Dear Doug: Old Hurts
Q: Growing up, I always felt like my mother didn't love me. She was critical and unsupportive, and I believe that she regretted having me at all. I am an only child and was unplanned.
My father did his best to show his love for me, and my relationship with him showed me how lacking my bond with my mother is and was. She has never once told me she loves me.
He died three years ago, and she just learned that she has terminal cancer. She's asking me to take her in. I want to make the moral choice and support her during her last days. I am in a position to do so but torn because of how she's treated me in my life. She doesn't acknowledge that there's any problem between us.
Am I a bad person to be unsure of what to do? How can I choose?
A: Not at all. Resentment and hurt are natural responses to parental emotional neglect. You'd be surprised at how many people suffer from these deep-rooted family dysfunctions that continue to hurt over the decades.
Even with the best intentions, some parents aren't up to the task. Rather than work on their damaged relationships, it's easier for them to bury the feelings and continue. Dealing with these bad memories brings feelings of guilt and failure, and many people find it easier to act dumb.
Your mother is relying on traditional roles of parents and children, but you feel she's failed to uphold her end of the deal. Because of her not acting like your mother, you struggle with the role of caretaker and daughter.
Ultimately, you are here because of your mother. But blood relations aren't the only things that matter in life.
Caring for someone isn't a decision to take lightly. Even those who want to do it usually find it an overwhelming task. Consider your options and all the variables.
What kind of care does she need? Are you capable of meeting your mother's health needs at home? Is there someone else who would serve as a better advocate for her?