The Mother-Daughter Relationship
The mother-daughter relationship changes, but Mom will always be Mom.
Today is my Mom’s birthday. She would have been 89 years old today. My mom died two years ago, but today is still her birthday, even though she’s not here to see it. And I am still her daughter, even though she’s not here to tell me I’ve colored my hair too dark.
Mothers. A mother-daughter relationship can be as complicated when her mother is alive as it is after she’s gone. Trust me. I know.
Mom and I drove each other crazy my whole life. We had some epic battles from grade school, on. After my Dad died in 2014, Mom’s dementia began to accelerate, which didn’t stop us from making each other crazy. It just lead us to drive each other crazy in totally different ways. Our relationship changed when my Dad died. It changed again when she died, which surprised me. I didn’t think I’d have a relationship with her anymore when she was gone. After all, she was gone, wasn’t she? But like October 22 will always be her birthday, she will always be my Mom.
We never had, what I’d call a loving mother-daughter relationship. I know she loved me. She was always there, took us to school, picked us up, made us dinner, let us have sleepovers… You know, the stuff Moms are supposed to do when you’re growing up, which was loving in one way. But from a personal and emotional perspective, I didn’t feel it. We fought a lot. She didn’t approve of a lot of the things I liked or did. (Rightfully so much of the time, too, I’ll add.) Our relationship stayed pretty much the same into my adult life. The only difference was that I learned to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t have to argue with her all the time. I didn’t have to be the “winner” (as much). Looking back, it wasn’t that I didn’t feel loved by her, it’s that I didn’t feel supported which, I guess, I equated to love.
With Dad gone and Mom with Alzheimer’s, we reversed roles. I now had to make sure she was safe, well fed and physically cared for. With my sister Karen, I did that. Mom and I still had a few instances of driving each other crazy in the ways we used to, but for the most part, I was taking care of her because she needed my help.
In September of 2017 she fell and broke her hip. October 10, 2017, she died. Between September and October, 2017, Karen and I sat with her. 24/7, we sat by her bedside. In the beginning we thought she may get better, but within a couple of weeks, we knew that wasn’t true. We spent the rest of the time sitting with her to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. She wasn’t really awake much and, when she was, she didn’t really communicate. We spent that time waiting. Waiting for her to die. It sounds terrible to see it in writing, but it’s the truth. And, when she died there was a sad sense of guilt, along with relief and sadness.
Mom’s been gone over two years now, and I was thinking about today being “my Mom’s” birthday. Then I wondered, if she’s not alive can she still “be” – which includes “be”-ing my Mom. And, I’ve decided “yes”. She’s still my Mom. Which means, I’m still her daughter. Which means we still have a relationship. At first it was a very difficult relationship. I felt guilty and sad and angry, with myself mostly. In time, after much thought, I’ve been able to forgive Mom for not being supportive of me in the way I felt I needed. I’ve also forgiven myself for being so selfish (aka: a kid) and not seeing Mom as an individual with needs and baggage of her own. I’ve also forgiven myself for not doing things differently when Mom was alive. But, I did the best I knew how to do. No matter who you are, you can always do differently, but if you’re conscious about the decisions you make, you can not do better.
My relationship with Mom is ok, now. And I like it, even though she can still drive me crazy from the other side. From a woman who had a complicated relationship with a Mom she’s lost, forgive her. Forgive yourself. Trust me. I know.