Mommy guilt

September 27th, 2011 § 9 comments

September 29, 2010

Most of you probably read the title of this post and thought I was going to write about the guilt we may feel as parents over the course of our children’s lives when we can’t be there for every event they want us to attend or say no to things we know they might want to do.

But that’s not what I mean by “Mommy guilt.” Instead, it’s the feeling I have today because my mother is coming to visit.

I feel guilty because I have a mother who’s alive and many people I know do not.

I commented on Twitter this morning that my mother was coming for a few days. Author and friend Katie Rosman tweeted back “jealous.” Katie and I actually met because of the moving book she wrote about her own mother’s death five years ago, If You Knew Suzy. I wrote a blogpost about that book; in it I shared personal feelings about having cancer and what my legacy might be for my children.

But there was more.

Katie’s mom is dead. So is my husband’s mother. So are the mothers of many of my friends. And as I go through middle age this will happen more and more. And someday it will happen to me.

Every time I drive the fifteen minutes to the Amtrak station to pick Mom up (when she and my father don’t arrive by car here together) I think about the night I drove to get her at the train station the first time she came to visit after Barbara died.

When I saw my mother step off the train that night last year I almost had to look the other way: it was like looking at the sun.

The sight of her was
so bright,
so intense,
so welcome,
so wonderful,
that I almost had to look away for a moment.

The guilt over being able to see her step off that train and into my arms again overwhelmed me.

And so, today, when I see her again, I will hold her, kiss her, hug her. I’ll hug her for an extra moment and think to myself: this is for all of you. This is for all of you who have lost your moms and can’t do this simple act anymore. A way I can honor her and you is to appreciate these times we have together because I know there are so many who would give anything to have one of these moments with their mom again.1

  1. I should say that it’s not true guilt of course, it’s not my fault that my mother is alive while others are not. But especially in the months right after Barbara died I did have feelings that it was unfair, that I was so lucky. I wrote a piece about the difference between guilt and regret, and perhaps I should have re-written this one with different language. But I decided to keep it true to what I wrote at the time, for better or worse. []

§ 9 Responses to Mommy guilt"

  • I am thankful that my mom is still in my life. I did lose my father five years ago, and anytime she comes to visit, I am relieved to see her laughing and enjoying life after the grief.

  • Marsi White says:

    Love this! Especially After I needed my mom so much in chemo yesterday. Enjoy your special time with her.

  • Jody Schoger says:

    Celebrate her and you. Together. I think it’s awesome.

    Really. This is a guilt I’d love to see you toss aside.


  • Nita says:

    Survivor’s guilt I think it’s called. You are blessed to have it. Yes, please give your mom an extra hug for all the daughters who can’t. ~Nita

  • jo miller says:

    Wow~ You have me in tears, this is a beautiful post- exquisite in its emotional honesty. Your description of how you viewed your Mom, at a time of grief after losing a second Mom-so poignant.
    You are a remarkable writer and observer of life’s many facets.
    i am glad that you have your Mom in your life and that you have chosen to celebrate & honour the mothers who left our lives…but never our hearts.
    Thank you.

  • Whoa_Mary says:

    Oh Lisa, please don’t feel guilty because you still have your mom. I was fortunate to have my mom for so many years. My grief is still pretty fresh. It hurts to not have her now, but I could never be jealous of someone else who still has their mom. I love the stories you tell about your mom. And I feel the pain of your words when you write about your mother-in-law. Nothing can fill that void. Cherish your mom and continue to create wonderful memories with her. And I hope you will continue to share them with us here.

  • Linda S. @whatevergirldc says:

    Lisa, what a nice post! Thank you for giving that extra hug for those of us, including me, that have lost our mothers. To be honest, I do get jealous sometimes when I see people who still have their moms around. I really miss my mom. This year, it has been ten years of not having her and I miss her just as much. I do have a wonderful mother-in-law, but I’d be lying if I said it was the same as having my mom around :-). Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

  • auntie_jenn says:

    whoa…this one hit close today. I also have two BFFs without their moms (one from cancer, the other no longer has a relationship by choice). what makes me love my mom even more is how she will so willingly share herself and do mother-daughter things with both these friends. counting my lucky blessings tonite.

  • joannefirth says:

    Thank you Lisa, for honoring your mom with this beautiful post and honoring my mom too. Enjoy your visit. xo

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