I was an accidental baby and I was never allowed to forget that when I was growing up. My 2 older sisters got all kinds of attention, caring, toys and clothes that I did not get. I left home within a few months of turning 18 and never went back. Nevertheless, when I was in my '60's and Mom started needing help and my sisters were overwhelmed I started thinking about it. I knew that the deep mother-daughter relationship that some have would not develop. (I think that if you don't have that by the age of about 12, it just isn't going to happen.) Mom has nothing worth inheriting, so financial gain was of no concern.
Ultimately, my husband and I sold our beach-side property in Delaware and moved to the farming community where Mom and my sisters live. We agreed that each of us would do only what we could do and that Mom would be able to stay at her home only as long as she could manage most of her affairs. We all draw different lines, but we have them. Sometimes there is some tension because I do less than the others do, but mostly it has been a good experience.
What did I gain? I have formed a kind of friendship with my Mom that I didn't have before. I have learned a lot about her life that explains--but does not excuse--her neglect of me in childhood. The fact is that I don't do a whole lot of work in the sense of cleaning or cooking, nor do I take her to doctor appointments (I am not on her HIPPA list and have no right to know about her medical conditions). What I did pre-COVID was take her to lunch or take lunch to her once or twice each week, take her to run errands, pick up her prescriptions, take her to the art store so she could buy felt-tip pens for her coloring books and look around at what else was there, and similar things. My only goal was to have a little fun with her. We both really enjoyed those little trips. We did, in fact, have fun together. My sisters took care of the other things at her home, I took care of shopping trips and going for drives to see the spring/summer/fall color or to look at waterfalls or lakes. We do not have the same bond she has with my older sisters, but we have developed a rather comfortable friendship. She has apologized for depriving me of some opportunities in childhood. That did not feel as good as I always thought it would. It turned out to make little difference. That was so long ago and this woman with whom I am now friends is not that woman of my childhood. Now, with COVID, I take her little things when I can, call her on the phone. I do not go into her home because I am not in her bubble but she enjoys getting little treats that I leave at her door. I move back 10 or 15 feet and we both keep our masks on and talk for a few minutes before I leave. We both look forward to getting the vaccine so we can go back to taking rides together and going for lunch.
This would not have worked if I had tried to do more than I felt that I could do for her. Sticking to a role that felt comfortable with has made an important difference. I wouldn't say that my childhood wounds have all healed, but they have been put in the past where they belong.
Another benefit of moving back into my home state has been getting reacquainted with my sisters. We were never really estranged, but I have formed much deeper understanding and friendships with my sisters. We sisters will grow old together and we share more than we used to think we shared. Among other things, we have talked about childhood events and learned how differently we experienced them. I do miss my home on the East coast, but I think that I have gained enough to make it worthwhile.
I wanted to share this and hear from others who are caring for mothers who did not care for them. What have you learned or gained from the experience? I have found that setting strict limits on my participation in her care made some measure of healing possible. Have you found similar things? Has your experience been different?