Mothers Need Mothering, Too


When I was in high school, pagers were the ultimate status symbol. Clipped to your hip, a beeper told the world you were in demand. And everyone wanted one. Well, everyone except me. Because as cool as the Motorola Bravo ever was, the idea of my mom blowing up my beeper would never be.

And she was the kind of parent who would do a thing like that. She was a protective mama bear with serious rules and expectations. But as strong of a safety hold as she ever had on me, I kept her selfishly closer. As a teenager, I demanded a lot from her, often in my time and in my way. She was my teacher, problem solver, cheerleader, and safe place. Even now, 24 years, a husband, and two kids later, she’s still all those things for me, and somehow so much more.

“You’re so lucky your mom is only 64,” a girlfriend mentioned last weekend. “My mom is 77. Even though she’s in pretty good health, I can’t stop thinking that one day I’ll be on my own.”

On my own. I’ve never been on my own. What a fortunate and terrifying thought.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been my person  my voice of reason and soft place to land. She makes the best Swedish meatballs, advocates for me to me, and knows me better than I know myself. From my complete medical history to the name of every teacher I ever had, my mom is a veritable encyclopedia of my personal history. She’s also my human Google  no network required! She knows how to cook and clean everything, what time T.J. Maxx opens, and how to properly dispose of expired medication. Without cause or necessity, she’s even my personal assistant at times, reminding me to wear sunscreen, watch my cellular data usage, and contribute to my IRA.

Best of all, she never tires of me. 32 texts in three hours? Fine. Five calls in a day? No problem. Sometimes I call just to chat. Sometimes I call to complain. But most of the time I call to ask urgent questions requiring immediate answers:

How long do I cook a baked potato again?

Does heart disease run in our family?

What does this laundry symbol mean?

Is this chicken still safe to eat?

Does this mole look normal?

Which shoe looks better?

Should I leave my job?

And she knows the answers. I don’t know how she knows, but she knows. And thank God, because I need mothering now more than ever. My oldest son is entering high school and I’m just not ready. My youngest son is often more than I can handle. I’m turning 40 soon and I have questions. Quite probably the only thing keeping me from a midlife meltdown is my mom on speed dial and she knows it.

“Mothers need mothering, too,” she insists. And she’s right. Of course she’s right. How can moms be everything to everyone without a maternal force to look after them? We can’t. I can’t. I wouldn’t want to. And fortunately for now, I don’t have to. Neither does she.

If we are to believe that mothers are mothers forever, I’m happy to be a daughter for at least that long.

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