Ep. 72: The Emotionally Unavailable Mother:
Erica Komisar, LCSW

Depression and anxiety take root in childhood, writes veteran psychoanalyst Erica Komisar. Parents who are concerned about their children’s mental health and emotional well-being need to know that early intervention and guidance is the way to prevent early symptoms in children from developing into long-term mental disorders.

The way to avoid this? Be there. Not just physically but emotionally.

Erica is a parent guidance expert who has been in private practice in New York City for 25 years. She’s the author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, which is based on more than two decades of clinical work and breakthrough neurobiological research and challenges the pervasive myths of infant resiliency and the concept of women being able to ‘have it all.’

Erica’s new book, which will be published in 2021, is about the equally significant value of being there for one’s children in the teenage years.

Erica’s work teaches parents how to raise emotionally healthy children by being as present emotionally and physically as possible from infancy through adolescence. In this podcast episode, she and I discuss why this is vital to children’s development and how those whose mothers were not emotionally available can break the cycle.


5:00  What devaluing mothering does to children in the short- and long-term, especially when it comes to children learning how to regulate their emotions

7:30  Erica talks about how skin to skin contact regulates a baby’s emotions and regulates their stress. She discusses how we expose them to too much stress now because of our lifestyle. ex. going to work , daycare, etc.

8:55  Suzanne talks about the vast priority shift that happens when you become a mother vs. when you are in the working world without children

14:20 Erica and Suzanne talk about how important it is to be on the same page with your spouse about family, motherhood and if you (the woman) will stay home

15:20 Suzanne and Erica talk about “guilt” and how it impacts women and why it’s different for men

18:40 Erica explains the “boredom” of early motherhood, what that means, how for many it’s related to postpartum depression

21:30  Quality time vs. quantity time and moment to moment nurturing

24:00  Erica talks about how fragile emotionally and neurologically babies are and how different our lives and our family’s lives would be if we as a culture understood that

24:50  Erica talks about her new book, coming out next year, and about being an emotionally available parent in adolescence

28:40  What IS an emotionally unavailable mother?

32:10  Erica explains attachment disorders and how babies create “strategies” to emotionally unavailable mother

33:40  Suzanne and Erica discuss how parents today are distracted, preoccupied with themselves and not present

35:25  The alcoholic mother and how alcoholism is a symptom of depression

37:00  Suzanne talks about different forms of depression, including post-divorce depression

40:00  Abandonment issues from childhood stays with you and carries over into your other relationships

43:15  The “absentee mother”

45:15  Erica talks about her counseling practice and what she has seen during COVID-19

49:40 What makes a “good” mother?

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, a coach, and a podcast host committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.