Wedding Woes

Make contact when you can and don't take responsibility for your mom's issues

Dear Prudence,
I am a professional woman in my mid-30s. My parents live about five hours away, and I visit them for a few days at a time every few months. My mother has unacknowledged anxiety problems that prevent her from traveling to see me (her go-to excuse is that her pet needs her, although they have a pet sitter at the ready). She also refuses to call me. She says she could “never live with [her]self” if she disturbed me while I was asleep, as I sometimes work nights—though I’ve explained the Do Not Disturb feature on my phone and told her she can always leave me a voicemail if I don’t pick up.

On the few occasions she has called (typically by accident), and I’ve answered, she invariably asks over and over, “Are you asleep?” and berates herself nonstop. If I didn’t call her, we wouldn’t speak except in person—but she also rarely has her cellphone close enough to hear it ringing and would never return a voicemail. She also discourages my dad from calling me, though he still does occasionally. I feel like a jerk if I don’t remember to call, and I can tell my mom is hurt if I go a while without calling. Am I unreasonable in feeling a bit hurt that my mom will never initiate contact? Or am I not visiting them enough? Or maybe she’d just rather not hear from me and I am not taking the hint? Just need an outsider’s perspective.

—Not Asleep!

Re: Make contact when you can and don't take responsibility for your mom's issues

  • Is texting an option? Like the mother could text to see if LW is awake, if she responds then okay call.
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  • Sigh.  I can relate to a lot of this letter.

    I feel guilty I don't call my mom more often.  I never call my sister.  I rarely go home to visit and feel guilty about that also.  But, you know what?  My sister never calls me either.  Nobody has come out to visit me in over a decade.  My mom will initiate phone calls sometimes, but she usually waits for me to call her because "she knows I'm busy and doesn't want to bother me" and she says my sister feels the same way.  I have never said that to either of them nor do I feel that way.  In fact, in response, I've always said that of course they are both welcome to call me.  If it's a bad time, and evenings are usually just fine, I'll talk for a few minutes and then let them know I need to call them back.

    Back to the LW.  For whatever reason, she knows her mom has some issues.  Even if they are imagined.  I think she should just keep doing, what she's doing.  If sometimes her mom feels "hurt", that is her mom's problem.  She has made it very clear her mom is always welcome to call her and, if her mom chooses not to do that, then it is exactly that.  Her choice.

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