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szg5057's avatar

How do I respond to my mom resurfacing after 4 years?

Asked by szg5057 (36points) February 9th, 2012

My mom left when I was 13. She just disappeared one day leaving only a note behind. My dad has been really great. He is there for me all the time in everyway he can be and I owe him a lot. Now that my mom is back a part of me wants to see and talk to her but one I feel like this betrays my dad who has been increbile in the face of all this and two the other part of me isn’t sure that I want to see her. I have spent the last 4 years trying to be perfect and part of that was in the hopes that she would come back and see how good I can be. I don’t know what to do or how to handle this.

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16 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

First and foremost, talk to your dad about all of these feelings. Be completely honest, and let him know you’re worried about betraying him. You haven’t really given much info as to why your mother might have left, but I do believe that people truly can change, and that it can be possible for them to slowly earn your trust back over a long time, if that’s what you decide to do. I would be very guarded emotionally though, and take very small steps if you do decide to move forward.

I’m certain your mother didn’t leave because of your behavior, so you shouldn’t be worrying about that at all. Best wishes, it sounds like you’ve got an amazing father.

JLeslie's avatar

First, your mom did not leave because you are perfect or imperfect. Take that pressure of yourself right now. Your mom did an awful thing abondoning you and the family, but I have to assume she had a lot of troubles to do such a thing. I also would assume your father would understand if you wanted to have some contact with your mom. I’m sure you must have many many feelings, anger, distrust, sadness, happiness, so mich at once. I think you should talk to your dad calmly, don’t guess what you think he thinks. Children are very bad at guessing what adults think on such matters. I bet your mom loves you intensely, but her own psychological mess, or even selfishness, made her act as she did. I don’t think she intended to hurt you, but she failed to think about the full impact of her decisions.

Take it one step at a time. If you decide to spend time with your mom, let her know how you feel, give her a chance to explain herself. Understanding her might help you forgive what she did, and it will help you feel better. But, it will take time. It is not that I think you should forgive her in a day, it is a process, and forgiveness for me does not mean you think what she did is ok or acceptable. It only means you will be eventually able to put the events behind you and move forward.

You have been through a tremendously difficult time. I wish you well. Let us know what happens.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

I agree with @gorillapaws on this. Since your dad has always been there for you, then he needs to be (and will be) there for you now. He can help you sort out your feelings. He probably has issues of his own to sort out, both within himself and certainly with her.

You should also talk to your mother. It’s not an easy thing for a mother to simply “walk away”. You don’t know without hearing from her what was going on in her life. I could speculate on all kinds of things: drugs and alcohol? criminal activity that she had to escape? problems with your father that were too much for her? (It happens, even with parents who seem to us as kids – I’m not a kid – to be “perfect”.) Maybe she simply felt lost with you and your dad, knew that he’d be there for you, and was swept off her feet by another lover. She could have been in a lot of anguish every day that she was away, but that anguish was just a bit less than the pain she felt being in your father’s orbit. You simply don’t know.

Even when you know her story you may find it difficult to forgive her and trust her again. (Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, but trust is something she has to earn back.)

You won’t lose anything by talking.

I wish you and your family well.

(This was a great tough first question. Stick around.)

Now that I’ve read her response, I like @JLeslie,‘s too.

tranquilsea's avatar

As others have stated you should sit down and talk with your dad. He sounds very supportive and will, hopefully, support you through re-connecting with your mom.

You have every right to be sad, mad and feel betrayed. I can guarantee you that you were not the reason your mom left. She was overloaded and needed time get herself sorted out. Hopefully she is sorted out now and won’t leave again.

This will be hard but you need to do some work on understanding what is her stuff to own and what is your stuff to own.

I can’t imagine how hurt you must be because of her actions.

john65pennington's avatar

Why did your mother leave and what has your dad told you about her? These are important questions for you to answer for us.

Your mother will always be your mother, no matter what.

I agree with everyone else, that a conversation with your dad, about your mother, is foremost in you making a decision.

Your mothers love for you will never go away.

Just be sure to ask her what she has been doing for the past four years…....first.

marinelife's avatar

This might be a situation where you have a lot of feelings that you need to work through. Talking to a therapist might be helpful to you. Think about that and tell your dad if you think it would.

Then, understand that you seeing your mom is not a betrayal of your father. Tell him how much you love him for standing by you when your mom left, and how much you appreciate everything that he has done for you.

If you see your mom (or write her a letter just for you not to send), tell her that she really hurt you when she left you. That the four years that she was gone have made a difference to how you feel about her, and that it won’t be easy putting your relationship back together.

Good luck and take care.

linguaphile's avatar

You are at the beginning of a journey—I’m at the end of a similar journey.

My dad left when I was 7, saw me for a few hours when I was 13, then left. He found me when I was 17, stayed for a year, then wasn’t around again. It is not easy to have a parent disappear or leave. So much of our identity depends on how our parents view and treat us—so this is not an easy journey—regardless of what happens, if you hold on to the truth that it was not created by you and that your mom’s burden is not your burden, you will be okay. The others who replied are right—it is not something you created and it’s about your mom’s own struggles. She made some decisions and you got the fallout—but you did not create her struggle.

I always felt terrible because I never stopped wanting to see and understand my dad—like I was betraying the people who stood by me—my mom and grandmother (he cut his own mom and sibiligs off, too). It was easy for me to forgive him- I wanted a relationship with him that bad, but how could I forgive him without ignoring what he did to my mom and grandmother?? That was hard, especially since my mom really, really did not like it if I talked to him.

Fast forward to when I was 36—I finally came to terms with all this when I got an explanation from my dad on this round of reconicilation. Simply put, he couldn’t deal with my mom’s temper. Oh wait… where in all this is the horrible little girl that was so unwanted that I thought I was? OH! It never, ever had anything to do with me!!! That was a terrible thing to realize almost 30 years later—all those times of grief over imaginary things I did wrong… it had nothing to do with me!

My dad has his good qualities, but the ability to deal with confrontations or emotional situations is within his range of capabilities. It’s not my burden, but his- but it is my fallout, and once I was able to separate the two, I could deal with it much better.

My biggest lesson in all this was how to feel valued by anyone. My thoughts were, “If my dad doesn’t value me, how can anyone else?” I learned that this is a very, very wrong way to see people—just because my dad doesn’t value me does not mean nobody else can or will—people can, will and do value me. Your own dad values you, loves you, and is able to show it.

You are valued, this is not your burden to carry but your mom’s, and you are strong enough. Talk to your dad—he sounds like someone who can help you. Best of luck .

Judi's avatar

You have received a lot of good advice here. I just want to add, don’t feel a responsibility to fully embrace her if you do meet her.
I have a friend whose mother was an alcoholic and abandoned him when he was 14. He was eating out of garbage cans.
He became a self made man and now has a very successful plumbing company and makes several million dollars a year.
A few years ago his mom sobered up. Her husband died and he felt responsible to take care of her. She moved into his house and he began to have panic attacks. He was a good man and instead of expressing his hatred and resentment towards his mother he was taking care of her. The conflict made him physically sick.
He got better after she moved out of his house and MUCH better when she moved out of the area.
He still drinks to much and he still hasn’t delt with his feelings towards his mom.
Eventually, in order to heal, you will need to confront her. The sooner you are HONEST about your feelings, the sooner you will be able to open the door for a positive relationship in the future. The worst thing you can do is act like everything is hunky dory and not let her know how her choices hurt you.

BoyWonder's avatar

Wow all you jellies’ answers are truly touching, as is this story. Definitely get some answers to the burning questions i’m sure you have. It will put closure to the situation and may help prevent you from internalizing your confusion, as @Judi has so eloquently illustrated.

Sorry to stray but btw, @Judi is that Henry Winkler hugging you? lol

JLeslie's avatar

I was just thinking, your mom will probably expect you to be angry and upset with her. So, voicing it is not rocking the boat, it is clearing the air, and allowing you to vent how you feel. Give yourself permission to do it. I assume it must be rather scary and anxiety provoking to think about all the possibilities. What to say, what to do. I worry that since you feel your behavior might have caused her to leave, which I completely disagree with, that you might be overly critical and feel on eggshells about what to say to her. Usually the best thing is to just go ahead and talk, if everyone is willing to talk.

Judi's avatar

@BoyWonder, you’re not the first person to accuse him of being the Fonz!

CWOTUS's avatar

Awesome answer, @linguaphile. All of the rest of us amateur sociologists put together won’t do as much good as what you did in one answer. Thanks for that. I value the hell out of you, in case you didn’t already know.

punkrockworld's avatar

Follow your heart and do what you think is right. I do not think your dad will feel betrayed by you wanting to catch up with her. I think it is something that needs to be done, just so you can get clarity and answers, as I am sure you have a lot of them. If you do not contact her, you might always wonder what would have happened if you did. It is an opportunity you should take, but do not forget who was there for you when she decided to give up. That is my perspective, when things get rough, you do not just abandon your family. I find it hard to imagine.. but whatever she was going through must have been a bad phase in her life. She should have not included you in her mess. I am sure you turned out well and I would not be worried about “perfecting” yourself. Do not ever for a second think you are the reason she left. You should not feel responsible for her weakness. I hope you make the right decision; it is all up to you now. Your dad raised a fine daughter/son. I can’t tell… but good luck!

szg5057's avatar

Thanks for your answers everyone. I never really got the whole picture as to why my mom left. I don’t remember ever seeing my parents fight growing up. She didn’t drink to my knowledge. The whole thing was just such a shock because we had no warning. I have seen the note she left (my dad doesn’t know) and all it said was “I just can’t live this life anymore. I’m sorry.” My dad has assured me that her leaving had nothing to do with me during the very few times we have talked about it. It was all just to painful to deal with or talk about so I really haven’t. I don’t think I will ever stop thinking about how she just couldn’t be my mom anymore. Like was it really that hard for her to just be around me? One of my best friend’s mom died two years ago so I have someone who knows what it is like to be a teenage girl without a mom but my mom chose to leave me. I think I have to talk to her if I am ever gonna get past this.

linguaphile's avatar

@CWOTUS thank you and a big mwah for you! I value you too!!

I agree with @Judi- don’t feel like you have to be all welcoming and forgiving. Your feelings are valid, whatever they may be, and denying your own feelings will only create more frustrations for you in the long run.

Second, I doubt your dad will feel betrayed, but he will probably seem to be concerned. My guess is he might feel leery about you talking to your mother again because he doesn’t want to see you get hurt again. I know my mom hated it every time I talked to my dad because she had to pick up the pieces afterwards, and see that with others as well. That’s not to say your mom and you won’t be able to reconcile, just your dad will probably be worried.

Yes, talk to her… but don’t ever let it be put on you. She was an adult, making an adult decision and it’s not the fault of a kid. She has X number of years of experience ahead of you and she made her decision based on whatever reasons.

A big hug and hang in there. I really hope this works out well.

CWOTUS's avatar

To add one thing to @linguaphile‘s advice: If there is going to be a reconciliation, let it be on your schedule, at whatever rate you feel comfortable in making changes in your acceptance, trust and feelings. Don’t be railroaded into saying things are okay if they’re not, or into saying that you feel certain things (love, forgiveness, acceptance, etc.) if you don’t. Don’t feel compelled to accept and agree to everything that your mom says (or your dad, either, for that matter) just because they’re your parents, because they’re older, because they know what’s best for you or any other reason of theirs. Part of your own maturing process is to make up your own mind about things and learn about things in your own time now. You’re starting to get to an age and maturity – whether you want to or not! – where “because I say so” no longer has to be the final word in a discussion with your parents. But I’ll bet that your dad is already teaching you this, at least as it applies to dealing with others. It will apply to him, soon, too.

In addition to the foregoing, I would not take the route that some do and offer their emotions for sale or ransom to the one trying to make amends. That is, don’t let your mother think that she can buy your affection – and certainly don’t offer it for sale. That way is ruinous, too.

Obviously, you don’t have to agree with what I say, either. No one else ever seems to…

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