Every day is Mother’s Day

A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.” Victoria Secunda

Ms. Secunda apparently understands these things. She wrote a book called When You and Your Mother Can’t be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life . I know women that the worst thing you can say to them is, “You’re just like your mother.” I’m not one of them.

Though my mother raised me till I was 8 or 9, most of the rest of my life she was absent. Because of some choices she made in her personal life, this gifted musician and artist gave up her daughters to their respective fathers and remained a loner most of her life. She and I stayed in distant touch over the years; for me she was the side of the fence where the grass was greener. I visited her for a couple of extended periods in my high school and college days, but after I gave birth to my second daughter she disappeared for a number of years. We finally found her in Phoenix in the late 1980s, dying of an ailment they only knew then as hepatitis non-A, non-B. Now of course they’d call it hepatitis C; she got it from a bad blood transfusion back before they knew about that kind of stuff.

I envy women who enjoy a close relationship with their mothers, who visit and share recipes and child rearing secrets and more. My mother was bright, educated and creative–if she’d been a little less neurotic, we might well have been best friends. As it is, my grandmother (her mother) always said that while my youngest sister looked most like my mother, I was the one who spoke and acted like her. I cherished those words.

As starved as I was for my own mother’s attention, I’d always expected that as my daughters grew into women, that I’d be close to them as well. Life hasn’t turned out that way, not because we dislike each other, but because unlike so many other families in this small town, we don’t all intend to live here and die here.

One daughter left after high school to join the Navy–she’s seen a thousand places I’ll never go, lived on an aircraft carrier, in foreign countries and now is 3,000 miles away. Another teaches at Lake Tahoe, 2,500 miles away, involved in instruction of the next generation of green students. Even K decided to go away to school, though she’s within a few hours. Now that she has her own apartment with her partner, they have a life. They don’t come home often. We don’t do much in common any more, and from time to time I know they resent that I took on another family, especially one that’s so… complicated. I think they feel left out.

I understand that. I feel left out of their lives too. Not intentionally, or hurtfully, but still, almost like we’re strangers. How are you supposed to maintain that close bond over so many miles? We talk on the phone, visit every couple of years in person for a few days. But I don’t know the details of their daily lives, and they don’t know mine. None of us have time to learn, occupied with our own path. Even my daughter here in town has three children with diagnoses– we meet for lunch about once a month and commiserate the hell out of each other, but day to day we don’t have the kind of time I’d envisioned a mother and daughter would share, once I got to midlife.

So what kind of relationship are mothers and adult daughters supposed to have? We spend their whole childhoods preparing them for an independent life of their own, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when that happens. My girls have succeeded a million percent. I’m very proud of them. I have no need to micromanage their lives; I figure when they need to talk, they’ll call. They do.

All the same, sometimes, I miss my little girls and wish we could be closer. Mother’s Day may be celebrated once a year, but when you bring these little people into the world, they are part of your blood every day, whether you talk about it or not. I hope they realize that. I surely do.

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6 thoughts on “Every day is Mother’s Day

  1. I am always amazed at how your writing puts into a few words a book full of thoughts and emotions.

    And through it I always see that you are calm and capable no matter what the situation or circumstance.

    This topic touches my most sensitive nerves. My own mother, who was wonderful, was taken from me much too young. The story is long, and I don’t even yet understand it all (probably never will), but the short story is that her own mother destroyed her.

    I often (all the time) wonder what it would be like if my mother were alive and well. I moved away from my family more than 5 years ago. My mother was very ill then. I know that had she not been, she would have been to visit often, and we would have had a phone relationship. Not like those people who talk to their mothers or daughters every day. Or 3 times a day like I hear about. But maybe once or twice a week or every other week. Who knows? But it would have been something and comfortable. My parents, like you, raised their children to be independent. But sometimes I really feel cheated to not have a mother to talk to.

    Being independent means that I don’t call my dad much. But I call him more than he calls me. We have a fine relationship. No issues or problems. But like you and your children, we just are not involved in one another’s day-to-day lives. I think that type of independence should be the goal, but I wish there would be a little more closeness. But he’s probably thinking, like you, that I’ll call if I need him. But I’m thinking sometimes that I’m the one who calls most of the time, so I don’t want to be a pest.

    I have two young daughters. My ultimate goal in life is to be alive (since I’m an older parent) and healthy when they are adults so I can be there when they need me. I hope I’ll feel more at ease calling them, and they me, than I am with my dad.

    I don’t know what type of relationships mothers (parents) should have with their adult daugthers (children). I’m sure what is right varies with every family. But I must say that your logical, common-sense approach to life means that your daugthers have a wonderful mother to turn to when they need to talk!

  2. I think that’s the thing I miss the most about last year. My schedule was not so hectic and I could come home more often. I find myself missing home A LOT these days but my school is so intense that I can’t get away as easy. And now with the job at the restaurant. It sucks being an adult sometimes. Haha

    I was just talking to one of my friends at school about how even though our family is so distant from each other and we don’t even talk on the phone that often when we do see each other it’s like we never left. I kinda like that.

  3. I can say without a doubt that I feel the same way. I have not spoken to my mother in almost 7 years (very long story- probably too long for the comments area). I was very close to my grandmother, but sadly she has passed away. I ache for that closeness I had with my grandmother, especially now.

    Mother’s Day is especially hard.

  4. Thanks for the thinky post. I’m another one with an absent mother; mine joined the Navy when I was eight. Part of my mother’s life pattern has been to completely reinvent herself every five to ten years, and I got lost several versions ago. There’s a stranger on the phone these days, someone whose current perception is that we have had a great relationship over the years, and never mind that I’ve now lived longer with my husband than I did with her. Mother’s Day is my day for thanking the women who became her substitute as I grew up and also for wondering how I’m going to be a better mom for my daughter because I’m really not sure how it’s supposed to work. I’m glad to see you figured things out with your own daughters. 🙂

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes. I am the mother of 3 daughters, (including twins born on mother’s day!) so it really struck a chord with me. Right now they are young, but I wonder what kind of relationship I will have with them when they are older. I already struggle with wanting them to be independent and wanting them to need me.
    I know I never really understood or appreciated my own mother until I had children of my own, and it took 15 years to find the balance of a healthy mother/daughter relationship. As a mother and as a daughter, I’d like to thank you for this post.

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