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So I Think I’m A Bad Daughter…

…and I feel guilty about it but I can’t seem to help myself sometimes.

A couple of years ago when I switched jobs, I gave my parents my new work number but I told them not to call it unless it was important.

The job switch gave me a good excuse because I now share an office and I have a schedule and a job that has people in and out of here all day long. I don’t have the time to chat all day and I don’t want everyone in my business anyway.

This offends my mother to her very core.

In my last job I had my own office and she knew it, so she’d call to yack about nothing. If I had time, I’d pick up and talk for a bit, but then she started to take advantage. She’d call up and when I had to interrupt her to take another call—a WORK call, no less—or if someone came in and I had to put her on hold, or god forbid, call her back, she’d get pissy about it. If I didn’t call her back in the time she felt I should have been able to, she’d call and leave snippy messages on my voice mail: “Where ARE you? I thought you’d call back by now.”

She got so aggressive about it that when I’d tell her, “Mom, I have to go” (because my boss was standing in the door or something) she’d pause and say, “Mmhm. So anyway…” And launch right back into whatever she was talking about. I’d try (gently) to interrupt her but she pretended she didn’t hear me.

A few times I just hung up on her midsentence.

Was it mean? Absolutely. But she was disrespectful too. She didn’t care that I wasn’t being paid to talk to her all day. She called to talk, and talk she was going to do.

Since I don’t call her during the day now, I try to call my parents a few nights a week on my way home. This has worked out well because I can usually get them both on the phone at the same time and don’t have to repeat or clarify anything in a second conversation later. And there’s a set end point. The 30-minute drive is over and I have to get inside to take care of the dog and see my husband. Now, my dad is totally cool with this, by the way. By the time I’m driving home from work, they’re finishing dinner and watching Letterman and Jimmy Fallon from the night before. My dad wants to catch up on his Tivo. He gets on the phone, says what he wants to say and gets off the phone. He’s not offended at all. (My mom is NOT a say and it and get off the phone type by any stretch of the imagination.)

About an hour ago my cell phone rang. It was my mom, which is unusual during the day, so I automatically assume something must be wrong. My dad is 80 and my mom is 76, so I feel like when they call at unusual times, it’s THE CALL. Which makes me feel shittier about this whole situation.

I pick up and immediately ask what’s wrong. My mom’s voice is tight but she says everything is fine. “Are you sure?” I asked. She assured me that everything was fine.

“So why does it sound like it’s not?”

“You didn’t call last night.”


“You didn’t call on your way home last night.”

“I didn’t realize I was on a schedule.”

“You usually call on Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Okay, that was news to me. Frankly, last night I wanted to put the top down, blast some music and just drive. I’m entitled. I had a long week and was tired but I feel guilty now because I didn’t call. Because it was Thursday. And I always call on Thursday.

Here’s the thing I wrestle with. I know my parents are getting older, and the more they age, the more they hold on. I know there will be a day, a day not that long from now, when I wish my mother was around to call me, to check in. There will be a day when I will miss her calling me up to nag me about something. Like I’m 4 and not almost 40. I know all of this. But I can’t help but feel annoyed.

My mom has a ton of friends. She’s active with card groups and golf and she volunteers and goes out to lunch with friends. But she seems lonely to me. And she seems to expect me to supply something that I just don’t know how to give her sometimes. And it simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart.

This isn’t a post about bashing my mother. I really am frustrated and don’t know how to handle this with her. I’ve tried to talk to her but I don’t know if she understands it. My grandmother (her mom) had already passed away by the time my mom was my age, and I don’t have kids, so I’m sure there’s a correlation to all of that.

I’m really trying to be patient, and I’m trying so hard not to be frustrated, but sometimes it’s all I can do to swallow my irritation.

I feel like a bad daugher.


8 Responses

  1. Hrm. I have no advice for you here. I’m terribly sorry you’re feeling this way, though. :/

  2. Mo,
    You definitely shouldn’t feel like a bad person. I went through this with my mom some time ago, and then she got a job and it was no big deal.

    Could it be that your parents are feeling old? When people get to be their age, they see death (most of their friends are dying). It is possible she looks forward to your phone calls and whether you meant to, you created a schedule. Just try to talk to her about it, including the part that you’re afraid of THE call. If she knows that you enjoy your drive home calls but they may not always be at the same time each week, it could make her feel good and appreciated.

    Just my .02

    • They are definitely feeling old, and almost every conversation is peppered with comments about who is sick and whose spouse died. I can’t even begin to imagine how that feels. I know they look forward to the phone calls and it’s not like I don’t like to talk to them but it’s frustrating at times. The weekends, for example, are crazy. She will call me at home on a Saturday and/or Sunday morning. If I don’t pick up she leaves a message that says she’ll try my cell. The cell will immediately ring and if I don’t pick that up—like maybe I’m in the shower or something—Bill’s cell will start ringing. Then she goes into full panic mode, assuming I’m dead. Which I just don’t get. How do you go to that so quickly? She’s not losing her marbles or anything. She’s just hanging on so tightly. And if you think I’m exaggerating, ask Bill. It’s stressful. And I have not been able to get her to understand that.

      I am kind of at a loss.

  3. I know exactly what you are going thru. My parents are the same age as yours and i feel like i should appreciate them now as they will soon be gone.

    First off – guilt is a wasted emotion. It only makes you feel worse. It has no effect on the other person. I gave up guilt for Lent a number of years ago, and haven’t picked it back up since.

    Secondly – don’t take your mom’s issues on as your own. She may be lonely, but you can’t fix it. You can love her and call her when you are “scheduled” to call, but you won’t fix her loneliness.

    Finally – living well is the best gift you can give her. And when you see it’s her calling, take a deep breath, put a smile in your voice, and let her talk. (Unless you are at work, then tell her you have to pee or something.) Then, when you hang up, you can vent your irritation.

    I have found the above actions have helped me immensely.

    You aren’t a bad daughter. You’re a busy daughter. 🙂

    • Ah, I’m Catholic. We’re great with guilt. I have grown up with it and I will die with it.

      I know her issues are hers, but I don’t know how to function with her issues sometimes. When I do talk to her, the conversations are better because I”m not distracted by work, by people coming in and out and calling. So that’s good. I think I’m frustrated because it never seems to be enough. She doesn’t do this to my brother, which doesn’t feel fair. I know there’s a mother/daughter thing happening here, but I feel the pressure to be the one they rely on. And I guess it’s the anger that startles me sometimes. If I’m not immediately available she’s angry.

      • i grew up with catholic guilt too. my mother could be the female pope. remember – admitting your problem is the first step. *heh*

  4. I have no advice and I wish I did. You don’t sound like a bad daughter. However, if it makes you feel any better, I barely manage to call my dad. Maybe once every six weeks do I pick up the phone and call the man.

  5. I know this post is dated 2009 and I’m replying in 2014. I was looking for something related to being a bad daughter. I think I’m exactly that. My mom, 79 years old, cancer surviver, lives ALONE in Nicaragua, where I’m from. She doesn’t want to move to the States with me because she thinks I have another life here (a bad life, indecent) because I have a boyfriend, he doesn’t live with me but we do spend weekends with each other. We have known each other for about a year and a half but my mom doesn’t approve. She hasn’t met him, but because I am involved with him intimately before marriage that makes me and my house indecent. I’m catholic too, I’m glad to read that it’s not only me who has grown with an incredibly heavy weight coming from guilt. I live with an enormous level of guilt in my heart that I can barely carry. I feel like trash. I know I should take care of my mom but how? It’s either choosing her life over mine. I’d have to give up everything, sell my home, my car, quit my job, leave EvERYTHING. I’m afraid. What am I more afraid of? Giving up life as I know it or letting my mom die by herself with no help, which is what she tells me will happen, and I know it’s very possible. Her life or mine, that’s the dilemma. So far I’m choosing mine and for that I know I’m a terrible human being.

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