This is a tough one, undeniably the most difficult blog post I’ve written. And I’ll most likely start and stop writing it about a hundred times because as cathartic as it is to get this all out, the associated emotions will be rough. So here goes nothin’.
I haven’t spoken with my mother in almost six months. Six. Months. It feels so weird to write that. Six months ago, there was an incident that I won’t go into that resulted in my mother cutting off communication with me. In my opinion, and in the opinions of everyone with whom I’ve shared the situation, the incident certainly did not warrant being “written off”. But here we are.
Soon after our last communication, I sent an email and a text to her, both of which went unanswered. The sadness and anger I felt was too much, and that’s the last time I attempted to contact her, other than a text wishing her a Merry Christmas (to which I received the response “And to you”). In the past six months, she has sent birthday and Christmas gifts to my kids, and I received a card from her on my birthday. While that may sound like a “nice” gesture or an effort in some way, it was a generic birthday card, addressing me by my full name (which I don’t recall her ever calling me) and simply signed “Mom.” The card actually wound up being more hurtful than if she had not acknowledged the day at all.
My mom and I had a bit of a tumultuous relationship in my teen and college years, but in recent years, we’ve been much closer. We share the same warped sense of humor, a love of cheesy horror movies, and an obsession with correct grammar, as well as lovely physical attributes like overlapping front teeth, cankles and “Flinstone feet”. I always shared stories with her about work, the kids, and everyday life. I sought her advice and the humor she would bring to even the most difficult situation. Not a day goes by when I don’t think, “Oh, I have to tell Mom about…” and then I remember.
I lay in bed a few nights ago with my seven-year-old daughter, stroking her hair as she fell asleep. Tears ran down my face as I thought to myself – as a mother, how do you ever cease contact with your child? How do you not wonder every single day what she’s doing and if she’s okay? How do you convince yourself that you’re in the right by not reaching out? I don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. I know that when my kids are older, the time will come when I don’t speak with them on a daily basis. And that will be hard enough, never mind going months without any contact. I vow that I will never allow things to get to that point, no matter what the situation. Maybe that’s my lesson in all this.
So now what? The holidays and new year have forced me to take a look at this relationship and decide my next steps, if any. I keep telling myself that if something tragic were to happen today, I would regret not having been the one to reach out. But at the same time, I did not cease communication. I have nothing to apologize for, nothing to smooth over. I’m not going to beg her to be a part of my life. The reality is that SHE is missing out. I’ll be so bold as to say I have an awesome family. I’m a good person, as is my husband, and my kids are amazing little people that anyone should be thrilled to have in their lives. My feeling now is that if she can’t see that, then it’s her loss. But it still eats at me Every. Single. Day. It’s a feeling of loss and sadness that people not in this situation can’t truly grasp. She’s made a conscious decision to not have a relationship with her daughter.
The bright side though is that I DO have this amazing little family, as well as a wonderful larger family, and friends who mean the world to me. As we get older, I think the meaning of “family” changes significantly. No longer are we forced to spend time with people just because they’re blood. As adults, we can now choose our family to a certain degree. Of course, there are always expectations, but we need to decide what is best for our emotional health. If that means having people related by blood in our lives, that’s wonderful. But if those people start to become damaging to us, there should be no obligation to maintain a relationship.
I’ve spoken to friends about my situation and in doing so, learned that some of them have less than stellar relationships with their parents as well. Some choose to continue making an effort to have their parents in their lives, mostly for their kids’ sakes, while others have adopted an “it is what it is” attitude and have significantly lowered their expectations of what it means to have those relationships. Ironically, one of my mother’s most used sayings is, “It is what it is,” so perhaps it’s time for me to embrace that mentality as well. If the time comes when we reestablish a healthy relationship, that’s wonderful. But if not, my life will continue with those who love and value me, and I’ll be okay.