Every relationship evolves throughout the course of its lifespan. Some grow and blossom, others die out when the time is right and some drag on when they should have ended long ago. I think most women can agree that there is however no relationship like the one you have with your own mother. As a child, she is there to nurture and care for you. Then as a teenager, the relationship takes on a layer of mistrust.
You think your mother knows nothing, has no clue who you are and is trying to stop you from doing anything and everything you love to do. Eventually, in your 20?s, it comes full circle and you begin to slowly realize your mother was right about everything. It’s a roller coaster relationship that balances out with time.
For me, it took about 30 years for my relationship with my mother to balance out. In my 20?s, I began to see glimmers of what my mother was referring to when it came to certain decisions I had made in life. I began to understand why she had never liked a few particular friends. I began to realize that she had way more life experience than I did and that I needed to start listening more and talking (back) less.
Anyone who knows my mother will tell you she is a tough lady. She has very strong opinions and is not afraid to express them, no matter who is around. I can probably count on one hand how many times in my life I have seen her vulnerable. She lives on her own, is quite independent, albeit age is slowly changing that and she doesn’t like to ask for anyone’s help with anything.
This year, my mother needed to have surgery. Surgery that was 20 years overdue. The pain had gotten to be so much that it was almost unbearable. We had discussed that she would be recovering at my home. She was so calm and non-chalant about this surgery that it made me feel it was no big deal. Until she actually came out of the operation room and I saw her like I have never seen her before.
My strong and stubborn mother was lying in a hospital bed slowly gaining consciousness from the surgery. My husband and I, along with our two little boys ages 3 and 4 and our new baby girl had been sitting in the family waiting room for 13 hours. By that time, everyone else in that room had joined in to help us with keeping our two sons entertained. It is surreal how helpful strangers can be in a time of need.
When they said I could go in to visit her in the recovery room, for the first time in my life, I saw my 70 something year old mother helpless. She was still drugged up and extremely woozy. I held her hand and began to slowly tell her how successful her surgery had been. Her first post-op question was, “What time is it?” and when she realized how late it was, she mumbled that we all needed to go home, that the kids must be exhausted. Even down to the end, in an anaesthetic stupor, she still didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.
During the six weeks that followed her surgery, my mother stayed with me in our home recovering. The first three weeks, she was completely immobile and bedridden. During this time, I have never been so busy in my life but I have never felt so fulfilled. Caring for a bedridden mother, two little boys and a newborn, while my husband was forced to go out of town for work, made me realize what life is really about.
Sure, at times I felt I was going crazy, but I also knew that I was doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing in that moment. My mother would apologize for being such a burden and I would have to repeatedly remind her that I think it’s an honor to be able to care for a sick parent.
I hope one day my children will care for me when I am elderly. I hope I am also setting a good example for them in how we should treat our ageing parents.
Because of my mother, my four-year-old son knows how to read and write, how to sew and make paranthas. Because of my mother, my 3-year-old son learned how to ride his big boy bike, catch snails and color inside the lines. Now it’s my daughter’s turn to benefit from all the knowledge my mother possesses. If only I can succeed at convincing her to move to my city to be closer to us. It took me three decades to get to this point with my mother. And now I don’t want to let it go.
Are you at a point where the roles are reversed and you’ve started caring for your ailing parent? How did you handle the transition?