My mother used to stay home with us when we were little. We’d wake up early and she’d be standing in the kitchen making coffee. The little transistor radio that sat on the microwave would be on her favorite station and she’d always be wearing the same robe. I’d recognize her smell as soon as I walked in the kitchen.
I had a happy childhood. I loved my life. In my younger years, my mother was the one I went to if I had a question or wanted to do something. She wasn’t strict like my father — but she wasn’t especially loving either. Her personality wasn’t matter of fact; she wasn’t cold, mean, or neglectful, she just always seemed to be in her own little world. I never “wanted” her.
As a little girl, I knew if I told her something big and exciting, it would kind of feel like she didn’t hear me. Her words would spill out of her mouth as she was washing the dishes as if they’d been rehearsed.
She said things like “Oh, good,” when I told her I got an A in class or that I was selected to be the lead for the play. When I was crowned Snow Queen of the winter formal, she sat in the driver’s seat looking ahead and barely smiled when I told her and showed her my crown.
It didn’t damage me … I don’t think, anyway. I just knew that my mother wasn’t my person. Her mother was the same with her, and I’ve realized you only love people as much as you can.
She wasn’t my soft place to land. She didn’t celebrate me, brag about me to her friends, or seem to be invested in my life. Instead, she always seemed to be floating through life only semi-aware, whereas I’ve always been very intense and felt all my emotions really hard.
Because of that, I was very independent and started working at a young age. I never asked her for help. I didn’t want her advice. I didn’t go to her for comfort when I was upset about friends or boys.
I had a friend spend the night once in second grade. As soon as the lights went out, she cried and said she wanted her mom. She went downstairs to call her and her mom came to get her. She was a woman with a heavy southern accent that everyone loved. She embraced her daughter and took her home. That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend’s mom.
I remember wondering what that felt like — to want your mom.
When I went to college, my roommate was really close with her mom, oftentimes going home for the weekend to see her. They’d go to church, shopping, and out to brunch. They talked on the phone all the time.
I remember wondering what that felt like.
After I had my children and my friends started having children, they’d say things like, “I can’t wait until my mom comes over.” They depended on their mothers to help and care for them — and oh, they did. All they wanted to do was get their mom’s advice, and couldn’t wait to share this new life with their mom.
I remember wondering what that felt like; to want your mom at that age, like my friends often said they did.
I now go for weeks, even months, without seeing my mom even though we live very close. I never miss her. I never “want” her. We get along fine, but there is a distance between us that has never been closed.
I have learned to live my life without wanting or needing my mother. I have sought out my own answers, paid for my own college, wedding, and every other big event in my life. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother (like a lot of my friends do) to lean on.
I never think to pick up the phone and ask her anything. When she tells me she misses me or loves me, I say the same to her, but feel nothing.
I’ve asked myself if I’m really that heartless. After all, she’s my mother. I’m not nasty to her, and I certainly don’t wish her any ill will, but it’s like I’m indifferent when it comes to her and our relationship.
It’s not much of one and I’ve never felt that bad about it.
Maybe I’m in denial. Maybe all my controlling and anxious behaviors stem from this relationship.
Maybe I’ve just learned over the years to cope with the feeling of not wanting her, or the absence of feeling like she’s the one person in my life I’d go to for anything. When you don’t experience that as a child, you just can’t get it back.
All I know is that I have a daughter that I love with all my heart. I want her. She wants me. We need each other in all the ways my friends and their moms needed each other. And I will never do anything to make her think I am not invested in her and her life.
I look at her every day and think, It’s okay, the two of you have broken the cycle.
For me, that matters more than anything else in the world.
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