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How do I reconnect with my mom?
August 23, 2010 2:52 PM   Subscribe

[Familial relations filter] How can I re-establish a meaningful relationship with my mother despite being abroad most of the year and that she is constantly burying herself in work?

(sorry for the long details) I grew up with long periods of time abroad where my father was constantly abroad for the majority of the year and my mother was basically the head of our household (this period started when I was in primary school until the end of high school). As a result, the maternal bond was strong while I grew pretty distant from my father who I viewed mainly as a traditional disciplinarian. There was quite a bit of friction between my father and I and my mother always tried to mediate and create understanding between father and son.

As I moved through college and grad school, the relationship between my father and I is stronger than ever. We have lots things to talk about and I find myself getting to know him a lot better, and I credit my mother for a lot of this because she created an atmosphere that allowed us to communicate better with each other.

Now I find myself stuck in a situation where I now feel increasingly distant from my mother. As I am constantly abroad working on my degree, the routine of calling home once a week is pretty set, but I find that we don't really connect anymore. I've noticed this trend starting with my undergrad years, just when I started to get along with my father easier. I feel awful about this. I used to think: "my mom works on familial conflict resolution as her profession, but why can't she work on our relationship?" But I realize that she is not to blame because she has a life of her own, her own social circles and her priorities and that kids move on as well. Indeed, she sacrificed so much of her life and time away from her own husband, family and job so that her children could get a higher education abroad.

Long story short, I want to reconnect with her, but how? We only see each other a few times a year and the weekly phone calls seem more like a ritual than a good conversation. She is heavily buried in her work and she is involved with many social activities (some being religious that I try to avoid) that even when I do get back, we hardly see each other. So my fellow MeFis, what can I do? I realize this will take time, but how should I proceed? Thanks
posted by wallawallasweet to Human Relations (8 answers total)
 
It sounds like the once a week phone call is starting to feel more like a brushing-your-teeth obligation than something you want to do, and maybe your mother is the same way. I'd suggest emails, letters and shared interests. Send her long emails or letters with what's going on in your life -- and not just that but the mundane but interesting details of your living situations, work colleagues, and the various personal absurdities that make up our days. Tell a story -- it's how I connect with people and I suspect many feel the same. Or use analogues -- DVDs of your fave movies, trashy reality TV (this bonds quite a few people I know) and the occasional book. Webcam a little bit too.
posted by AmitinLA at 2:59 PM on August 23, 2010


My daughter talks to me on Skype and we chat on Facebook. It's easier and more spontaneous than the weekly duty call.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:03 PM on August 23, 2010


Send her things to let her know you're thinking of her and update her on your life. Send post cards, letters, pictures, and little presents to brighten her day. These physical things can be kept near her while she's at work or posted on the fridge at home. Then when you are together it isn't a huge game of catch-up, instead you'll have a basis to start some new conversation. You could even ask her to send you a post-card or letter in return.
posted by lizbunny at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2010


I would recommend writing snail mail letters. They are more personal, you can talk about sensitive issues, and she has the pleasure of writing back. I did this with my mother when overseas for many months and was very glad to see that she kept them and after I returned we talked about things I'd written in the letters. They worked better than phone calls and emails.
posted by Kerasia at 3:52 PM on August 23, 2010


Seconding shared interests. I got interested in gardening, and phone calls with my mother blossomed.
posted by leigh1 at 3:56 PM on August 23, 2010


I lived abroad, and I really like Skype better than the weekly phone call. If I'm online and my mom is too, we can call each other. If I don't want to talk, I don't need to be online (hence no feeling of obligation). I also find that being able to see her on video is much better. It also gives us more stuff to talk about (I can point out things in my room, she can show me her dogs, etc). Also it sounds silly, but Facebook is a good tool. I put pictures up and my parents comment on them. That way they can stay updated on my life, and we have more things to talk about. Also, I have started chatting with my Dad on ghcat which I prefer to email.
posted by bearette at 10:42 PM on August 23, 2010


Write her long handwritten letters.

How did your parents stay married for all those years in the pre-digital era?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:50 AM on August 24, 2010


Thanks for the tips and suggestions everyone.

The last time I was back home, I set up a computer with a webcam+skype for the purposes of more lively conversations since it did seem to make a big difference--I will continue along this avenue. I also like the idea of handwritten/snail mail letters and will try to supplement them. My mother also had a habit of forwarding emails to me at work, and I never really responded to them (they're just fwds, right?), and I remember one time she told me that she actually only forwarded things to me she found useful---it just occurred to me that I could perhaps tie this in with the idea of (cultivating) shared interests.

10th Regiment: Amazingly before email and the lowering of long distance calls, they would write pages upon pages of letters and fax each other in the mornings+a short phone conversation. They really tried---looks like I have my work cut out for me.
posted by wallawallasweet at 1:14 AM on August 25, 2010


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