Lately, when my mom and I have talked, she’s been sounding really stressed out, or like she just got done crying. She has friend drama as well as relationship drama. Her current boyfriend is a recovering alcoholic, and when he lost his job a few months ago, he went on a drinking binge, then stopped drinking again. So he’s not the most stable. (He’s better than the exes, sadly. At least this one has savings to get through a period of unemployment).
My mother also has money issues that I can’t relate to. We make comparable salaries, but she works a second job two days a week to help with money and has a lot more financial responsibilities than I do, like a house and my younger siblings to care for. Money’s always been tight for her since she and my dad split 13 years ago, and she doesn’t have much savings, if any.
On the flip side, my dad and stepmom have done more to cultivate a family environment, and I feel guilty that I’m closer to my dad, when my dad kind of sucked when my parents divorced. Like, my mom definitely did more work to raise us. And my dad could have helped more, especially financially, but he didn’t. He’s gotten better about it now that my youngest sibling is over 18 (and still living at home), but he’s still had a pretty cushy financial existence while my mother has not. And so I feel bad that I related better to my father than I do to my mother.
I guess I’m wondering how to deal with these feelings of guilt. I’m also worried about my mother and her various dramas — with money, her relationship, and her friends — and want to know how I can help her be happier. Advice? — Worried About Mama
It may feel like your mom is “rediscovering her youth,” but she’s still very much an adult (in her late 40s) who raised her kids on her own with little help from her ex-husband, and I think she can probably handle her current drama just fine. It’s one thing if you have a legitimate reason to worry about her safety or well-being, but if you’re simply concerned that her feelings are being hurt, stop worrying and let her live her life.
It can be confusing when lifelong relationships and relationship dynamics shift. Up until recently, your mother was an authority figure and care-giver in your life, and that seems no longer to be the case. But that doesn’t mean there’s any less love between you or that you aren’t as close as you once were or could be. And living such different lives or having different sets of priorities will never change the fact that she is your mother and she loves you. Even you becoming close to the man who disappointed her — and likely, you — for so many years can’t change that. You will always, always be your mother’s daughter, and that is a bond that, for as long as you want it to be, is stronger than almost anything. No change in dynamics or relationship drama in either of your lives or feelings of guilt on your part for not being whatever it is you think your mom wants or doesn’t want you to be is ever going to change what you are to each other.
You aren’t responsible for any part of your mother’s life, now or in the past. Maybe one day, hopefully far in the future, you will be tasked with the responsibility of caring for your mother like so many adult children care for their elderly parents. But that day is not now. And it certainly wasn’t years ago when you were a teenager and your parents divorced. You have no responsibility to your mother but to continue being a loving daughter and to be as happy and satisfied in life as you can. That’s all any good parent wants of her child. And as long as you are using the tools and skills your parents taught you growing up, you have zero to feel guilty about. You are already giving your mother a great gift simply by being YOU. That the you you are today is different than the person your mother is now doesn’t lessen that gift in any way. And it is absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.