Moms need moms, too

by Kristin on September 20, 2010

in Love, family & community

“I want my mom!”

This is what I used to say, over and over again as a child, when I was crying. I remember it clearly—it was so automatic,  it served as my mantra even when I was crying because I was mad at my mom. The complete lack of logic in this drove my young mind crazy. The inner dialogue would go sort of like this:

Crying self: I want my mom I want my mom I want my mom.

Rational self: No you don’t, you idiot! You’re really mad at your mom, remember?

Crying self: I don’t care! I want my mom I want my mom I want my mom!

Rational self: Pull yourself together. You’re showing your cards and making a fool out of yourself. How can you let her know you’re mad at her when you’re saying that?

Anyway, you get the picture. Clearly, there’s something powerful that goes on between a loving, nurturing mom and her kids. It’s beyond reason, logic, and typical societal interactions.

We apparently never graduate from our kid-status

When you want your mom and you ARE a mom, things get really interesting. A Twitter friend, Kim (@kkdinsdale), shared these two thoughts this morning, when I asked how her weekend was:

weekend offered lots o interesting opportunities 2 respond 2 my teen w love & grace… #parentingisnteasy

Sweet to have my dear mother, from KS, here (to help w gma). My mamma is so loving & kind

Two big, simple truths: Parenting isn’t easy—our kids need us, but it’s complicated, especially as they get older. And as moms, we still need our moms. That certainly doesn’t change when we become a mom.

When I asked Kim if I could mention her tweets in my post, she responded “I wouldn’t mind at all. Interesting perspective for sure, my mom here 2 mother her injured mother, while loving me while I mother my daughter.”

Giving in to the impulse

Even before my interactions with Kim, I was thinking about this dynamic as I walked S to school this morning. We both had our hands full—lunch box, dog leash, coffee cup—and S made elaborate arrangements so she could hold my hand. She even gave my hand a kiss, once she had it securely in hers. “She wants her mom,” I thought, my heart swelling in my chest.

After S was safely deposited at school, where she will practice that complex, ten-year-old dance between little- and big-girl behaviors and emotions, I thought about my mom, who will be arriving in town later today, for a 24-hour visit. (Side note: My dad is coming, too, and I am just as excited to see him. It’s just a different thing, you know? He’s wonderful in different ways, and this post happens to be about moms.)

The timing of this last-minute visit couldn’t be better. Lately, I’ve had that “I want my mom” feeling. My back and head have giving me chronic grief; my mom knows just how to empathize and soothe. I’ve been feeling stressed about the state of our family in our house, which is bursting at the seams; my mom knows just how to listen, encourage and problem-solve. My faith has been lacking, overshadowed by doubt; my mom knows how to remind me what God has already done in my life, and the good that surely lies ahead.

I spend a lot of time being strong (or at least trying to appear strong)—holding things together, acting like I know what’s going on, setting aside my aches and worries, to care for the aches and worries of others. I’m glad that there’s still room in this world for being a kid and needing my mom.

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  • Laura

    Yes, yes, yes. I need my mom now more than ever. Your words re-emphasize just how devastating it was for my mom to lose her mom recently …

  • Nicola

    Hi Kristin! I have found that I need my mom EVEN MORE since I’ve become a mom! I’ve always been pretty independent and felt secure in myself (mostly) in my 20′s and early 30′s, but when I had A at almost 35 – wow — did I ever start needing my mom! First of all, she was/is great at listening to my difficulties (of which there were MANY, especially in the first 6 months – let’s just say that being a mother didn’t come easy to me). Second, she never tires of hearing about how great my kid is and the stories about all of the outrageous things A says. Most importantly, she’s been able to talk to me openly about the INTENSITY of being a mom and having complete responsibility for someone that you love more than anything in the world. This is a huge help to me, especially coming from the one person in my life who loves me in this unique way. Honestly, becoming a mom has made me feel so blessed to have a good mother and so lucky that she is here now when I really need her!

  • Beyondmany

    This made me smile and cringe at the same time. Smile, because I’m happy for you. Cringe, because my relationship with my own mother has never and will not be anything close to what’s being written about here. Still, I find a great amount of comfort in knowing that my past, my difficult life experiences, are my own and do not reflect the almost limitless joy others can share with their families.

  • Kirstin

    Beautiful post, Kristin, that captures that ineffable essence of what we expect mothers to be.

    One of the most terrifying things about becoming a mom myself was the realization that I was going to be all of that for someone else: that solid rock of comfort and certainty. Not that my mother was ever all that good at being that thing once I hit puberty. Still, that feeling that I am the last line of defense against the random forces of darkness has been the most lonely-making aspect of losing both my mother and my grandmother.

  • Jennifer

    Oh, my friend, there you go again, hitting the emotional nail right on its head. Thanks for this post. Mother/daughter relationships are fraught with a complexity I can’t come close to explaining—much like what you yourself experienced as a child. “I’m mad at her and I want her to comfort me.” I know the ache to be with my mom and unfurl my wings at the same time. The desire for her approval and attention even when I’m secure in my self and my choices. I want her to be proud of me but not obnoxious about it. And I’m sure my daughters want that same thing from me. Talk about walking a tightrope; there are days when none of us come close to hitting the mark. Then, on those lovely days when it all comes together, like it did for you this morning, we catch a glimpse of the reason, or the sensation, of living in sync with our past, our parents and our kids. Lovely.

  • Jennifer

    My mom died very suddenly 2 1/2 years ago. I miss her every day.

  • Kristin T.

    Laura, you’re so right. As I was writing this post I was also thinking about my grandma—my mom’s mom—who died earlier this year. The whole time I was growing up, my mom’s mom lived very far away (we were in Mich., she was in Cali). I felt bad for ME, because I wanted to be closer to my wonderful grandma. Now I know how hard that truly must have been for my mom.

    Nicola, I’m so glad you’ve had that experience and support. To have a mom who is a great listener is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Whether we’re sharing the good stuff or the bad. I try to remind myself regularly how important that was to me—sometimes I fear I’m not as patient a listener as my mom has always been.

    Beyondmany, you know, even as I was writing this post I knew there would be people who would feel a sadness and sense of loss because of it. I really didn’t know how to celebrate something that is very much a part of us—this need to feel safe, encouraged and loved by someone who has always known us—while still acknowledging the hurt that’s there for many. Thank you for your honesty in expressing your mixed feelings. I’m sure you have already started to see how there is room for redemption in those less-than-perfect parts of our lives. Blessings.

    Kirstin, you expressed this aspect of motherhood so beautifully: “…that feeling that I am the last line of defense against the random forces of darkness….” It is a lonely, scary place! As I wrote this post, I thought of people whose moms are no longer with them, and ached for that very real loss. I hope you’re able to find some comfort and support you need from other mothers in your life, whether they’re friends or aunts.

    Jennifer, speaking of the proverbial nail, you hit it, too, with this: “I know the ache to be with my mom and unfurl my wings at the same time. The desire for her approval and attention even when I’m secure in my self and my choices.” Yes! Grace to you as you walk that tightrope with your own mother and daughters.

    Jennifer, I am so sorry. There are no words—I realize I can’t even imagine what that loss must feel like, and the many moments it must hit you. Peace.

  • Ed Cyzewski

    Wonderful post. I have a relative who went through a divorce. He has two kids. In the midst of that divorce his parents supported him throughout it all. He remarked that he learned that parents never stop being parents. They just support us in different ways.

  • sarah louise

    I will most likely only ever be a daughter (and possibly an aunt) but never a mother…but as an adult, I still think, I need my mama!! It is true what Ed said, Parents never stop being parents, they support us in different ways.

    I recently heard someone say on the radio, if you parent well, your kids no longer need you and I thought, oh, no, that goes against the fiber of the community that family is.

    Great post. I know many women who are mothers without mothers.


  • Abbie Watters

    My mother died of Alzheimer’s thirteen years ago, so, for all intents and purposes she has been gone almost twenty years. I never had a daughter and my daughter-in-law has a VERY bad relationship with her own mother. For many years, she displaced her anger at her own mother on me, but, now, after fifteen years, we have come through to a place where we can love and support each other. I still “want my mama”, but I’ve been able to say “What would Mama do” and try to mother myself. I grieve for those like my d-i-l who don’t have that relationship with their mothers. It’s amazing to me that they were able to grow up reasonably sane and healthy.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    I’ve seen this dynamic first-hand: we live just once acre away from my wife’s Mom. Kim is a capable mother in her own right, yet she still draws strength and encouragement from her mother. Other times, we are grateful for the distance between country houses, which is to say that mom’s can still drive you crazy as well. At the core, though, is a bond unbreakable.

    Perhaps us Western-European nuclear family types are missing out on a family dynamic that multi-generational households enjoy. Then again, with that acre of neutral zone, perhaps Kim and I enjoy the best of both worlds.

  • Robin

    I read this post yesterday and thought how nice it was to read this both as a mom with daughters who want their Mama and as a daughter who often still wants and needs her Mama. But…the more I think about it, the more I keep thinking of my Grandma too! I was very close to my Grandma and even though we lost her when I was only 13, I still have times when I want my Grandma! I wonder what insights she would have to my life and the things that I struggle with as a mom, wife, teacher, etc. Such an interesting dynamic.

  • Laura

    I’m late stopping by and commenting on this post. It truly is a wonderful post, but admittedly hard for me to relate.

    My Mother and I have always had a strained relationship and I spent so much of my time as a child with my Grandmother. Who while she took wonderful care of me and loved me to no end I was never able to have that bond of feeling like I could just lean on her as I grew older. I have learned to love my Mother for who she is and I treasure my Grandmother for taking such good care of me, but unfortunately I have never had that “I need my Mom” feeling.

    I’ll admit that some days I long for it. You know the feeling of there is always someone in your corner that you can call anytime.

    Knowing my relationship with my Mom I have worked hard to create an amazing relationship with my own daughter. One which I think is very successful. We never went through the teenage “I hate you” period and now that she is 19 and in college I still here from her at least once a day and often several times a day. One of my proudest moments was during her senior year writing class and her assignment was to pick her three biggest role models and I was one of them and more recently a beaming moment when she answered a facebook question titled “Who is the one best friend in your life who has always been there” she answered “My Mom”

    I hope that our relationship continues to grow and change as I want her to always know that I will always be the one who “has her back”.

    This post was beautifully written.

  • Kristin T.

    Ed, you’re right—they’re always parents. I guess I sort of expected it to feel more like they move away from that role and become more like friends as we get older, but that parental element never seems to fade. (Not that I’m complaining!)

    sarah louise, yes, there were many many moments before I ever had kids that I needed my mom in that complex way. (I’m curious—was the radio piece you’re referencing the npr story about parents sending their freshmen kids off to college?)

    Abbie, I think our ability to work through something less-than-perfect (like your DIL’s relationship with her mother), and find some redemption on the other side (like your growing relationship with your DIL) is a wonderful thing. I also love this: “I’ve been able to say ‘What would Mama do’ and try to mother myself.” Not easy, but a beautiful way to honor and remember her.

    Ray, “An Acre Between”—it sounds like you have the material for a novel on hand. :) It is interesting to think about how much the dynamics change—how much you lean on your parents, and for what—with geography. When my babies were born, my parents lived an hour away (which I would argue is the ideal distance). For the past nine years, I’ve lived six hours away from them. While I still allow myself to “need” my mom’s emotional support (something she can offer over the phone), I have turned off pipelines to other needs, simply because I know she isn’t nearby to respond. (I guess what I’m saying is that we’ve learned, to some extent, to manage/control our “need”…?)

    Robin, that is really interesting, that your thoughts keep turning toward your grandmother. I think it demonstrates how inextricably linked these ties are, across generations.

    Laura, thanks for sharing a bit of your story. It sounds like you grew up protecting yourself in many ways, out of necessity. It also sounds like you’ve learned a lot, as an adult child (being able to accept your mom for who she is, etc.), and you’ve built a strong and healthy bond with your daughter. Beautiful!

  • Raquel

    Yes, if you have a good relationship with your Mother. Do not take it for granted. Treasure your Mother(s). Let them know it !

    Love you ,Mom. Miss our morning phone calls.
    5-16-1948 to 8-28-2010

  • Kristin T.

    Raquel, thank you for this reminder to not take my mother for granted. I was really moved by it. Prayers for blessings and peace as you miss your mom daily, in a whole range of ways.