I love my mother and I have been working on improving our relationship for quite some time now. It’s been hard work, but very rewarding as our relationship has turned into something pretty nice and vastly different from where it was in the past. As she’s getting older I’m very happy that I am able to be there for her. But sometimes I wonder when is what I do for her actually enough? And what part does guilt play when it seems to her that I have fallen short?
My mother seems to want everyone in her life to want to do whatever they do for her. Is that really realistic? How many times do we all do things to help someone else out because they need us to, but not necessarily because we want to. We may want to help them but not actually want to do the things that we do for them. But we do these things because we love and care about them.
Over the past few years especially, since my dad died, I have tried to be there for my mom. Certainly through the big things like pacemaker and cataract eye surgeries, and emergency calls to go to the hospital, but also for smaller things like computer problems, doctor appointments, light bulbs that need changing and even evenings out for dinner and/or a movie. I also call my mom everyday to check on her and make sure she’s ok. In many ways, our roles have reversed.
Recently my mom had some day surgery. It wasn’t major surgery and didn’t require general anesthesia. We were told she would be sleepy, need to take it easy and be a bit sore, but that was it. I had specifically asked the doctor what her recovery would be like from this surgery and if someone (me) should stay with her overnight. He said that it was not medically necessary but he also didn’t want to get involved in any family issues.
Based on this information, I had planned to stay with my mom as long as was necessary after taking her home from the surgical center. Once she seemed ok, I would make sure she was all set, and then head home. After all, I lived just the next town over so I would be available if she needed anything.
Everything seemed fine. I took her early in the a.m. for her appointment, stayed with her through pre-op, waited in the waiting area until she was in recovery, helped her get dressed, took her home, stayed with her to make sure she was ok, took care of getting the prescription she needed, all happily. She seemed groggy but ok. She said she didn’t need anything and was just going to go to sleep.
When I called her a bit later to check on her she seemed upset that I hadn’t stayed with her. I offered to go back if she needed me. But she insisted that I had obviously been in a rush to leave so she wouldn’t ask me to come back. I was not in a rush to leave. She made it sound like I had one foot out the door and was chomping at the bit to get out of there! I was just going by what the doctor had said and had stayed until I was sure she was ok. She said that I obviously didn’t “want” to go back. Isn’t it ok if I didn’t want to? But I would have if she needed me. Is that so bad? She said she’d “manage.” I said that I was only a phone call away and would check up on her throughout the evening to make sure she was ok.
By the end of the phone call, though, I felt horribly guilty that I had left her (even though she seemed fine…tired and worn out but fine), and I ended up feeling like everything I had already done for her was completely erased. I felt like a “bad” daughter and was torn as to what to do. What was enough to be a “good” and caring daughter? Should I have gone back? How much influence should this guilt she placed on me have?
The bottom line is that I spoke to her a few hours later and all was well. But I still continue to feel badly that I “left” my mother. Sigh…