Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mothers and Daughters

Dr. Annie Cotten, a lovely older woman I know who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, shared with me one of her research questionnaires.  Whether you're a daughter or not, perhaps you'll be moved to answer these questions about your relationship with your mom.
List the event in your life which triggered the most positive (best) event in your relationship with your mother. What specific behavior occurred? How old were you then and where were you on this occasion?

It was the first time I was home from college.  My mother and I went shopping. I was 18 and driving my mother’s yellow Bonneville on Rte 17 in NJ and we were having some conversation when she said, “I think people should live together before they get married.”  I almost drove off the road!   When I said in shock, “WHAT ??”  she said that living together was hard enough and it was better to find out how you really got along BEFORE you got married.  

It FLOORED me.  It was very contrary to her earlier pronouncements when I was in high school that a man and a woman could not sleep in the same room together without having sex  no matter how I tried to convince her that in fact this WAS possible, she just didn't believe it. 

Though I’d always known my mother was forward-thinking, that moment I realized my mother was far more open-minded than I had given her credit for and it made me see her in a very different way.

Now explain the event in your life which triggered the most negative (worst) event in your relationship with your mother? 

I was always disappointed that my parents did not help me financially even though I had been through some very tough times. I had a brother who was constantly a drain on them financially throughout my life  since my tweens. They barely helped me with paying for college, they didn't pay for my wedding.  They didn't even offer us assistance when my husband was unemployed, we had twin babies, and I wasn't working.  Though we never asked, a number of family and friends on both sides sent us money to tide us over.  

When I was in my mid-forties, my mother asked my sister (who was 7-1/2 years older and much closer to my mother) what was I still hurt/angry about all these years later and my sister mentioned this lack of financial support.  My mother’s response?  “Well she never asked.”  When my sister (who lived in California) told me this over the phone, I was infuriated.   I never asked?  I never asked because my brother’s continuous legal issues taxed them so, I felt I couldn't ask.  I didn't want to be a burden. But I expected their help when I needed it; they were the parents, the adults.

Though I never had this experience with my mother (my sister was the conduit of this information) and I never brought it up — it changed how I felt about my mother
Within a few years my mother developed dementia. I fought for legal guardianship (as my sister was too ill to do this and asked me to) and my mother came to live with us for two 
years until her death but it never seemed “the right time” to bring it up.  

It still hurts and hurts worse to know that my own children may want something from me that I am not giving them.  I hope they ask.  I hope I respond.


  1. Very interesting story. I don't think children should HAVE to ask. Look at how many times we offer things to our children.....our money, our time, our material things, our advice!! I don't think your mom knew how to answer your sister's question. Your mom was good with coming up with spur of moment comments. And if she wanted to she could have given you $$$$ after the fact, after your sister told her that. But your parents loved you very much and they were great people. Especially your mom.

    1. WEll, they shouldn't HAVE to ask but now that I'm a mother, I'm not a mind reader. I think in my case it was obvious what was needed...I will never know why she didn't help in that way. I guess the squeaky wheel gets the oil...

  2. No no no........your parents did not have the means to help. They would have helped if they could. You mention the fact that they were being drained of money they did not have.
    As a parent, you must be a mind reader.........its part of your job.
    You are way to harsh on your parents. They did everything they could for all their children........Just one child pulled them down, but 2 lifted them up........... you especially did that!

  3. I've tried to be a 'mind reader' and give my children all I could emotionally and within our financial means...but still they have their issues and struggles, more so than I would have expected...

    On the topic of financial help, nearly twenty years ago following my divorce from the children's father, we sold our family house with the intention of splitting the proceeds. I was buying a small (two bedroom/one bath)house for my kids and me to move into.

    Five years earlier, my father had worked with his elderly aunt so that when she died, she bequeethed a fortune to my brother, my dad's sister, and to my dad -- and nothing for me! I asked my dad why he left me out, and he said that my husband (at the time!) would always provide for me. Meanwhile, now I was divorced, and the only one with children. A minister in my church said my dad had a chauvanistic outlook but clearly loved me, not that this made the situation fair. Anyway, in my ignorance of house buying, I hadn't realized that I had to put down 10% of the purchase price first -- and I had no money. My newly wealthy brother suddenly had no funds, I knew my dad had already used his recent inheritance to pay off debt, and my mother always struggled to get by each month. So who fronted me the funds? My ex-mother-in-law. Go figure. I have alwasy been grateful to her.

    At the time, my brother's lack of help stung a lot. He then had several boats, three houses (one of which was for sale, and the other used as his office) and a pretty spiffy lifestyle. Somehow, I never resented him his good fortune because he just is my little brother and always did just "luck" into things. Now, it makes me sad that he is struggling to get by. As for my father, those feelings of outrage were harder for me to reconcile.

    1. Well, it shows one woman looking out for another..even if it wasn't your own mother. Those chauvinistic attitudes die hard. Much of this is NOT fair. It just isn't. Thank you for sharing.