No relationship is perfect, not even with super mom. (Image: Thinkstock)
My mom and I have always been extremely close. Some would say we’re a little too close, but since she fills two roles in my life — mother and best friend — I think it’s fair that she gets a double slice of my love and attention. We've always talked at least once a day and most days we would see each other. When I met my husband abroad, our decision to move back to the U.S. was influenced in no small part by the fact that I couldn’t imagine being away from my mom.
I was completely devastated when she announced that she was moving to Dubai. I was about to have my first child, and I couldn’t imagine doing it “on my own.” To say my reaction was rough would be an understatement.
But now, my mother has lived abroad for more than two years, and I can see that her move was a good thing. Here are the sometimes painful lessons I’ve learned along the way:
I learned to trust my intuition.
The first three months of my daughter’s life, when my mother still lived up the road, went something like this: Baby making a funny noise? Call mom. Baby has a rash? Call mom. Exhausted? Hungry? Weeping uncontrollably? Call Mom. My first reaction to any problem was to tap into my mother’s wisdom. However, when that opportunity was gone, I had to rely on my own gut feelings. Instead of asking if my mom thought the baby needed to go to the doctor, I made the call myself (or with my husband’s help). There’s nothing like trial by fire to build your confidence as a new parent.
My daughter has an inspiring role model for putting herself first.
I’ll admit that when my mom announced her plans to move abroad, I was irate. How could she leave me at such an important point? However, even as I was raging, I knew that my mom was doing what was best for her. She had overcome many obstacles and was finally putting her needs first, and I was so, so proud of her for that. My daughter will always know that no matter how old we are or how long we have done otherwise, we can and should choose to prioritize ourselves, even (perhaps especially) as mothers.
I became closer to my siblings.
My mom is a giver, and my three siblings and I relied heavily on her. When she moved abroad, we all had to find our footing: me raising my daughter, one brother running the family business, another brother in college, and my sister setting out on her own travel adventure. Going through the experience of gaining a lot of independence quickly, and sometimes painfully, bonded us all together as adults, much the way our childhood experiences had brought us together as kids.
I redefined home.
One of the most jarring things about my mom moving was that it meant that she was giving up our family home, which she had rented for 20 years. Packing up the house was incredibly painful, but after a bit of time, I realized that my home and my siblings' apartments were just as much “home” as the address we had lost. It turns out the cliché is true: home is where the heart is.
I fostered relationships with extended family.
Until my mother moved, I didn’t realize how much I relied on her to nurture the other relationships in my life. Instead of calling my grandmother, I would get updates on her health from my mom. I felt informed, but I wasn’t working on a separate relationship with Grandma. Once my mom moved, I worked through the awkwardness of those first few phone calls and began establishing real relationships with family members, outside of the ones they had with my mother.
I prioritized my chosen family.
Like many people who are close to the family they grew up with, I often feel a pull between the wants of my mom and siblings, and the desires of my chosen family: my husband and daughter. Although I still try to balance those needs, I know that my chosen family always comes first. They are the ones that are walking through life with me right now, and they must be my priority.
I accepted that all relationships are imperfect.
I was mad when my mom moved, and the emotion was magnified because it was honestly the first time I can remember being angry with her. However, I’ve realized that my response was normal. No relationship is perfect, not even with super mom.