My Mother has been seriously ill off and on over the past few years. Although she currently lives in her home state, she was living with me during some of the most difficult times when we weren’t sure if she was going to live. Now that she is back in her home (her preference), I can’t help but feel like I’m not doing enough. I have a demanding job that I enjoy, but it leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. When I finally get home and want to have a moment to myself, all I can think of is that I should be having long conversations with my Mother to break up her day. Although I connect with her at least a few times a week and visit often, I still feel guilty. What should I do?
Dear Dedicated Daughter,
My heart goes out to you and all you’ve been through over the past few years. It’s never easy when people we love have pain and sickness, and the fact that you came so close to losing your Mother has to cut deep. Your Mother is fortunate to have a daughter who places such a high value on this relationship.
Having said that, it’s also okay to place value on the relationship you have with yourself. When was the last time you nurtured yourself in the same way that you cared for your Mother? Although it’s great she felt well enough to return to her home, I’m sure it’s challenging to feel like you’re doing enough when earlier you were caring for her on a daily basis. I believe that guilt is just anger turned inward because you can’t do what you really want. You want to come home after an exhausting day, put up your feet and relax. Guilt stops you from enjoying that time that your body, mind and soul need. In order to change your thoughts you need to change what you say to yourself. Everytime that voice comes up that makes you feel guilty, talk back to it by saying, “I’m a loving, caring individual who also deserves love and care.” Say it until you believe it.
Other ideas: Create a schedule for your calls. If you’ve decided to call your Mother on certain days, you can rest easy on your days off. If she’s computer savvy, you could e-mail her in leiu of one of those calls. Consider signing up for one of the daily upbeat e-mail messages that you could quickly read, think of a situation from either of your pasts to comment on and forward it to her. Another idea is to send her a jar of memories that you’ve written out on little slips of papers. For example, “Grand Canyon – Green Country Squire Station Wagon with wood on the sides — slipping on the rocks!” Choose a day of the week that she gets to pull a memory out of the jar which gives you something to talk about on your next call. Find a TV show that you both love and watch it together long distance. Gossip through the commercials about the various characters. Choose a book you both would enjoy and spend a phone call discussing your thoughts. Hope some of these ideas bring you laughter together and peace of mind that you’re doing enough. You are.