Being A Mom Without A Mom

by Taara Datta Donley
Originally Published: 
Blurred-out woman looking at a sunset, illuminated by the descending sun rays
GooDween123 / Shutterstock

Earlier this summer, I fed my daughter in the picnic area of the park. After watching my husband push my son on the swings for a few moments, I noticed a young mother sitting at a picnic table next to me. She was feeding a baby close to my daughter’s age. An older woman, who I assumed was the young woman’s mother, fussed over a little boy close to my son’s age.

I quietly watched them as my daughter drank her milk. When the baby started to fuss, the young woman asked with exasperation, “What do I do?” Her mother immediately picked up the baby and gestured to her daughter. “Go take Jake to the playground.” The young woman’s weary face lit up. “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely,” the older woman said, as she rubbed the wailing infant’s back. “I have this.” The young woman and her son smiled at each other and rushed off to the playground, while the older woman walked around the picnic area, trying to soothe the baby.

I felt a pang of envy as I looked at my infant daughter. I don’t have anyone to do that for me. My mother passed away several years ago. I didn’t begrudge this young woman for having her mother, but I’m like any other mom without a mom. I wish my mother was still around for so many reasons.

I wish my mother knew that she had a grandson. After a year in hospice care, she died when my son was 6 weeks old. My mother had two daughters. She doted on all of her nephews. It would have thrilled her to have a grandson. Although I brought my son to visit her one time, near the end of her illness, I don’t know if she remembered that visit.

I wish my mother knew that she had a granddaughter. My little girl already comports herself like a lady. She is very much like her grandmother—just as beautiful and feisty. Each smile is sweet, and each gesture is graceful. My mother once told me that she “bossed people around with a smile.” She would have adored her tiny doppelgänger.

I wish my mother had brought me food when I first delivered the babies. She was the most amazing cook I’ve ever met. My mother could just taste something at a party and recreate it at home without a recipe. It would have brought her so much joy to whip something up in the kitchen and bring it over to my house when she visited her new grandchild.

I wish I could have called my mother when I was freaking out about the babies. She would have known exactly how to calm my fears and assure me that everything would be OK. Instead, I relied on Google, friends and any parenting book I could purchase.

I wish I could have cried on my mother’s shoulder when I felt like I was a failure as a parent or on those days when I felt so lost and alone. She would have listened to me and, more importantly, really understood me. No one understands you like your mother does.

I wish my children had one more person in their lives who thinks that they’re perfect. Someone who finds their temper tantrums adorable and plays Candy Land 20 times without appearing bored. My mother was an artist who taught me how to draw flowers. She would have been so proud of her grandson’s blossoming artistic abilities. In my dreams, I see the two of them hunched over a table as my mother guides my son’s hand along the paper.

But most of all, I wish I could tell my mother how much I admire and respect her. I never realized what an amazing woman she was until I had children. My mother juggled raising two small children, managing a household, and putting herself through school to obtain a master’s degree in clinical psychology. She devoted her life’s work towards helping the most challenging people in society: prisoners and the mentally ill.

If you’re a mom without a mom, you understand this wish list. It creates a black void in your heart because it will never be fulfilled. But each day, when I look at the faces of my children, I feel my mother’s presence and it comforts me. I see her sweetness in my daughter’s smile and her fire in my son’s eyes. I hope that wherever her spirit lies, she knows that I am proud to be her daughter.

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