother (early death, adoption, or lengthy hospitalization), our normal is abandonment.