Mothers Who Make Their Children Feel Indebted to Them

Mothers who instil a sense of debt in their children make motherhood and parenting an instrument of manipulation. They're not necessarily bad mothers, they just have major difficulties with themselves that they should resolve.
Mothers Who Make Their Children Feel Indebted to Them
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 13 June, 2023

Some mothers corner their children with phrases like “How can you behave like this after all I’ve done for you?” They usually say these kinds of things when their child doesn’t do or say what they want. They make their children feel indebted to them. In fact, they’re convinced that they should spend their lives repaying them with submission or veneration.

These types of mothers make parenting a means of redeeming themselves. No one has asked them to act like this, but they usually blame everyone else for the way they act. They overestimate their efforts and sacrifices and generate guilt in their children due to their hidden desire to rescue them.

“These kinds of mothers can make their children experience emotions as negative as fear, sadness, or the feared feelings of guilt. Suffering and not knowing how to manage these emotions can generate a great level of anguish, which will completely paralyze the victims of this kind of manipulation.”

-Daniel Molina-

The two essential traits in mothers that make their children feel indebted to them are manipulation and victimhood. For obvious reasons, these are people who haven’t achieved full personal development and who use the maternal bond to try to compensate for everything they haven’t achieved for themselves. As a matter of fact, they don’t need devoted children, but professional help.

Mothers who make their children feel indebted to them

These kinds of mothers experience a certain kind of denial about the very fact of being a mother. It seems as if this condition had been imposed on them by their children and not by a conscious decision of theirs.

It’s possible that, consciously or unconsciously, the mother blames her children because she assumes that it was they who made her a mother. If her children didn’t exist, she wouldn’t have had to dedicate her best years and her greatest efforts to take care of them and raise them. Therefore, in these mothers’ opinions, their children are legitimately indebted to them.

Based on this conviction, they never miss the opportunity to collect what they think belongs to them: the submission and unconditional love of their children. As a rule, and in either an open or covert way, they tend to claim compensation for their physical efforts. For example, childbirth, breastfeeding, changing diapers, food, caring for the child in times of illness, etc.

Mother arguing with her daughter

Evil mothers or mothers with psychological problems?

Mothers who make their children feel indebted to them aren’t always bad mothers in the strict sense of the word. In fact, in most cases, they love their children as much as they can, bearing in mind their psychological gaps.

To love with a capital L we need good mental health. When this doesn’t exist, we can only offer love with a small l, the kind that’s contaminated by fears, emptiness, frustrated desires, and deficiencies. Despite everything, in essence, this is still love. But, it means the other person is inadvertently harmed and cornered by the boundaries imposed on them.

Mothers who make their children feel indebted to them often want what’s best for them. The problem is that they don’t even know what’s best for themselves. They haven’t worked to achieve it. Instead, they find, in motherhood, an excuse not to take responsibility.

sad mother

Reconciling with motherhood

Becoming a mother begins by gestating and bringing a new being into the world, to then watch over it and make it overcome its own vulnerability. This is, in itself, a gigantic task, as is any transcendent act that’s performed in life.

But, the mother isn’t only there to ensure the physical well-being of their child. Along with their care and protection, they also give their child meaning for their existence and sow the seeds of their future emotional world. It’s not a burden, but a feat to be proud of.

Guilt installed in the consciences of children does them no good. It makes it more difficult for them to recognize themselves and design coherent life plans. They’ll doubt themselves and it’ll be difficult for them to achieve autonomy and independence. However, this can be avoided when mothers who feel their children are indebted to them reconcile with their motherhood and renounce their manipulative actions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cáceres-Manrique, Flor de María y Molina-Marín, Gloria y Ruiz-Rodríguez, Myriam (2014). Maternidad: un proceso con distintos matices y construcción de vínculos. Aquichan, 14 (3), 3196-326. [Fecha de Consulta 17 de Diciembre de 2021]. ISSN: 1657-5997. Disponible en:
  • Donath, O. (2016). Madres arrepentidas: una mirada radical a la maternidad y sus falacias sociales. Reservoir Books.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.