Mothering Without My Mother

Today is my mothers birthday. February 24th. I love my mother so much. She gave me so much wonderful knowledge and good values in life. Sure we had our disagreements and issues but what mother and daughter doesn’t. In this entry I want to talk about some memories of my mom that helped shape who I am, how she is now, and my experience of mothering without my mother.

Memory #1

When I was about 7, my mom was driving us home from playing on the playground after school. She was talking to us about scheduling last minute play dates with our friends. She said, “If there is ever a time someone invites you over and you don’t want to go, all you have to do is give me a look to let me know that you want to go home. You don’t have to say yes to them or let them down by saying no. I will be the bad guy and say we aren’t able to do have a play date today.” This was one of the moments that helped show me just how much I could depend on my mom to be there for me when I needed her.

Memory #2

When I was 13 and I would smart mouth back at my dad, my mom would pull me aside and lecture me. She would explain, probably important things, about how I should be more understanding and respect my dad and actually do the gosh darn chores! I learned how to just take the lectures and not talk back to her. I would just smile and nod. Honestly I have no idea if she caught on that I wasn’t listening very much but here we are today!

Memory #3

When I was in high school we got a tv with cable. We had only ever had a tv that would only play video cassettes or DVDs and we could only watch those on the weekend. With the introduction of cable came the freedom to watch any time. We had been so trained to ask about watching tv that I would still ask my mom every time I got home from school, even tho I knew she would say yes. One day senior year I came home and asked my mom about the tv. She turned and looked at me and said, “you’re 18, you don’t have to ask my permission to watch tv.” It was such a surreal moment of growing up that made me open my mind.

Memory #4

I went to community college after high school. It was the best choice for me. I loved my experience there. It also allowed me to come home if I was invited somewhere I didn’t want to go or with people that I didn’t want to be with anymore. Yes I went to friends’ parties, my parents never expected me not to drink but rather, encouraged me to make good choices about it. My mom would say, “if you have too many drinks, stay at their house for the night. Just call or text me and let me know if you are coming home or not.” It gave me such freedom to make my own choices but also hold some responsibility for them. It made me feel good to send her a message and let her know I was ok even if I wasn’t coming home that night.


Today, my relationship with my mother is very different. She has early onset Alzheimer’s and is very far advanced. She is almost completely non verbal. She doesn’t know she has grand children. She has no idea who I am any more.
In 10 years, she went from repeating a story once or twice a day to being 100% depended on help for such basic living things as showering, getting dressed, even needing her food cut for her. My father is currently still taking care of her at home but she has started to get more physical when upset which isn’t safe and so we are trying to encourage my dad to find a good care facility for her.
It’s truly heart breaking to see such a remarkable woman reduced to how she is now. As she once said about one of her best friends with terminal brain cancer, “it’s always the good ones who get taken too early.” (Cue emotional water works from me).

Mothering without a mother

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mother. Even though I didn’t want to grow up when I was little, I still knew I wanted children of my own. Now here I am, married to an amazing man, have a house, 3 children and I just turned 30. I might not have followed all your advice but it’s still in my heart.
There have been so many times I want to ask my mom her advice in certain situations, or what she did with us when we were this age.
I try to ask things from my dad but he was such a hard working parent that there are a lot of things he either wasn’t aware of or just doesn’t remember. Which is understandable. For instance, I just learned that both my sister and I were nicu babies. I knew we were early but for some reason never realized we were also in the nicu.
I just never imagined not being able to ask my mom questions through my own motherhood journey. We had been so close. I called her every morning after I moved out of the house. Now, even though she doesn’t know who I am any more, I still call my dad and her every morning I’m able to.

Mom’s wise words

  • “Don’t have kids until you’re 30.”
  • “I should have been the bad guy and put you two in separate rooms instead of letting you beat each other up in the other room.”
  • “I’d kill for you, I’d die for you.”
  • “I will always be on your side.”
  • “Have two kids, then they can play together.” (Also works for kittens!)
  • “If you are staying out of the house, just make sure to let me know.”
  • “Don’t borrow trouble.”
  • “Don’t tempt the fey.”
  • “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
  • “Don’t agree until you know what you are agreeing to.”

I will add more to this article if I think of things, but I really wanted to publish it while it’s still her birthday. I miss you mom.

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3 thoughts on “Mothering Without My Mother

  1. This is one incredible journey you are on, dear One. Writing and sharing about it all can only help, I imagine. I’m constantly impressed by your ability to be equally so vulnerable and present for your family. The way you express your journey of early good-byes to your mother, while letting memories inform and shine is a true and much-needed gift to to others in all walks of life. Blessings on these times, on the lives of each and all of you.

  2. Knowing you and your mom as I do, I’ve thought a lot about how it must be for you to handle motherhood without her presence. But you’ve done a beautiful job from what I can tell. And in your piece, you’ve captured her voice so perfectly that
    I can hear her clearly speaking your tender words. That voice will always be with you, as my mother’s is with me though she’s been gone for over 20 years. Please feel free to call me with a mother question and I’ll do my best to invoke your loving mom.❤️

  3. Congratulations on your new journey writing about this. I could hear your smart, funny, warm mother in your words ( not just the quoted ones…). She took such animated delight in being a mother, in being your mother. Your family was in such constant tumbling motion every time i saw you ( and once stayed a few days one summer— we were at a lake and we got in the car just as a torrential rain started and all we could do was sit there and watch till it stopped?). I’m rambling but what i remember is what a perfect whirlwind of mutual love there was between you girls and your mom: words/ stories/ physical affection…. And to see what you and Dennis have created, which is a new whirlwind of love and affection ( and words!) with your children.

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