I have never raised my voice to my mother. Never called her a bitch or told her I hated her, not even as a teenager. I never even thought those things. I was present on several occasions when friends of mine did this, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. This was a level of disrespect I couldn’t comprehend. It wasn’t because I was afraid of my mother. She never spanked or yelled at me, or not that I can remember anyway. I just respected her far too much to say something so hateful. I knew it would hurt her, and I never thought she deserved to be hurt.
I have always only seen my mother as a force for good. Even when she was preventing me from going to some unsupervised party or risky social engagement I was desperate to go to or grounding me because I’d lied about where I was, I was confident she had my best interests at heart. Even though I was angry and resentful, deep down I trusted her decisions. I trusted that none of her choices were arbitrary or to purposefully make me suffer.
That feeling hasn’t changed. These days, though our opinions differ on many things, I still see my mother as only a force for good. My mother is my fiercest advocate, and I really don’t know what I’d do without her.
Yes, even now, as a grown-ass adult about to step over the threshold into my forties, I still very much need my mom. It’s not that I feel incompetent or dependent, or like I can’t manage my own life and relationships. It’s just that her unwavering support has become such a reliable part of my life that I have no idea what I’d do without it.
And I still see her as this incredible force for good. I still see her as one of the few people who will never, ever judge me. I know there is nothing I could ever do to make her stop loving me. This probably should be the standard for mother-child relationships, but it surprises me a little that, at this stage in my life, I still feel like I need that particular layer of security. My mom’s support is just different than any of the other support in my life.
I have friends who give excellent parenting advice, some who are professional therapists even, but there is an unparalleled comfort that comes with the advice I get from my mom. Other friends and family members may read my books and articles, but there is an extra thrill, an extra layer of pride, when my mom tells me she couldn’t put down a book wrote. It doesn’t matter that she’d probably tell me that even if she didn’t totally love the book. It still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
And, on the hard days, on the days when it feels like the world is on a mission to tear me apart, a phone call to my mom brings me right back to childhood snuggles when her reassurance was all it took to make me believe my world would soon be right again. When I don’t think I’m strong enough, she reminds me that I am—that my strength grew from hers, which grew from her own mother. She growls it at me and I hear my strength in her voice, and suddenly I know I really am stronger than I thought. This is pure, unadulterated magic.
When we disagree, ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. Because she’s in my corner. I know she’ll hear me and see my point even if we have to agree to disagree. This trust that is bound up in unconditionals just can’t be found at this level in any other relationship.
So, yes, I’m on the doorstep of 40 and I still very much need my mom. At the same time, I know this need — the ability to feel it as well as the ability to have the need fulfilled — is a luxury. A privilege. I know it’s not like this for everyone. More friends than I can count have either lost their mothers or have had to cut ties because the relationship was too toxic. Still others remain in relationships fraught with conflict and dysfunction, feeling every bit of the need that I do and yet unable to have that need met.
I know many people who don’t have a relationship with their mother like mine find this love and unconditional support in other places. Or they do their own magic and manifest it for themselves. I have watched in wonder as friends who have had to cut ties with their own mothers pull up fountains of love from their souls and shower it on their own children. They may not have gotten the love they deserved from their mothers, but they embody it anyway for the generation going forward, and it’s so beautiful and awe-inspiring.
Still, I know how fortunate I am to still have my mom as such a vital, positive force in my life. I know our relationship is rarer than it should be, and I will never take her presence for granted. I wish the peace and strength I get from knowing she’s there was something that could be bottled and given away, because everyone deserves to have this kind of love in their life.