Hope For The Undermothered Child

Teen Moms Anonymous / Published July 8, 2024

Do you feel like a motherless child? Do you feel that your mother knows the real you? Can you go to her for comfort and support? If not, you probably grew up with an emotionally absent mother and were undermothered.  

The term "undermothered" is explored in the book, The Emotionally Absent Mother, by Jasmin Lee Cori. Cori uses the term "undermothered" to describe a child who received enough mothering to survive but not enough mothering to have the kind of solid foundation needed to go out into this challenging world and thrive.

Many young mothers have been undermothered --often because their mother--a young mother--was "undermothered" too. This is the cycle, but there is hope for the "undermothered" child. Hope for healing your mother wounds and parenting your child(ren) in a way that they are not "undermothered". 

10 Messages a Child Needs from a Mother

In The Emotionally Absent Mother, Cori identifies 10 messages a child needs to get from a mother. Messages like:

  1. I’m glad that you’re here.
  2. I see you.
  3. You are special to me.
  4. I respect you.
  5. I love you.
  6. Your needs are important to me.
  7. I am here for you.
  8. I’ll keep you safe.
  9. You can rest in me.
  10. I delight in you.


10 Roles A Child Needs a Mother to Play

She identifies 10 roles a child needs a mother to play in his/her life. These roles are connected to the messages above:

  1. A Source (the place where you belong, the person you want to be like).
  2. A Place of Attachment (the one you are connected to; opposite is you feeling like a motherless child).
  3. A First Responder (like firefighters and police officers –the person you can call when there is an emergency).
  4. A Modulator (the one who teaches you to manage your emotions, how to calm yourself down when you are distressed).
  5. A Nurturer (the one you feel loved by).
  6. A Mirror (The one who sees the real you).
  7. A Cheerleader (The one who provides encouragement--I’m behind you. I know you can do it).
  8. A Mentor (the one who teaches and guides you about life).
  9. A Protector (The person who keeps you safe).
  10. A Homebase (The person you can always go back to for refueling, comfort and support).


The Undermothered Child

The "undermothered" child did not receive many of these messages from a mother or have a mother who played many of these roles. Often because her mother--a young mother--was undermothered too.  

Still, as Cori notes, the “undermothered” child feels alone in the world. Adrift. This is because they don't have a mother who is a first responder, the person they can call in an emergency. They don't have a mother who is a nurturer or a cheerleader. A protector or a mentor. They don't have a mother who is a home base. The person they can always go back to for refueling, comfort, and support, but there is hope for the "undermothered" child. 

Hope For The Undermothered Child

If you are an "undermothered" child, the good news is that there is hope. Through many exercises in her book, Cori helps you begin to see what you did and didn't get from a mother, how not getting what you needed is showing up in your behavior now, and how to fill the holes in your development. She shows you how to heal the unloved child within and become an empowered adult. 

You can heal your mother wounds and parent your child (ren) in a way that they are not "undermothered". If you are ready begin your journey, Jasmin Lee Cori's book, The Emotionally Absent Mother, is a great resource.

Dr. Chris