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Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  249 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
An exploration of the darker side of maternal behavior drawn from scientific research, psychology, and the real-life experiences of adult daughters, Mean Mothers sheds light on one of the last cultural taboos: what happens when a woman doesn't or can't love her daughter.

Mean Mothers reveals the multigenerational thread that often runs through these stories—many unloving mo
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by William Morrow (first published 2009)
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Dec 04, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it
This title caught my attention several months ago, and I knew it was one book I really wanted to read, having been raised by a mother who was emotionally detached, and often verbally abusive.

In this well researched book, Peg Streep, examines type of mothering that often is not spoken about: "Mean Mothers", and that they do in fact exist. Through scientific research and case studies of adult daughters of unloving and overly critical mothers, the author provides insight as to why some women are ju
Jun 11, 2015 Wendy rated it it was ok
I was excited to read the synopsis of this book - even the title alone - as it is a taboo subject but one I can closely relate to.

So as soon as the book arrived from Amazon I started reading, box of tissues ready just in case and ok, a box of chocolates too. I rushed through the foreword eagerly and then the first chapter. By page 58, I realised this wasn't going to be the book I'd hoped for.

I sense the author had difficulties finding real life daughters of mean mothers as the examples lacked
Feb 12, 2011 Meredith rated it it was ok
Was a little disappointed with this book and found myself skimming and sipping certain sections. Being the daughter of a narcissistic mother I had hoped to find more in this book to relate to. There we re a few examples that I could relate to but for the most book did not find the book to provide that much insight or information.
Jen Johnson
Nov 13, 2012 Jen Johnson rated it really liked it
This is a really emotionally draining read, but very informative and easy to read. It brought tears to my eyes several times. Highly recommend if the subject is if interest to you.
Rachel Brady
Jul 16, 2010 Rachel Brady rated it liked it
Here is a book for women raised by emotionally absent mothers. Peg Streep draws on scientific research, interviews, and personal stories to suggest reasons why unloving mothers might be the way that they are. She stresses the importance of approaching these questions from a multi-generational angle. Most importantly, care is taken to explain how damaged mother-daughter relationships affect the psychological make-up of the daughters. Streep discusses a wide range of emotional unavailability and e ...more
Dec 20, 2011 Nilchance rated it liked it
Not so helpful at "overcoming the legacy of hurt" so much as a statement that yeah, some mothers are mean, and it sucks that people don't often believe this. I actually got some side-eye from my mother-in-law for reading this book ("oh, is it about me? do you think I'm mean?") as an interesting meta-comment on Streep's main point. It would have been better marketed as a survey of women from abusive mothers than a vaguely self-help book on how to cope with having had an abusive mother; did the pu ...more
Jurate Stanaityte
Nov 09, 2013 Jurate Stanaityte rated it really liked it
I'll just leave a quote that attests to the value of this book:

"Nowadays, getting out of the way—making sure it’s not about me—is easier in some ways and harder in others. I asked my daughter, as I was writing this, in what ways I had sometimes failed and what she needed from me now, as she approached twenty-one. Her answer had all the clarity of truth: “I need you to simply keep accepting me as who I am, and to support my actions as I come into my own light. I sometimes feel that you expect me
Oct 15, 2016 1verylovedmom rated it it was ok
I read the description on Amazon and after reading the reviews was very excited for the book to arrive. By chapter 2 I realized that this book was not going to be what I hoped for.

The author basically gathered information from other authors and quoted them and minimal sprinkled in experiences from daughters of unloved/mean mothers. While I related to how these women felt growing up and their struggles with relationships as adults I did not find the answers I hoped for or were promised. Don't ge
This was a really good book about what effect the societal myths of motherhood and expectations of mothers in different decades has on daughters. The author admits to a biased view, only telling anecdotes from the daughters' perspectives, not the mothers'. But this book isn't about the mothers, exclusively. Part of the significance is that it is a focus on the daughters and how they responded to mothering of various types (most extreme are those with verbally abusive & hypercritical mothers) ...more
Mar 04, 2010 Readnponder rated it it was ok
I had to force myself to finish this book. It seemed a bit whiny to me. But then, I don't share the dilemma in which the author tragically found herself. I was reading it so I could better understand the mother/daughter dynamics of a close friend.

The author is careful to say she is addressing the situation of just plain MEAN mothers and not those who struggle with physical or mental illness. It's also clear that the limited number of choices for women and the expectations of society that all wom
Rachael Mcallister
Feb 26, 2015 Rachael Mcallister rated it really liked it
This is really astounding. A must read-regardless of your relationship to your mother. For those of us who have unloving/borderline abusive mothers, this will help you deal and really reflect in ways I can't describe. For those who have a good relationship, this will make you feel so much better about your mother, and possibly give you some insight about what some of us are going through.

It's an odd phenomenon, the unloving mother. Do actually experience it is awful, but to know that I'm not al
Apr 20, 2010 Miquela rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Tried to read this for bookclub. One incomplete snapshot after another about Mother's that did not show love to their daughters. I wanted why, and how to overcome and something that tied it all together. Really awful. But will make for a great topic at bookclub. Made me grateful for my mother, the good, the bad and the ugly but she wasn't one of these mothers. I was a Mean Daughter!
Jan 14, 2016 Nance rated it it was ok
The title is misleading, "mean" is rarely used, the mothers are usually described as "unloving". These words are not synonymous to me. Much of the book seemed to parrot studies done by others. I am sorry, though, that the author had a mean mother.
Hava Liberman
Jul 18, 2011 Hava Liberman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very helpful exploration of the impact of having a mean mother, and delved much more than I expected into the consequences for daughters when they become mothers themselves.
Apr 19, 2013 Breanna rated it it was amazing
Very difficult to read at first but the concluding two chapters really wrapped the whole book up nicely, I did like the book very much in the end.
Apr 02, 2013 Autumn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Streep does a great job of examining and affirming the experiences of unloved daughters while also dissecting the myth of maternal instinct.
Dec 28, 2016 Jess rated it it was ok
I didn't find Mean Mothers particularly helpful. Important to note: the author is NOT a psychologist or a therapist; she is an English major and the daughter of a mean mother, which I think makes her spectacularly under qualified to write a book whose title claims to "overcome a hurtful legacy."

The book itself is pretty repetitive, and most of the women interviewed who have "unloving mothers" weren't abuse victims, but rather, children of emotionally aloof women. (I can relate on some levels, b
Lynda Miranda
Feb 03, 2017 Lynda Miranda rated it it was amazing
I wish this book would have been around when I was 16 years old. But it has helped me to understand why it was what it was and sometimes still is. It is not me, it is you.
Pierced Librarian
Oct 31, 2016 Pierced Librarian rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Daughters struggling
I so enjoy Peg Streep's articles on Psychology Today and find her to be an accessible and empathetic writer.

I actually had purchased Mean Mother's in 2011 and could never bring myself to read it. I gave it away when I moved overseas. Some books need to be read 'in season' and I definitely read Mean Mother's in season this time.

I so enjoyed Peg sharing her experience being raised by a mean mother. And the short vignettes of other daughters experience were enlightening. The concept of the 'good en
Jun 24, 2010 R rated it it was ok
first, a preface...i didn't get this book because my own mother is/was mean. far from it!

i got this book from the library after seeing the author being interviewed on a news program, and i decided to give it a try.

i'm an only child. i am a perfectionist. i'm type a. i'm very critical. and i am a mother of three. which is not a good mix.

i've found my critical nature spilling over into my mothering style, and as my children have grown up i've seen them occasionally treat each other with the same c
Bonnie Randall
Nov 23, 2015 Bonnie Randall rated it really liked it
Any mother who has ever fallen head-over-heels in love with their child will find the idea of an unloving mother abhorrent—unbelievable, even. We have been socialized to believe that mother-love is a given; as natural and predictable as a sunrise. Streep, however, postulates that this is not always the case, and Mean Mothers explores the taboo notion that some mothers are both incapable and unwilling to love their children; these mothers don’t just not love their daughters—they downright hate th ...more
Carrie Nygard
Mar 24, 2016 Carrie Nygard rated it really liked it
This volume was particularly eye-opening for me and echoed my own experiences many times over. It seemed as if the words on the pages came from my own head. As I work to separate my life from my own "mean mother" and work to heal the hurts of the past, Ms Streep has validated much of my own struggle.

I have also come to realize that as a mother to my own children, I have not repeated the mistakes my mother made with me. I admit, however, that I have made my own mistakes, but my children will not
Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Jun 18, 2016 Joyce Reynolds-Ward rated it really liked it
A very good interview-type study of mothers and daughters which focuses on several different types of insecure attachment parenting styles. I note that some reviewers picked it up hoping for a more self-help type book; well, this isn't that book. However, if someone is looking for self-help on this topic then Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell is the next step. Streep draws heavily on the pioneering work of Dr. Siegel, Louis Cozolino and others in the field of attac ...more
Jul 03, 2015 Dora rated it it was ok
While it is clear that the author knows a lot about the topic at hand, it reads more like a scholarly paper[ complete with a long list of sources], than the personal experiences of various women dealing with emotionally withdrawn mothers.

The author spends considerable time quoting great passages from many publications, and yet, the actual addressing of said topic, really is summed up in that she went NC with her mother, end of story.

Much the same with the other patients telling their stories- mo
Diane Maxwell
Sep 25, 2013 Diane Maxwell rated it really liked it
The more I read about personality disorders the more I question social norms. There really is no normal, the media, society and culture project an image! The image is good, wholesome, healthy, right and just! Not all mothers fit this model. Mothers can create and they can destroy! Mothers are also a product of their own mothers!

Bad mothers aren't always bad! It would be easier if they were, psychology easier! The games played, rules changed, manipulations, are confusing. The more books written i
Jun 09, 2016 Farnaz rated it did not like it
This was really hard to finish this book and it wasn't helping about healing and as title says overcoming the legacy of hurt, i had a feeling that author did't pass her experiences and she was still angry and upset about her mother and it kinda bothered me , i believe forgivness is needed for healing or at least you don't have a strong negative feeling about events or people who hurt you ,once you healed

Jun 19, 2016 Kristen rated it really liked it
Hits too close to home. She knows exactly what she is talking about and had me crying within the first 5 pages. It's sad and miserable and a burden and people don't understand and it took me forever to understand and I would give anything for it to be different. To this day, I question if it's me. I couldn't finish it but it was a relief to see what I had felt expressed by someone else. Just knowing I was not alone?
Apr 07, 2016 Triananess rated it liked it
I admire the writer's personal story and I could feel how strong she was. It brought me heartwarming, especially wise thoughts she shared. However, too much depressing stories about how abusive a mother can be to her daughter and the explanations. As a daughter of an abusive mother myself, I didn't find that much of stories attractive for the book, I was more expecting the effective copings from the victims with various background.
Jan 12, 2016 V rated it it was amazing
This book helps me understand my own mother, who had a rotten upbringing with a mother who didn't treat her like her other siblings. It also helps me understand friends of mine who have shared with me their own tales of mean mothers. The mother-child bond, however bad or good, clearly cannot be underestimated as it paves the pathway for the rest of your life including all of your relationships and interactions with others in the world.
Sometimes you come across something that touches you in deep and necessary ways...even when you aren't looking for them. This book did that for me. I happened to stumble across it in the Kindle store and ended up borrowing a copy from my local library. It spoke to me as a daughter, but more importantly to me as a mother to a daughter. Lots of food for thought :)
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“As Louis Cozolino Ph. D., observes, a consistent theme of adult psychotherapy clients is that they had parents who were not curious about who they were but, instead, told them who they should be. What Cozolino explains, is that the child creates a "persona" for her parents but doesn't learn to know herself. What happens is that "the authentic self"--the part of us open to feelings, experinces, and intimicy--remains underdeveloped.” 14 likes
“I was younger, smarter, better educated than she, and I began to realize that she was afraid of me and the truths I told. By the” 2 likes
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