Caught Between Independence and Needing Mom

Caught Between Independence and Needing Mom

When I was 15, I decided to do an exchange year abroad. I didn't even bother asking my mother about her opinion. I wanted it, so I applied for it. One year later I was sitting on an airplane on my way to Virginia, 5,000 miles away from home. Facebook had just started and WhatsApp was not around yet (Icq was still the THING). I was unbelievably excited. Ten months in a different country, a new life, a new family, new friends. Weekly calls from home? Annoying. I just wanted to have a great year and become a part of my new surroundings. So I told my mom I did not want her to call me all the time.

Bad idea. Very bad idea. We ended up having a major fight. She felt betrayed, excluded, unloved. I could write an article on how to break a mother’s heart. I should add: My mom and I had been living together for almost 10 years and I don't have any siblings, so I consider her my best friend. Suddenly I had turned her into a single woman who had also just turned 40. As I said, very bad idea.

However, as I was doing my thing, I never felt homesick and even switched host families without calling my mother for help. I was growing up and after a while, she got used to it. From that time on, she started seeing all my adventures as “no big of a deal.”

Post-high school travels around Europe? No big deal.

Three weeks in the States including nights in Miami by myself? No big deal. 

Last year in January I went to Madrid for three months to study. The morning of my flight, she took me to the airport, parked at the 10 minute parking, said goodbye to me and my suitcase and left for work. “C’mon it is still Europe.” No melancholy whatsoever. We set up Skype dates about every three weeks and sent WhatsApp messages whenever we felt like it. I even sent weekly updates on anything interesting that had happened. (Well… let’s say on family-friendly things. College life in Madrid can be crazy sometimes.) But again – I wasn’t homesick, not even once.

In October, I left again to work in Houston for three months. A couple of tears were shed, but it had also been my grandma’s birthday which included a huge family get-together after 15 years and alcohol may have been consumed; plus, I had just gotten home after three months away and we had literally only eight hours to spend with each other, which I also had to divide between her, my family, my best friend and my (then) boyfriend. Yeah, you guessed right, not much time together. No time for homesickness or to feel uncomfortable in any way.

I was back in the States, my second home sweet home. The first couple of weeks went by unbelievably fast. When I was not working I was busy spending hours and hours in grocery stores to buy all the great goodies that I had desperately been craving for so many years. I started making friends (which resulted in me eating even more delicious things and now I know more restaurants than people in Houston… weight may or may not have been gained…) and I started living the normal “life as an employee,” which means: get up, work, get home, workout/watch “Scandal,” sleep.

And then it happened: I started missing home a little, something I was not used to. But not just home, I was missing my mom especially.

Meanwhile, I was becoming more and more annoyed by my (then) boyfriend back home, which resulted in me calling my mom once a week and sending her almost-daily short messages or at least a funny picture. I needed her opinion; I needed her to listen to me. I counted on her. And finally on Christmas Eve I stepped off the plane, back in Germany.

Trust me, I have never been so happy to see my mom. (Sidenote: She seemed pretty happy, too.)

Since my return and despite the fact that I live 1.5 hours away now, I have been trying to spend more time with her and my family. I do not just squeeze them into my busy schedule. I plan entire “let’s just hang out and talk” days with them. I message her when I wake up with a sudden rash on my arm, I send her desperate messages when I do not know what to do with my future - all things that I had rarely done before.

I simply realized that as much as I love going on adventures, planning my life and making decisions on my own: There are times in life when you just need your mom.

[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]

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