Having made it this far in life replacing a few teeth and a minus a uterus, I faced recent spinal surgery…complete with a six-week recovery… with some trepidation. What I learned about accepting the acrobatic feat of love where mothering and daughtering is turned upside down was life enhancing.

I once read there are four kinds of women in the world. Those who have been caregivers, those who are caregivers now, those who will become caregivers in the future and those who will need a caregiver. Being a mom is the ultimate caregiver…on those rare perfect days, you’re the raft that keeps your children afloat, the bridge that allows them to run across safely. You believe they are worth the world and spend your life making them believe it too.

My children are in the rush hour of their lives and the thought that my vulnerability led to their being burdened and worried and obligated caused me as much grief as my back pain. They’ve been on me to get a new car and install Door Dash on my phone and check the expiration date of the drugs in the medicine cabinet but until now, that’s been the extent of their unsolicited advice. Then boom. My surgery changed the trajectory and the river of nurturing flowed backward.

My loss of autonomy spurred them into action. My daughter Jen supplied my favorite spinach/egg white salad on an everything mini bagel for lunch whenever she was around. She took her dad to the doctor, canceled an unneeded credit card and placed everything I used the most on the top shelf of the refrigerator. My other daughter Carrie dealt with a 20-page long term health care request, put together a new lamp…with an IKEA nightmare number of pieces… so there was better light to read while I spent days in the recliner…and interviewed till she found the perfect aide to help us through this time.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez said that “Life is not what we lived but what we remember and how we remember to tell it.” My mother was 61 when she spent the last year of her life with me. Of course there was a measure of sacrifice, but my stand-out memories of that time are the walks we took, the chocolate chip mint ice cream cones she devoured after chemo and the 100% pleasure she got from the up close and personal view she shared of my kids.

There was a night I was heartbroken having to miss a performance of my 15-year-old daughter’s play because I had to take care of an emergency with my mom. I don’t know which of the three of us was more miserable. I apologized as much as I could. The next morning I woke up to a note on the kitchen table. “Don’t feel bad,” she said, “I am proud of the kind of daughter you are. And I just want you to know it’s inherited.” If my house caught fire, those words are in the box I grab on the way out.

So here I am, learning a new and unfamiliar dance, pulling to maintain my independence while my girls push for my safety. Asking for help is murder and requires courage, who would have thought? You can’t understand growing older only on the outside until you experience it yourself. Telling the truth is my part of the dance. If my energy is flagging, if my leg hurts, protecting them is not the answer, having them find solutions that will make us both feel better is.

And it’s not like I’ve handed in my nurturing badge. Grown children need their mother’s comfort so they can take a break from being so strong. While I’ve cut down on the advising part of the task, the rest of my job description is alive and well. This extra quiet time together has led to discussions about retaining independence in a marriage, dealing with disappointing friendships and the worth of easy-on-the-heart TV series (The Girls On the Bus, Girls 5Eva, Palm Royale) to get through these scary times. The 30 second hug I shared with Carrie when one of her dearest friends Facetimed her from the hospital to say goodbye after a five-week battle with pancreatic cancer used every ounce of protective, consoling, indescribable empathy in my being.

Being a mother is the best reason to take care of yourself… because no one will ever love your children the way you do. Jay Z said, “If the price is life, you better get what you paid for.”

Happy Mother’s Day to the lucky among us who certainly did.

The Challenge of A Mother’s Roll Reversal was last modified: by

Sharing is caring!