Q. Right after my 7th birthday, my mother left my dad and me with no explanation. It wasn’t until 13 years later that I saw her again. In between those years, she called and we exchanged letters.
My first stepmom did not allow me to have a relationship with my mother. In fact, I was not allowed to talk about her, and any mention of her in my journal was scratched out. My dad got married again when I was 15 to a wonderful woman, and after so many years with no mother figure, it was great to have her in my life.
When I did reconnect with my mother after those 13 years, I felt guilty because I didn’t feel anything. She could have been a stranger on the street. I have tried to have a relationship with her, but I think time has doused that flame. I consider my stepmom to be my mom, and I can only see myself having one mom and one dad, like I only have one boyfriend. I drown myself in tears and guilt nearly every day because she works multiple jobs and struggles. I feel guilty for my success and cannot enjoy things without thinking about whether or not she was able to put food on the table that day. I send her money sometimes on holidays, but I don’t know if she feels insulted.
I never got to know her or any of my relatives on her side. I’ll be 30 soon and hate knowing that so much time has come and gone. I have no idea what to do anymore or whether my feelings are even valid. I’m so used to her not being in the picture that everything feels forced — like wearing my shoes on the wrong feet. Is it too late?
A. I think of the line from the song “Nothing” in “A Chorus Line”: “But I felt nothing.” It is OK to feel nothing. It is kind of you to worry about her finances, and it’s clear that she’s made some disastrous choices. If there is no inclination to get to know her, I would encourage you to disconnect entirely, especially if she has made no effort to pick up the thread. Trust your instinct — the one about the shoes. Life happens, and this is what happened to you.
Q. Now that I am married, my mother has become quite clingy. When I was single, we had a good relationship, but my being out of her house has brought about a change in her relating to me. She wants us to do everything together — go grocery shopping, to the movies, anything! My dad and she have a good relationship, so it’s not like I left her “alone.” I don’t know how to say that I am making a life with my husband, other couples, and my married girlfriends, and it’s not high on my list to hang with my mother. What do you think is going on, and what can I do about it?
A. Your situation is a little unusual in that Velcro moms frequently exhibit those tendencies long before the bird has flown the coop. I have no idea what’s going on with her, but it is possible she’s having a delayed empty nester reaction. I suggest making some time for her every couple of weeks, and when she issues other invitations, say you have a date with one of your besties. With luck, she will catch on. And perhaps you could kiddingly remind her that you are all grown up now and a married woman.