Mom—So Glad You Got a Life

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Motherhood

I talked to my friend Jane in a local restaurant a few weeks after her mother died. Her description of her relationship with her mother—and her sense of loss—touched me deeply. Because their relationship had been so good for so long, her grief was normal and expected—tinged with love, not regret or longing. Jane’s mother was very independent and didn’t make Jane responsible for her happiness. In many ways, this is the kind of relationship we all long for—one of ease, without guilt or obligation.

Jane told me that she and her mom spoke every night. She joked, “Mom always called to ask if I knew the final answer on Jeopardy.” She went on to say, “I really miss her. No one else in my life is ever going to care about me the way my mother did. The good news is that I really enjoyed her while she was here. We were really close.” We all want someone who loves us unconditionally and is available to witness the daily joys and sorrows of our lives.

This got me thinking about my own relationships, both with my mother and with my daughters. I realized that Jane’s nightly conversations with her mother were a sharp contrast to my own mother-daughter relationships. We’re all close. And we get along fine. But sometimes, I’ll go weeks without hearing from my mother—or she from me—depending on what else we are doing. My mother is often off on long camping trips across the country with no cell service. And my daughters both lead very full and busy lives. And so do I! So, believe it or not, it would never occur to me to check in with either my mother or my daughters every night.

Every one of us has a rich, social, and happy life. My oldest daughter recently moved home for a break from living in New York City, so she can do her creative work with less wear and tear. I brag that she was fully self-supporting in New York City, but clearly the time was right for a sabbatical. And so, it has been delightful to get to know her again after nearly ten years of her being away from home. We have dinner together most nights and also check in about our schedules. It’s a delight to watch her personal rebirth.

But often we go our separate ways. When she first got here, she asked me if it was all right for her to join my tango community and come dance with us. She loves it, but didn’t want to horn in on the social life that I have created for myself. I love that role reversal! The sophisticated woman from New York City returns home and wants in on her mother’s vibrant social life in Maine.

Earlier this year, I found that I was missing my youngest, who is starting a new business and has recently become engaged. She is often gone for weeks at a time, too. I had started to feel like “Plan B”—the person she would visit when no one better was available. After becoming aware of my discomfort and resentment, I shared my dilemma with her. Part of me was hesitant to ask for her company. I do not want to be a whiny, needy mother. And I’ll admit—being a mother makes me feel so darn vulnerable.

To my great relief, she, like my older daughter, was very enthusiastic about getting together regularly. The conversation with Jane made me realize how much I enjoy regular, fun, quality time with my daughters that doesn’t involve a birthday, holiday, or anything obligatory. So we now book mother-daughter dates into our schedules. And this has been delightful! No guilt. No obligation. Just enjoying each other’s company.

All three of us are living near each other again, enjoying a kind of reunion period. Sharing our lives, but in a new way. I no longer feel responsible for their choices. I speak up when something bothers me, and they do the same. There’s something so satisfying about this. When they left home for college and I was newly single, I realized that I had to “get a life” which didn’t include them. And I did. And so has my mother. And that is the key reason we are all together again—in joy and partnership.

What are your relationships like with the important women in your life? Do you think “getting a life” is a good strategy for having strong relationships? Please leave a comment.

 

Note: I delve into the very complicated relationship between mothers and daughters in Lightening the Mother Load, one of my  live online events.

Last Updated: May 1, 2013

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. Very Grateful
    6 years ago

    Anyway, I felt so much love and comfort in my soul, that comfort and love I have needed for so long and that she/they (ancestor lineage?) were so proud of me for everything I have accomplished and that I was good…and I cried and cried but with a beautiful feeling in my heart. I am starting my path for healing with other issues too but I feel very hopeful. Thank you so much for your lectures and the wonderful work that you do. God bless you! :).

  2. Very Grateful
    6 years ago

    When you mentioned the connection with the mother earth I felt like crying, then when you asked to invite our mothers/women of our maternal lineage, I felt something so wonderful in my heart and I felt that from one presence in particular that for whatever reason I think it was my great grand mother but I only saw her once when I was maybe 2-3 years old but that’s it not memory of her.

  3. Very Grateful
    6 years ago

    Dear Dr. Northrup, I took your course about mothers and daughters. I have several issues with my mom, she is no completely narcissistic but has some traits and she can be very cold/cruel. Anyway, in your 2nd class at the meditation at the end, I experienced something so wonderful, that I have mean to write you.

  4. Stacy Porter
    6 years ago

    I’m really close with my mom. throughout my childhood we moved around a lot and we became best friends. She was recently in an accident but when she got home we got into a big fight. It was our way of dealing with the fact that the outcome of that accident could have been very different. I could have lost her. My mom has had PTSD since she was 16 when she was in her first motorcycle accident. I am her best friend because I am the one person she’s truly close to. We raised each other.

  5. Paula Weir
    6 years ago

    I would say that my mother and I have a good relationship, but my sister is the top dog in our family. My Mom does nothing without my sisters opinion, permission or blessing. My sister calls my Mom every night and when she’s away on vacation my Mom pines for her. I learned a long time ago that I have to do things for me, no regrets, no guilt – just live in the moment and do what feels right for me.

  6. Christiane Northrup
    6 years ago

    I’d love to hear from those of you who are taking my Mother Load course to see if it has helped with some of the heartbreak of having a mother who is mentally ill, alcoholic, or simply “not present.” This does in fact leave a big hole that only a solid relationship with the GReat Mother can fill. I know that each of us can cultivate this– and perhaps it’s what some of us took birth for! Thanks for sharing yourselves here!

  7. Lynda
    6 years ago

    My mother abandoned me at the age of 4. She is 81 now & we have gotten closer but she is very selfish & jealous. When my stepfather does things for us she makes comments like: he never buys gas for MY car, he doesn’t give ME money for MY birthday & thinks his kids only call him because they want something from him. I’m having trouble dealing with knowing I will have to take care of her if my stepfather dies first. I envy those who have had a loving relationship with their mothers.

  8. Dawn
    6 years ago

    Meg, I can certainly relate to you. I too am envious of those who had a relationship with ANY healthy older woman. My Mother has had depression and other mental issues all her life. I have known nothing but anger, guilt, fear, and even hopelessness with my Mom. She is now ill with serious health issues, which is painful and bittersweet. I never had a “mother” figure in my life, ever. To all the daughters and mothers that “have a life”… God Bless You all.

  9. Meg
    6 years ago

    My Mom has had clinical depression since I was about 8 years old and it went untreated for years. She was switched off for the most part of my growing up years and has been so consumed by her own problems that she missed out on getting to know my brother and I. Our relationship is scarred and I envy everyone whose Mom is a healthy and vibrant woman they can look up to. I look forward to the “healing the mother load” series and becoming free of the feelings of guilt and desperation.

  10. Lynn AbateJohnson
    6 years ago

    yes-
    I feel that each of us “getting a life” of our own enriches our relationships far and wide – including those with our mothers and others.
    I am fortunate enough to be able to experience my mother as the true gift that she is, since she is now thriving at a youthful 76 after stage IIIC ovarian cancer.
    She’s independent again now. A feisty single lady, in charge of her life.
    Now, I cherish time with my mom. And my mom respects that I have a life as well.

  11. Claire Charron
    6 years ago

    Thank you Dr. Northup for sharing your story. I lost my mother in 2011, she was 100 years old. I spoke with her every day and saw her every week. I have a daughter and 2 granddaughters and I see them every week. Unfortunately we often don’t understand how important they are to us until they are no longer with us or when they are very sick. Tell them you love them, don’t wait for special occasions.

  12. Zena in UK
    6 years ago

    I have two beautiful grown up sons who have found love, life, fun and confidence to ‘go get it’! They never fail to give me joy in how grounded and well adjusted they are. I didn’t do such a bad job you know, and I virtually done it single handed. I love their vibrant company, but I love my own life too !!!

  13. Kathy
    6 years ago

    My mother passed 10 years ago…what I miss most, when visiting, was our early morning talks at the kitchen table before any one else in the house was awake. I am excited as my relationship evolves to one of friendship with my 20 something daughters!

  14. incarltriaree
    6 years ago

    You have a wonderful site here that was a quality read for me. Good info! Thanks!

  15. Adrienne Livengood
    6 years ago

    Long conversations over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee gave me the opportunity to reassure her that nothing had changed but her location. She remained the strong, steadfast woman that we loved and valued. Six months later as I said my final goodbye, I gained comfort knowing that our final months together allowed us to express feelings that might not have otherwise been shared.

  16. Adrienne Livengood
    6 years ago

    My mother was also very independent and lived alone until the last 6 months of her life when, congestive heart failure began to get the best of her. I happily moved her in with me but not without some reservation and sadness on her part. She was a proud lady and had always been there for her three daughters and painfully realizing those days had come to an end was not easy for her to accept.

  17. Yolanda Castellanos
    6 years ago

    I think that having a life is a wise strategy for not interfering in daughters/mothers lives. My family, my friends, my work and my hobbies support me, because if something goes wrong with either one of them, the others will still support me.

  18. Roberta
    6 years ago

    90 yr old mom moved in last Oct since she needed help but not ready for a nursing home. We’ve been close in a way that we have always been there for one another. She never drove but was VERY independent. My daughters on the opposite coast, have families of their own and I tend to hear from them less. Hope to be with them someday. I sometimes feel left out but that passes quickly with a busy life of my own. I am truly blessed to have a wonderful family.

  19. Stephanie
    6 years ago

    Thank you Dr. Northrup for sharing your motherly relationships- inspiring!This resonates so deeply all I have ever said to myself is if my mother would just ‘get her own life’ instead of just sitting by the phone waiting,allowing life to pass by that ‘guilt’, ‘obligation’ to call,check in daily would cease to have such a strong grip on my life still.Wishing you an ever flourishing Mother’s Day!(Now I know why my sister lives in ME- she must have been at your Tango milongas in your living room:-)

  20. Vikki
    6 years ago

    This is the biggest relationship challenge of my life.. and my first marriage was an enormous challenge in itself. But the one with my daughter: Profound; as was the one with my own mother. Today is May 1st..a month full of landmines in the form of Mother’s Day and my birthday.
    I admit that I have not ‘gotten a life’ to my satisfaction. I’m busy with two new careers and an active enough social life. But I want my kids. Nothing else fills that space. Am I alone in this feeling?!

  21. Kim
    6 years ago

    It has been two weeks since I lost my dear and beloved Mom. Rarely a day went by that I did not talk with her. She, too, was a very independent woman and living with ms. Try as my sister and I might, she did not want to live with either one of us and preferred to make her own life. Thankfully, we lived nearby and could take care of her in her home while she maintained her sense of independence. Not a moment goes by that I don’t think ” I should give Mom a call, she would really like this!”.

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