I Feel Guilty About Moving So Far Away From My Mom
I feel constant sorrow that I can't provide the joy of being a grandmother who lives next door.
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There has never been a point in my life I haven’t felt close to my mom. When I was 3 and my sister 1, my parents divorced. We lived with my mom, who did everything she could to make our lives full and meaningful, even though her income was small.
Our unit of three moved several times—friends, houses and schools coming and going. But our friendship with each other never wavered. I remember spending evenings reading or talking in her bed before we went to sleep, and mornings were spent getting ready in front of her bathroom mirror. I never wanted to be away from her. I never went through the teenage phase of being too cool for her company.
She was my safe haven.
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I Moved to Another Country and Away From My Mom
During the middle of college, I met a British man who I fell in love with. Even though my mom was excited for me and loved my future husband, she knew if the relationship lasted, she would lose the closeness of her daughter. And that time eventually came. After finishing college, I packed two large suitcases and moved to Wales to marry my husband.
I remember the tears, all the tears. Life was changing with an eight-hour plane ride, and neither of us was quite prepared for how our mother-daughter relationship would look with an ocean between us.
The first few years I lived in the U.K. were a bit of a blur. I found the transition harder than I imagined. I couldn’t drive straight away, had few friends, didn’t like my job, learned how to live with a man and questioned my decision to leave everything I had known behind. My mom was no longer a drive or even a phone call away to process everything with. With a five-hour time difference, it was incredibly tedious to align our two schedules to talk, except on the weekends when we weren’t at work. It forced me to grow up and not depend on her as I always had.
Two years after I moved over, I had my first baby boy. Mom wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her visiting. She came over two weeks after his birth and held him every second she was awake. She knew it would be months before she saw him again.
And that is when the guilt set in. I had not only stolen a daughter from Mom. I had taken away the joy of seeing her grandchildren regularly.
We May Not See Each Other as Frequently, but Our Relationship Is Deeper Than Ever
My mom loves kids. She is an educator by trade and one of those people in whom kids find total delight. She enjoys treats, crafts, movies, books—any way to make a memory. If I had lived near her, there is no doubt in my mind she would have been at my house whenever I let her play with the kids. But that was no longer the type of grandmother she could be. Her experience would be reduced to once-, maybe twice-a-year visits and lots of phone and video calls.
I went on to have two more boys. They all adore my mom and can’t wait for her visits. We talk to her every weekend, often spending hours FaceTiming her. The boys show her their latest artwork, let her read to them, talk about what they’ve done in school and give her a tour around their rooms. It’s really sweet. But I know what she must be thinking—this is nothing in comparison to what it would be like to be there in the flesh, to smell their blonde hair, feel their smooth skin and cuddle their pudgy tummies.
I’ve taken that away from her. And I don’t think I can ever feel OK about it.
But there’s more guilt. My mom is aging, 60 this year. For the better part of 21 years, she made sure I was fed, housed and happy. I would have loved to be able to repay her by doing the same when she no longer can take care of herself: to drive her to hospital appointments, clean her house and hold her hand when she was unwell. I’m coming to grips with the fact that those future intentions need to be laid to rest.
I still plan to take care of her; it will just have to look unique. I’m already saving money for emergency plane trips and working remotely so that I don’t ever need to be glued to a desk chair to earn money.
Even though I often feel like a poor excuse for a daughter, I’m doing what I can to foster our friendship. In fact, in some ways, I feel closer to her than ever, not in terms of distance but in love and adoration. I pour out my heart to her and she fills it each and every time we talk, whether it’s during a yearly visit or weekly phone call. She is still my best friend, my go-to confidant, just from afar rather than nearby. And I’ll live with the repercussions of that—the guilt and missed memories—until I die.