Never enough, or always too much?

I have sort of been on a “pause” setting with regard to Mom for the last few weeks. After Mother’s Day, I managed just two very short visits, the last one being on the Friday before I left for a week-long vacation. I have been back from vacation for four days, and still haven’t visited her. And tonight, I skipped support group – for the third or fourth week in a row, I’m really not sure. Tonight, I accompanied my dad and stepmother to a tasting with a catering company that will provide food for my little sister’s wedding in September. Last week, I was away. The week before, I went out to dinner with Patrick to celebrate his new job. We celebrated it a few times, but we had gotten some especially good job-related news that day and decided to have a dinner out. I’m not sure why I need to justify missing support group. But that’s the thing. I feel like I do. I feel guilty for not attending. And that guilt I can really do without. Not long ago, support group was an appointment I felt compelled to keep every Wednesday evening – in a good way. I looked forward to it. Now, I feel completely unsure about what I would talk about in group. So I guess I have been in a bit of an avoidance phase for a little while.

And then there is the guilt I feel about not visiting Mom very often. When I was last there, and she was so focused on Mr. R, I had familiar feelings: Why bother? I’m definitely not doing her any good, and this visit does little for me beyond assuring me that Mom is OK. And then I think, but that is important. I need to know she’s OK. For my own peace of mind, I want to see her regularly to look for any changes, any signs that something could be affecting her good mood. And even though my relationship with her and visitation schedule are totally my business, I want to be seen by the center staff as an attentive family member.

I have conflicting emotions; sometimes I am overwhelmed by my self-imposed feelings of inadequacy at the same time that I reduce all Mom-related activities, only exacerbating that sense of being overwhelmed. It is clearly a cycle and I’m not managing to do anything to get myself out of it. I have been thinking about this blog post for more than a week, and yet I continued to just not get to it. And the title of the post: I had selected that almost immediately after visiting Mom. I never feel like I am doing enough, and yet lately stuff related to Mom always feels like too much to take on. I rarely really spend as much time as I could or should (by some arbitrary standards, I guess) with Mom when I visit her. And yet, sometimes when I am there, I am tense, stifled, unsure about how I could possibly make the time somehow meaningful for Mom, and almost immediately am planning my departure. I am making it sound worse than it really is, I suppose: we laugh, we hold hands, we walk, I compliment Mom about her hair and she seems glad to have me there. I guess I am disappointed with myself that I cannot make the laughter genuine, that my smiles for Mom are a front, and that behind the fun of the moment I am consumed with sadness and a sense of resentment that I had thought I had discarded long ago.

So, I think I am in a phase. A new and different phase. I’m not consumed with the subject of death. I am able to concentrate at work. I had a terrific vacation. But my emotions concerning Mom are all scrambled and hard to articulate. And I find that annoying.

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8 comments so far

  1. Ken on

    It sounds like you have plenty to share at support group and should attend next week to hear the perspective from the others.

  2. momsbrain on

    Ken: I think you are probably correct! Thanks for commenting.

  3. arborfamiliae on

    I love the last two sentences. It is so very annoying when our emotions are scrambled. I hope you find more clarity soon.

  4. Grandpa on

    Glad to hear you had a nice vacation…

    I think this discussion is interesting. As other commented, it seems as though you need the support of others in similar circumstances (don’t we all). At the same time it seems as though you’ve progressed so far in your journey with your mom that you have become comfortable that she is in good hands where she is so that you can do other things that are important to you. That seems like a big deal to me. Sorry for ending so many sentences with prepositions.

  5. momsbrain on

    Grandpa: I totally get what you’re saying. It’s true, I know she is safe and happy and that has made my life much easier. And I think guilt is common. I like to deny that I have guilt associated with her. That might be part of my frustration. And I DID have a nice vacation.

    arborfamiliae: Thank you – maybe I will find it at support group! 🙂

  6. Meg on

    I loved your searingly honest post. It helps so much to hear your articulate all the things that so many of us are feeling daily.

    I have to say, I was sad to see a comment from a support group member telling you what you “should” do. I understand the spirit was supportive, but I feel it didn’t honor what you had so clearly explained in your post.

    I love that you’re being as true to yourself as possible during this process. It’s incredible and powerful and I hope you keep resisting the shoulds and the guilt and follow your heart, even if it’s all scrambled and makes no sense half the time.

  7. patwhite67 on

    You have articulated feelings I and my brother have shared about not being able to make a difference for our mother. Particularly my brother on this recent visit told me he feels he has failed when our mom refuses to eat or drink when he is with her.
    I am very sad too at times, and usually it’s about memories of how things used to be versus now. I try to make my mom as much like she used to be as possible. For instance this time I bought her a new pair of summer sandals. She used to love new shoes.
    And I too feel guilty about spending less time with her.

  8. momsbrain on

    Meg: Thank you very much for your support. I agree that it is good to avoid “shoulds” as much as possible, and I think I do better at that with age, but the whole caregiving phenomenon sort of is a special case, I guess. I hope you are doing OK.

    Pat: I’m sorry your brother would ever feel like he has failed. But I completely get why he would have that emotion. I love it that you bought your mom new shoes. I wish my mom would wear shoes! 🙂 Though, then again, why do I care??


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