I hate my mom!…but then i’ll be damned

I Hate my Mom!

But then, I’ll be Damned!

The perils of navigating the religious context of motherhood.

Time to behave

I grew up in a somewhat cold, distant household.  My father was, in general, a very loving man.  But he was, like most immigrants who raise their families in America, busy trying to make a living and ensure that all of our needs were met.  At the same time, while holding on to his very traditional held beliefs from his native Indian homeland, he felt that, as the man of the house, he was obligated to care for the family, and that my mom could not, and should not, work.  So, she stayed at home with my siblings and me (two brothers and two other sisters).

In following along with that same traditional principle that my parents held sacred, the law, my mom should have been the nurturing one of the two, the one to keep us in line, manage all the affairs of the house, cook for us, just be, mom.  

For us, being born in America, the concept of “mom” was  associated with that soft, huggable belly, smells of delicious cookies, pearl necklaces, comforting words, smiles that warm every cell in our little bodies, feeling safe, not just physically, but emotionally.

And that image was only reinforced in our public schools (where we were the “different” ones) in storybooks and invitations for mother’s day celebrations (which my mother never came to…my teacher would always play the part of my “mom”).

But instead, as kids, my siblings and I were stuck in between conflicting cultural and religious notions of “mom.” Instead, what I got was a mom who was just never there. To clarify, she was there physically, but never quite there emotionally or mentally.

I understand that she was young when she had us: married at 19, pregnant at 20, living in a new homeland away from her other siblings and family in India, adjusting to the foreignness of life here. But aside from all of that, she seemed to collapse and just exit due to the pressures of motherhood.  Mom would keep us at a distance, rarely making eye contact, never hugging, never praising and never listening.  As we grew older she seemed to always criticize us whenever she had anything to say to us at all.  Her social calendar was busy, focused on her fashion and friends. She would spend time learning how to cook to show off recipes at social functions.  But her attention was never really focused on her children or her home.  She was just not there.

Our house seemed to be always in disarray.  I can’t recall any meals she made that we loved or enjoyed. There were no family moments, no “I’m so proud of you moments” or family traditions made.  My siblings and I would make our own lunches from an early age. I would go to school with mismatched socks, or messy hair, resulting in being picked on or made fun of (as a six year old, though how was I supposed to know any better?). And as a girl-becoming-a-woman, I had to navigate the complexities of teenage life, finding answers on my own (from books that I checked out in the library).

My father would come home exhausted but eager to sit with us, but that quickly turned in to evening lectures and scoldings for things that we did wrong.  To be fair, my father had to do this since my mother didn’t try at all.  We all felt that my father had to unfairly take on the burden of serving as both parents.  And for some reason, either out of oblivion or out of deep love for my mom, he let her off the hook for her neglect. And sometimes he would fall in the same trap of “you can’t have any feelings.”

As a result, my siblings and I had to grow up, and grow up fast.  We tried to find comfort in each other, but even that seemed difficult to do without the proper support from a mother about how to learn to love one another.  In fact, we often found that she would stand in the way of family events.

Despite all of that, we were good kids. Our teachers liked us, we did well in school, we didn’t really cause any trouble.  We would go home and do our homework (on our own, without my mother’s direction).  We followed by the rules that were understood in our communities: we always covered our legs, we didnt date, and we never asked to go to prom or sleepovers.  We kept to ourselves and played nicely at home.

I can’t say for certain that my mom represents the typical immigrant mother. I’ve taken “informal observatory consensuses” amongst my friends, and I know that every family has its own problems, but some of their moms are quite warm.  At the same time, many are in some ways like mine.  Life for that generation of immigrant moms seemed to have been about cooking, social life, fashion and then a focus on an extreme criticism of their kids who always seemed to be a disappointment to them.  As a kid, you just needed to get good grades, don’t-talk-back-to-your-parents and stay quiet unless spoken to.  But more importantly, don’t ever express what you “feel.”  As a child you don’t, you can’t, have any feelings.

Now, as a grown woman and mother, I struggle with this intensity of anger and hatred towards my mom.  But then, I am interrupted with the thought in my mind that I will be damned if I do.

I grew up attending Sunday school, and over and over I would hear the sermons about the heavens being under the feet of your mother.  Rarely did I openly disrespect or speak out against my mom.  But in those moments that I did, I would hear her shout “Don’t you know what Islam says about mothers!  Watch out, God is going to send his wrath on you!” Or, “don’t know you that a mother’s prayer is always answered!  Don’t make me pray for something bad! You disrespectful-disappointment-of-a-child!”

In a strange, solemn, way I would go to my room, shut my door and just sit in utter astonishment. How was it that my feelings were not ever heard?  Instead, my mom hated me, and so too did God, apparently.  What happened to hugging your child and saying “I hear you. I’m sorry you are going through that,”? Or, “I’d really love to know more about why you feel the way you do.”

Although I’ve sought intensive therapy, and it’s helped me tremendously in so many ways, it’s this one piece of my life that still seems so hard to navigate. Throughout my adult life, I have been yearning for something from my childhood that I’ll never have. I feel that so much of my childhood has been lost, in this cold place that I don’t ever want to go back to.  And yet, I find myself constantly longing for it.  Even worse is trying to understand how to reconcile my feelings of neglect and being ignored, with the religious principles of heaven under my mother’s feet.  I know that there should be expiration dates on blaming your parents, and I know that I should be very thankful for all that I have, and I need to learn and embrace forgiveness.  As a human, I’m struggling through all of that.  I just want to work through it without the push and pull, constantly second guessing of my self that my feelings can be legitimate and finding healing in that way to let go of the past without the echo of my mother’s words that God is displeased with me.  In some ways, I felt that she used that saying to her own advantage and to let herself off the hook in just being mom.  About the emotions, I am, after all, human and perhaps one of the most basic of all needs of any human is to be loved.  And in my childhood house, love did not exist. Not only was I unloved, but I was also led to believe that I was damned.  True, she wasn’t an alcoholic, or drug addict. I was never physically abused (well, I would get the occasional slapping, or chase around the house with the jaru, but that seems standard in this desi context), but the abuse in the emotional realm seems to be far more complex to grasp and navigate through and a lot more complex to try to explain to others.  It’s a big hole in my heart that I can’t seem to show or say to anyone, let alone my mom.

I do understand the idea of the highest elevated station of motherhood in the religion.  Having a daughter of my own, who just turned two, I realize the tremendous sacrifice of pregnancy and labor that my mom bore before me.  But my connection to my daughter now is so sweet, very nurturing and attentive.  Even at two, her tender little eyes find comfort in mine. She seems to already confide in me and trust me because I can offer to her a soft belly, warm hugs and smells of cookies.

I may never actually achieve that peace in my life that I need, and may constantly live with this fear that God is displeased with me, but for now, I’ll continue my struggles to navigate those emotions. And hope that one day they will go away.

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  • About the autor
    Nadya T.

    NT is a consultant and works in the field of human behavior. She is also a confidant to many people who have asked her advice and sought her counsel on some pressing matters for years. With this great insight into many issues, she writes and ponders about issues that many don't wish to discuss but should. She lives in a small town with an active Muslim population.

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    • DickFeynman

      As Ustad Maryam El-Ibrahimi said to a friend of mine, “You don’t have to love your mother, you just have to be good to her.”
      In your case your mother did an inadequate job. She did not give you what you deserve as a child growing. There is no binding obligation on you for your heart to overflow with love for your mother.

      But I think we can still be good and kind to those we don’t particularly love, especially if they are family.

    • Ukti Berrii

      Im glad you wrote about this. I faced the same, and am still facing it. In fact, my situation only worsened after they arranged my marriage. Ive over achieved, Ive graduated grad school, and am the first female -first person every n my generation to get far. I never had a childhood, I can only recall being beaten and being wrong all the time. Or never good enough. But i didn’t realize then, but slowly Allah was making me independent, and finding a way for me to make my sweet escape.And when it happened, the way it happened, it helped me to restore my self, my husband has been the best gift to me from Allah, and he helped me to heal the wounds, and make a better relationship with Allah. I thought how could a vicious person ever be my gatekeeper of Jannah- but Allah judges, tests, and cures us of all. And I learned that because of that torture- still I can obtain my Jannah faster, because I didn’t break the gate, I walked away from it tired of trying, but I gave the gate my all. Different stories of our prophets show that Parents were also trials. In this case you and I share a similar story. No where in public could you ever say your mother -parents are bad, people think you are crazy. But I had a home that my husband created for me, and filled it with love and reminded me that just because one person in this world doesn’t love you- its unfortunate, but it doesn’t stop Allah or me from loving you. This is all I needed to get me to love my self again- I learned that the gate to Jannah isn’t just your mother, it is being the best that you can be, and Allah is the best of all judgers. Human beings always love to pick on others problems, but they don’t realize that we all have problems that are unique to us. These are our trials. These don’t stop us from being the great people we were intended to be. I won’t say Im completely over it, but I can really understand your pain, and I cried reading through it. I am still stuck at the different stages in my life, where the little version of me was beaten till I bled. Today I am 24 years old, and thinking back, I ask my self–she beat me for this reason?…How does that make sense? I cry not because I lost my mother and my family, I cry for the younger version of me, and I can’t believe I went through all that. I look at the future that I am in now, and I see children around me, and I remind my self over and over that -that child is me. I need to spend the best time I can as a teacher with that child and make sure that their little version of them will remember someone who was nurturing and loving- and someone who respected them. Im sorry you had to go through this, but look at who you turned out to be, and how you chose to not make those same decisions as her. Because of her, your gate to Jannah is still available- even more than ever, you chose to be a better version of her. May Allah make everything easy and beautiful for you <3.

      • Noo

        You’re so lucky MA
        I turned out to be even worse. I hate nearly everyone around me!! And I hate my mum. She loves my brother more than me

    • Leena

      Dear Sister,
      People are tested on the Earth in different ways. Although it is hard, we have to learn to forgive others. How many sins do we commit daily? How many times have we transgressed yet Allah is All-Forgiving. In order to attain Allah’s mercy we HAVE to be merciful towards others. Even those who test our patience daily. I know a lot of people who struggle with their parents. Some are even physically abusive to their children and these children grow up with deep hatred towards their mothers. But once we all grow up and start living our own lives, we have to learn to put the past behind us and forgive forgive forgive. We are not forgiving them to become their best friends. we are forgiving them to get closer to Allah subhaanahu Wat’Alaa.
      I hope you find it in your heart to forgive your mother and mend ties with her.

    • Troubled..

      I find it very comforting that you wrote this because I’m going through the same thing right now. My father is an absolutely amazing person Alhumdulillah and he plays the double role of being the provider and the loving and caring parent that needs to be there. My mother on the other hand is the extreme opposite. I can literally sit here and NEVER remember a time where she has praised me or said ANYTHING good about me ever. I was a straight A student, valedictorian in my graduating class, i have a perfect GPA in college yet absolutely nothing. All I ever hear from her mouth is you’re getting so fat (I’m 19 and I weigh 120 lbs which honestly ISNT fat in my opinion), and that no one would marry a girl like me bc I’m getting fat and I don’t take care of myself. She compares me to her sisters daughter saying look at her she’s so skinny, look at her she’s so hardworking, etc etc. literally I sit here and ask God why he chose me to have such a disastrous mother. I have nothing but actual hate for her. I know this whole religious theory of “heaven lies under the mothers feet” but I believe it only lies under there if they DESERVE IT AND PROVE IT. just because you give Birth to a person doesn’t mean it does. I’m so sick of it im counting down days to get married or goto grad school the hell away from her.

    • osman ali

      That’s sort of similar to what am facing. As a 14 yr old male I know I have to be responsible and everything. Being the 3rd oldest in a family of 6 children, but my parents never seem to appreciate anything I ever do. To make matters worse, I am also physically abused . please make dua for me. I have to live in this F****** hellhole every time I come home from school. I have everything i need and thank allah i dont have to suffer so much anymore after my father traveled overseas. but i somehow am more affected by getting beaten by my mother.i feel like trash. just there, like a waste of space. am like the weakling basically. cant be like my older brother who does everything. i wish that my whole family just dies a painful death, you may think me as stupid and am too young to know anything, but you dont know what am going through. So please make dua for me

    • Mai Ali

      Thankyou so much for writing this <3 May Allah SWT Bless you.
      P.S: How caring and empathetic you're being to your daughter is a sign that the cycle of that 'hate' is finally over 🙂
      I know it may sound odd, lol, but seriously, you have ma sha Allah changed all that hate or lack of love that you received into nurturing and love to be given to your child.

      May Allah SWT reward you for that .

    • Jade Alonajan


    • A.Q.

      I’d just to like to say thank you for taking the time to write how u feel and what u went through. I am reading this and crying because it jus feels like you are writing my life. I have been the same trying to find answers to this for so long and always get tempted to write something but then stop because I feel it’s just too much to write.
      All I can say which probably isn’t helpful is that I am in the exact same boat. I am 31 with a baby and till now I do doubt who I am as a person and constantly question whether I am doing wrong or right in every aspect of my life. I think I get that with the lack of confidence I gained from my upbringing. Which now I am still working on very hard. I talk to Allah all the time and ask him to forgive me and hope that my daughter will never feel what I feel towards my mother. It’s really hard to say but I feel so much anger towards my mum that sometimes i feel I hate her. She’s done soo much damage to me emotionally I feel like I can be all over the place but because of the wisdom and the intelligence I have gained over the years alone that’s probably what keeps me solidified. There’s soo much to be said but I think I’ll keep it at that for now. Thanks again for ur post and I hope someone can respond positively on that. Guilt is probably what u are livjng with all the time because really I feel guilty for always having negative feelings towards my mum. I know she probably doesn’t know any better but she’s left me with a scar I have to carry and try to heal for the rest of my life.

    • Rita W Allen

      I have to admit it is not only immigrant Mother’s who do this. I am a revert and having married a Muslim, my mother immediately disowned me and has not talked to me for three years now. But in my childhood she was never the type of mother you thought of. Cold, distant and abusive. Nothing I ever did was good enough and she was always worried what other people would think of her because of things I would do. Being an age of over 50 years when I married and reverted obviously she is still more concerned about what people think of her and where she went wrong.

    • Sarmad

      Maybe it’s never really a thing, but trust me, I absolutely understand and feel everything that you have talked about.

      Not being appreciated, not allowed to express, never accepted for the way we are, never been hugged or kissed or loved, never let without ridiculing, never embraced, from a mom, leaves a hole in the heart that never seems to get filled, no matter what we do.

      Maybe, prayers would work to let go of all the guilt that we are engulfed in, but again, “Mom’s prayers go straight to heaven”, our moms would say.

      May Allah swt give us all the comfort and peace that we never really got!