Are you a codependent mom? If you’re not sure, then read on for signs of codependency in motherhood. Codependency is a very real issue that many mothers struggle with. It can be tough to admit that you have a problem, but it’s important to get help if you need it.
In this blog post, I will share my own experience with codependent relationships, and discuss the signs of codependency, along with what you can do to avoid or overcome them.
What is codependency?
Codependency happens when a person puts the needs of another person before their own, often in an unhealthy and unbalanced way. It can look like an emotional dependence or taking care of someone dangerously instead of helping them become responsible for their well-being.
People who are in codependent relationships don’t have strong boundaries. Their drive might be guilt, fear, and shame. This means that decision-making is no longer about what’s best for both people in the relationship – one partner usually dominates decisions based on their insecurities.
Codependency is much like a relationship addiction and I’m very familiar with it. I’ve only had a few romantic relationships, but in each of them, codependency was the third wheel.
It took a lot of healing to realize that even when I was successful in practically every other area of my life, I struggled with codependency issues.
I unconsciously tried to meet my emotional needs through toxic relationships. Because I didn’t know what healthy relationships looked like or even recognized my low self-esteem, I ended up losing my own sense of self in every abusive romantic relationship.
And then I realized that codependent tendencies can show up in every close relationship. We can have a codependent relationship with family members, a “best friend” and even a codependent parent-child relationship. And that’s why I decided to become aware and to do anything in my power to not become a codependent mom, too!
What is codependency in motherhood?
Codependency in motherhood can be a complex issue. A simple definition is an unhealthy attachment between a mother and her child. The biggest sign of a codependent relationship is a lack of boundaries and the mother feeling overly responsible for the child’s happiness.
Codependent parenting means an inability to separate one’s own emotions from that of the child. For example, if the child feels unhappy or frustrated, the parent may also become overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness or guilt.
While all mothers feel deeply connected to their children, codependency can cause relationships to become strained as both parties struggle to establish healthy mutual boundaries.
Fortunately, it is possible to recognize and adjust codependent behavior to nurture a more respectful and nurturing relationship with your children while still maintaining strong emotional bonds.
And you can also avoid becoming a codependent mom. If I could do it, anyone can!
Signs you may be a codependent mom
It’s normal to want to be involved in our children’s lives, but there is a line between healthy investment and codependency. An attachment to the child that is unhealthy falls on the latter end of the spectrum.
So let’s look at the signs of a codependent mother so you can take a deeper look and see your own possible codependent behavior and begin the healing process.
You’re excessively preoccupied with your child’s life
If you find yourself uncontrollably worrying about your child or their future, or have difficulty thinking about anything else other than them, this could be an indicator of codependency in motherhood.
It’s normal to worry about a child’s emotional well-being, it’s important to go through a healthy parental decision-making process. For example, despite my own trauma-based fears, I knew it was healthy for my children to learn how to swim, ride rollercoasters, or learn how to drive.
In order to avoid becoming a codependent mom, I had to learn to treat each child as an individual and set my triggers aside.
You need to be in control of your child
If you’re constantly trying to control how your child behaves, this could be a sign of codependency. I know many moms adopt the helicopter parent parenting style, but children need a sense of autonomy.
Unlike narcissistic parents, who are making decisions based on what will make them happy, codependent parents have good intentions because they want to protect the child.
Unconsciously, this sense of control may be a trauma response, tied to your own inner child, and not in a sense of reality. Don’t let your history trick you into becoming a codependent mom.
Have you ever noticed yourself falling into the same cycles of high control or coercion through your parenting? It could be that the early environment with your parents wasn’t equipped to offer an example of healthy adult attachment.
You ignore other relationships to focus on your child
Codependency can manifest itself in a tendency to focus all your energy on your children, and neglect other relationships or activities. This can even include the relationship with yourself!
If you are constantly struggling with feelings of self-neglect or burnout, you may want to check if this is the root. Or maybe you feel lonely and you find yourself isolating from others to be with your child, even against your child’s will.
Too much care is not being a good mom, it’s being a codependent mom and it can hurt your child.
You are obsessed with your child’s needs
Being obsessed with our child’s needs isn’t uncommon. In most cases, it’s rooted in our own childhood experiences.
As parents, many of us find ourselves exhibiting patterns and dynamics that were first learned as little ones ourselves. Experiencing addiction, abuse, and neglect can shape these habits.
Although we may not have quite realized it from the beginning, something deep inside is likely trying to help our children fill a void that was once present in ourselves (and still is, deep inside).
Take a realistic look at your relationship with your child’s needs to assess whether you are being a caring mom or an obsessive codependent mom.
Your self-esteem is tied to your child
If you find a strong link between your self-worth and how well your child performs, this could be an indication of codependency.
If you feel that their successes reflect directly on your success as a parent, this may get in the way of a healthy parent-child relationship because you’ll be preventing them from making their own decisions and overtly or covertly manipulate them to go in the direction of what will make you look good.
Or on the other end, your mental health will deteriorate when anything your child does or how they behave doesn’t look like what you envisioned.
You rely on your child to fulfill your needs
For many moms, it can be easy to rely on their children for emotional support at times.
However, it is important to remember that it is not our children’s job to fulfill our needs as adults – even though they may be our anchors in many ways.
This phenomenon of relying on a child to meet the needs of an adult is known as parentification. It can come in both subtle (such as mom repeatedly unloading her worries) and overt forms (such as relying financially on them).
We may expect them to pick up the slack where parenting is concerned, but unfortunately, this can become emotional incest. It’s a form of emotional abuse that can be extremely detrimental to them.
Your child IS your purpose
Motherhood comes with a beautiful sense of devotion, but unfortunately, it can be easy for some moms to get so caught up in the lives of their children that they only find meaning through them.
While our children should be the center of much of our lives, it is important to recognize that our sense of purpose should not be solely tied to someone else – we must look within ourselves for motivation, guidance, and any other essential aspects of fulfilling our purpose in life.
Our children can be the spark that helps us on our paths toward living according to our values and convictions, but ultimately the journey is ours alone. Their journey is also their own.
How do we become codependent moms?
Becoming a codependent mom can happen in several ways. We might confuse our loyalty and dedication to our children with us being in control of their lives. Or we might think we know what’s best for them and engage in behavior such as speaking negatively about other adults or hovering and interrupting when they are running errands or doing tasks.
We can also let their feelings dictate ours, allowing what is occurring with them to overwhelm us so that it affects how we feel and act.
This codependent behavior may have been modeled for us by the previous generation but it doesn’t have to be passed down. We can learn the skills necessary to have healthy boundaries between our personal lives and those of our children.
How does codependency affect your children?
Codependency is a complex issue that can have several adverse effects, particularly on our children. Codependency can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem and relationships with others. The child may start to feel they are responsible for their guardian’s mental health issues or that they need to ‘fix’ them.
Children may also end up “parentifying” – taking on roles usually carried out by their guardians to appease them. This can look like taking responsibility for the guardian too, such as offering emotional support, instead of the other way around.
It is important to recognize codependency so that we can bring light to this situation and offer help both for ourselves and our kids.
It is healthy for kids to understand their own feelings and have their own sense of independence and identity.
Now that I have both a teen daughter and an adult daughter, I can see how my codependency in past relationships has shaped or influenced parts of who they are.
And a child raised by codependent people will likely become a codependent person in their adult years and in future relationships. So having a codependent father can be equally harmful.
How to change being a codependent mom
Codependency is a learned survival strategy, so that is good news because it can be unlearned. And the first thing the mother needs to do is recognize when she has crossed over into codependent behavior. Then, it is necessary to take steps to reestablish healthy boundaries with her children.
Additionally, seeking help from a qualified family therapist or counselor can provide much-needed support. A professional can also provide tools that can help the mother work through any underlying issues that might be leading to codependent behaviors. This usually includes healing her relationship with her own parents and any other unhealthy relationship in her own life.
Acknowledging that I’d been codependent in marriage has helped me have a beautiful mother-daughter relationship with my 4 girls. And even though it’s really hard to talk about it, my openness has been the key to help them see what an unhealthy relationship looks like. In turn, they learn what to strive for.
So let’s talk about 3 steps you can take to avoid becoming a codependent mom or to address any red flags:
Develop emotional self-care
Developing emotional self-care can be a difficult but necessary task for codependent moms. The first step is to recognize the need for self-care and begin to prioritize it every day.
A great way to ensure that this is to start a “daily date with pain.” This means setting aside intentional time each day to confront and process any difficult or painful emotions such as guilt, shame, fear, sadness, or anger. Healing her own relationship with her inner child can help heal her relationship with her child.
As I have learned about “adult children” and how I’ve been reacting from a part of me that is wounded, I have been more resilient and present, even in extremely stressful situations.
Fulfill your own needs
Codependent moms need to recognize their own needs and take steps to fulfill them. A human being doesn’t just have physical needs (like proper nutrition, movement, and sleep), but also mental needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, and financial needs.
It helps to join a support group, engage in activities that bring joy and fulfillment, and to practice emotional mindfulness to help them become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and needs.
Mom groups such as my Positive MOM Community are the perfect place to help with the support you need and also allow you to take care of your own needs, and learn how to set boundaries, while also focusing on being a mompreneur.
I started this community because motherhood is the most triggering thing we will ever do and we can’t focus on healing when we can’t afford to invest money or time in it.
Finding a sense of purpose outside of motherhood is an important step for codependent moms. Activities like starting a business, taking a class, or joining a club or organization that interests them can be a healthy substitution for activities that were focused on excess control, excessive caretaking, or exaggerated attention to the needs of others.
That’s why I offer mentorship in becoming a digital entrepreneur. It allows moms to heal their inner wounds and express their creativity while becoming a businesswoman. This can help codependent moms focus on something of their own, set healthy boundaries, and gain the confidence and self-fulfillment they need.
Achieving freedom from codependency
Codependency can have some damaging effects on our children. It can stunt their emotional growth and cause them to take on parental roles. It will lead to negative experiences, take an enormous toll on them, and deeply affect their adult relationships,
However, there are ways we can work to overcome this common issue- one day at a time!
The best way to start the journey is to recognize where we are codependent and to find the support we need. Family therapy, a supportive network, and a caring mentor will be incredibly helpful in achieving freedom from codependency. You can do this – and here’s the most important thing: you don’t have to do it alone!
What signs of a codependent parent surprised you most? Whether you are a codependent mom or have a codependent partner, it’s important to know the signs so you can start recovering and seek professional help.