Dear Robin:

My mother is extremely difficult for me to be around and has never been maternal, loving or supportive.  She has never complimented me or acknowledged any of my accomplishments.

She will fly into a rage about nothing, then five minutes later, it’s like it never happened. It has taken me years to realize what a messed up situation she creates and I’ve had enough as she’s 70 and not going to change.

I don’t want to cut her off completely because she’s much better with my daughter, who deserves a grandma.

So here’s my dilemma. I found a service ( where you can pay for calls, emails etc. from a substitute mother who is kind, supportive, nurturing…… all the things I have missed out on.  

They said most clients get regular calls and develop a relationship with their new mom.  A paid service for a substitute mom seems weird, but is it really any different from paying for therapy?

Should I try it?  Is it weird?  I want a do-over! Is that wrong?


Dear Karen:

As you know, I answered your email about 30 seconds after receiving it because it was so damn unique.  Not your problem with your mom, but that I had never heard there was such a service.  And here I thought I knew everything!

I’m surprised I was surprised.  It seems there is nothing we cannot find online these days that we used to depend upon either having in our real-world lives or learning how to live without, including:

  • 1 acre in the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility
  • a serial killer’s fingernail shavings
  • William Shatner’s kidney stone (that will set you back a cool $20,000).

You wrote to me with a question about Rent-a-Mommy but I’m going to address your 15-year-old daughter first.  In our several exchanges of emails I asked you if your mother was similarly awful to her and you said:

My mom shows her nastiness around my daughter and her cousins, but it’s mainly directed at my dad.  She knows that Nana will freak out for no reason.  I have a sister who also thinks my mom gets nasty, especially to my dad.

Look, I can’t tell you what to do.

Oh wait, that’s my job.  Never mind!

Modeling Relationships

I’m concerned about your daughter spending time with an irate, abusive, raging old bitch.  Not only could it be incredibly confusing and destructive to see her grandmother act this way, she must feel extreme conflict about hanging out while Grandma berates Grandpa.  

Speaking of Grandpa, who’s helping that poor bastard get out of this toxic environment?  Do I need to call you an elder lawyer?

She may also start to think this is OK, which makes me very worried for her future ex-husband and the children from whom she is sure to become alienated.

I think it’s healthy you’ve largely disentangled yourself from your mother but I hope you’ve given your daughter permission to do the same.  

She’s at an age where she is making independent choices about who she wants to spend time with and simultaneously learning about how relationships work, so if she’s cool with observing this tragic marriage let her but have a serious conversation about why this is a paradigm with which she should never be comfortable.

Ask her how she honestly feels about spending time with Grandma, and you may find out she hates it.  

In that case, is that the relationship you claim your daughter “deserves?”  If so, what did your daughter ever do to you that made you so hateful towards her?  Does this mother-daughter animosity run in the family DNA (Daughter No Affection)?

Just kidding.


I struggled with this one; I really did.  But in the end, I kept coming to the same advice I give men, especially those trapped in a loveless and sexless marriage, considering Rent-a-Vagina:

If you need a whore hire one, but don’t be foolish enough to expect love from her, or anything remotely resembling a real interpersonal experience with someone who would rather reach into your pocket than your heart.

If you retain this service you will be engaging in willful and blatant self-deception, not therapy.  A good therapist will help you get to the root of your troubles and figure out how to deal with them, not put on a costume and play a role in an imaginary world of your choosing.

Come on, Karen.  You are better than that.  

You know what you are lacking: maternal love.  Like any other sort of bona fide love, maternal love cannot be purchased, leased, or optioned.  It cannot be forged by the paid hand or voice of another, and no impersonator can or will ever mend the hole that was forged in your psyche all those years ago when life dealt you a shitty Mom Hand.  

This isn’t Pretty Woman.  

We don’t get to suspend disbelief long enough to fool ourselves into thinking that the whore is not a whore.  

Make no mistake about it, the perpetrators of this website are hookers and pimps, but worse than the usual because they prey upon the inherent need of children, regardless of age, be loved and cared for by their mothers.

Also, I’m pretty pissed I didn’t think of this first.


Become Your Own Mom

Accept that your own mother was not equipped with the capability to nurture children or even be a decent human being and forgive her, but continue to keep your distance.  

You are 49 years old.  She’s shown you who she is and who she is not so it’s time to take her word for it.

If it’s mothering you need step right up, give it to yourself, seek maternal qualities in other people, and cobble together a nice, genuine surrogate.

Looking at my own relationship with my son, I see the following characteristics as most important:

  • Affection and encouragement
  • Instruction and advice 
  • Support and confidence in his abilities
  • The ability to share moments both maternal and silly
  • Accountability
  • Honesty
  • Love

Some of those things we can deliver unto ourselves.  Some we need help with.  Some go both ways.  The truth is that unless we die before our mom and dad, we must all eventually become our own parents.  

Unfortunately your task was laid before you many years ago and it’s time to do the work.  Hiring it out is not “doing the work.”  

Try the hard way before you spend money on something that, like retaining a prostitute, might feel good for a while until it feels very empty, very sad, and every bit the charade that it is.




This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tamsen

    Wow. I’m with you, who knew there was such a thing? And you’re correct, you can’t “rent” a mother. If what you need is some support and nurturing, then make some good friends, or find a life-partner who can provide that, and pick yourself up by the bootstraps and acknowledge you’re just never going to have the Mom you wanted. Or, if you’re not getting what you need from friends and/or life-partners, then get a good therapist. The “rent a mom” thing is creepy, and is never going to be real.

  2. kiki

    Dear Robin you are dead on (again!) – I have a mother like this and because of that, I’ve sought out relationships with older women through the years, these were genuine friendships with wonderful women BUT were not a substitute for my mother in the long run.

    Karen – look up “mother’s with narcissistic personality disorder” and you may find some of the answers you’ve been looking for – I did. If she is and if she is like mine, take Robin’s advise about keeping your child at a distance….

    Love your column Robin!!

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