Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Autonomist...With Good Intentions

Now it could have been previously mentioned whacked-out hormonal issues, but nonetheless, my mom's words cut me deeply. We were having a conversation on skype and I mentioned that I may take the opportunity to move into a really kick-ass apartment. An apartment that I could live in for a great price in exchange for overseeing it's remodeling, designing the kitchen, painting and sewing. I also mentioned that I was thinking of having the rest of my things (those that I just couldn't part with and didn't sell at my giant, pre-moving garage sale) shipped over here because they would work so perfectly in my new palace.

Apparently these remarks were like the last crank of a can opener before the lid is finally freed. Mom popped her lid.

Now please understand, this is not a rant against my mom. I'm a mother too and I know where she is coming from. But I've decided to write about this (it's been a month since our conversation and we're both calmer) because these types of things are a very real part of what may sometimes seem like the "fairytale" life of someone who has chosen to become an ex-patriot and leave their country of birth.

My mother, as she was ironing her clothes in preparation for a trip with my sister (the only child she now has left), proceeded to let go on me. So, when am I planning on coming back? It was only supposed to be for one year. Am I ever planning on coming back? My boys need me. Oh YES, they do!  I'm close to becoming a persona non grata and am not such a hot daughter, etc...etc. (please keep in mind that this is what I may not have been actually what she said. I suffer from more than a little guilt). The worst part was, as she was furiously pressing her pants, she told me that she had a whole lot more to say but was holding it back for fear of burning bridges. She did finish by saying "Delana will do what Delana wants to do".

I was stunned. I tried to defend myself. I protested that the boys were grown up and didn't need me all that much. I pointed out that she had moved away from her family. In the end, I excused myself and said I had to go. And as soon as I pushed the little red button that ended the call, I cried.

Not a few tears. Not a gentle, princess weeping. It was the can't-get-air-gasping-face-all-blotchy-eye-swelling-gross-bawling kind of crying.

I called my sister immediately, not seeking redemption (or tattling on my mom) but  asking for her honest opinion on the choices that I've made. And she told me what she thought as well. In a gentler fashion.

This weighed on me heavily for days. I vacillated between feeling like a horrible villain to naughty little girl;  a selfish, uncaring mother to a teenager just plain pissed off at how completely unfair parents can be and how they never let us do what we want!

But mostly, I was worried about my boys. The way my mom had talked, I felt she knew something about them and their lives that I didn't know.  Were they alright? Was something happening in their lives that they weren't telling me about because I'm just too far away? Had I really abandoned them, leaving them motherless and cast adrift? Was I just being a selfish wench who doesn't even deserve the wonderful family I've been so lucky to be blessed with?

I finally got a chance to talk to the boys over the next couple of days. I spoke with the youngest  on facebook and briefly explained the situation and asked him if he thought I was behaving like a bad mom. His lightening fast, initial response had me on my knees in laughter.

Colin:  I think a bad daughter is someone who pawns their mother's precious moments dolls for a couple of weeks stay in a motel in Massachusets with a guy named Ray whom she met at a bowling ally.

I'm 23. Ryan's 25. That's a three with a twenty before it.

Delana: I know. Do you think it's more her missing me and trying to come up with a reason to get me home?

Colin:  Like...chhhyeah! Of course. I miss you too. I'm not going to call you a bad mother because I don't think you are. 
You're an autonomist....with good intentions.

He then told me he was going to be completely honest with me...and I waited for a tongue lashing. But instead he proceeded to tell me that he misses me but would miss me if I still lived 3 hours away. Because he doesn't have the time or money to do any visiting and besides, he said, how much did you see your mom when you were our ages?

Colin: I want you to be doing what you want to be doing. I'm proud of you for taking the leap. Although it's not unlike I've heard.

Delana: Are you being completely honest here?

Colin: Honest. So don't let Grandma get you all butthurt over what she thinks Ryan and I feel. Cause it's not true. And don't let anyone make you feel like you're a bad mother because I know, I really know how much you sacrificed for us. And don't get mad a Grandma either. She misses you.

This brings us to one question and two points. The question...what the hell is "butthurt"? The points...I never sacrificed anything. Being a mother isn't about sacrifice, it's about love and I told him so. Point number two...I'm not mad at mom.

I spoke with son number one on the telephone a few days later and he iterated what his brother had already said.  This brings up one more point. I have cool sons. And I was relieved.....sort of.

But this still leaves the issue (guilt) of my mom and my sister. We are 3. That's all. As my sister told me "We miss you. We love you. We want you to come home....when you're ready....but that will be soon, won't it? Mom doesn't want to wait to spend time with you when she's old or sick. She wants you now. And so do I".

There is no nice, neat finish to this story. There is no answer to these questions. These are things that I imagine all expatriates struggle with. The truth is, everything my mom said to me are things that I continually ask myself. And I return to...probably selfishly... Delana will do what Delana wants to do. But she will feel a little guilty about it. Because she knows that in spite of her mother letting it all go on her (on an off moment, probably related to all that ironing she had to do), it's only because her mother loves her....and misses her. And her mother is loved and missed in return. 



  1. Oh, Delana. My heart wrenches for you. It's a funny thing that when you need your parents (raising little kids) they want to do their own thing and then when they get older, they really want you around again. They made those decisions to be absent (at least mine did) while I was raising kids. I enjoy spending time with my parents, but I only have this one life to live. I'm going to grab my opportunities where I can. That doesn't mean I love my parents any less, just that I'm not willing to sacrifice these years when I'm not tied down to be around for everyday visits. We'll have to make the most of our time together when we can.
    Making the right decisions for you and your family doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing your dreams.

  2. Oh Delana. Let me begin with a question: Are we certain that your mom and my mom are not the same person??? I’ve been struggling with this my whole, entire life. In fact, reading your dilemma empowered me because it made me see – from an outsider’s perspective – that we are not bad people. There’s a term used in schools: bullies. But when it comes to moms, it gets translated into another word: overbearing. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my mother. She’s my best friend. But at the same time she has a way of making me feel bad for my decisions; as small as they may be. My conclusion is that everyone (as in EVERYONE) is an individual. We all make different choices in life and just because our choices aren’t the ones that our mothers would make, WE ARE NOT BAD PEOPLE. WE ARE NOT BAD MOTHERS. WE ARE NOT BAD DAUGHTERS. In life you have to do what’s right for YOU. Otherwise what the hell is the point??? One of my life’s purposes is to learn the lesson of quieting the voice in my head that is still my mother’s. Annoying. Yes. But also empowering because the exercise reinforces that my decisions are the best thing for me. No matter how many loving people I surround myself with (my kids, my parents, great friends, etc.) no one worries about my happiness. That is up to me. And the same goes for you. And while we’re all individuals, not one of us is perfect. Not even our overbearing mothers. The decisions that we make that they have a problem with – I’m realizing – is a part of their baggage. It has nothing to do with us or our decisions. Hope this helps ;-)

  3. Doing what's right for oneself is fraught with the mine field of emotions, isn't it?

    You may be able to point out to your mother that only a mother who had succeeded in the most magnificent way could raise a daughter with the nerve and tenacity to do what you've done...follow her dream.

    You also then have the added bonus of blaming this all back on her.

  4. butthurt is something you have when your buttflap is disengaged for some reason....

  5. Hi Delana, this is so well written! The truth is there's no easy answer; that you have opened pandora's box, and you probably will never manage to close it again.
    If we don't want to be tempted we mustn't go looking for temptation. I think your boys prefer a happy mum working hard to recreate a new life for herself, than a grumpy mum who feels bitter about never having tasted anything different.

    My 2 cents! Chin up, you write beautifully and what you are doing is BRAVE! Nobody ever said that brave was easy.

  6. Delana your post brought tears to my eyes as well, i totally relate to your situation. I moved away from my family at a young age, and now my adult children have moved overseas away from our home. I understand as a Mum how it feels, but the times when we do have together are so special that it makes ok. I admire your adventure in France, enjoy your posts and having met you once at the bloggers catchup in Paris last September know that you are a really good person. Enjoy what you are doing without the guilt, enjoy the together times with your family when they come. Kate.

  7. Paulita- It's not THAT hard. Just sometimes. When I feel I'm disappointing people. But you're right, these years...right now...are mine. I want to live them.

  8. Moxie-The interesting thing is that I don't think of my mom as overbearing. Not at all. Strong personality yes. And do I always keep her and her opinions in mind, yes. Have I done a good job of ignoring her opinions all my life. Yes. Therein lies some of the guilt. I KNOW I'm not a bad person...I just sometimes wonder if I'm ENOUGH of a person.

  9. Oh Jo, can you write a letter to my Mom and tell her that. I'm the way I am in so many ways because of the independence she taught me. Yep....I'm gonna blame it on her. I hope she's a little bit proud. I hope.

  10. Miriam- One day I'm going to write about buttflaps. I really am. And I will work "butthurt" into the story.

    Sharon-The Pandora's box was opened a long time ago, you're right. I always tell my friends with young adult children...if you send them abroad....they will keep going. Their lives will never be the same. ne sais pas. But what I want to do...yes.

    Kate- It's so good to hear from you. It's nice to hear from the "other" side of the spectrum. I think that it's probably okay for you..except for THOSE MOMENTS. Like my mom had for an instant. Otherwise, I think it's probably okay for her too.

  11. What is best for you? What is best for her? What is best for your sons? Everyone listed is an adult and may I say, following your passion is the best gift you can give your children as well as yourself. As for mom, well, if she's like mine, she may guilt you into getting what she wants temporarily, but then won't be satisfied with that either. You just keep blazing your own path and send mom chocolates every now and then. Bet she'll brag to the postman that the package is from her wonderful daughter!

  12. And what's wrong with Delana doing what Delana wants to do? Delana has raised two full grown sons who clearly love her and want what's best for her. Delana is an adult. And Delana has a right to her own happiness. It's Delana's life to live and no one else's.

    That's my two cents. Chin up :-)

  13. Oh, I feel for you! I truly do!
    My sister totally freaked when we announced that we were moving to France 8 years ago. Threw a serious guilt trip at me - I seem to remember the statement, "well I guess you never want to see your nieces and nephews again, do you?" Very painful stuff. Things calmed down after about a year and now she loves to come visit.
    Your sons sound like amazing and mature young men. You raised them well! :)

    I can't believe I've never stumbled across your blog before today. I live just a few hours west of you. Looking forward to reading your older posts.
    Have a great weekend!

  14. You are so blessed to have a mom, sister and sons who love you so much and want to spend time with you!
    That being said, you have lived the stable responsible life and raised yor sons and given them a strong foundation.
    It's your turn now. Keep doing what Delana wants to do. Maybe mom can live in France for a few months out of the year. Like Colin said, you probably see each other as much now as you would if you lived 3 hours away. They are lucky to have a brave adventurous mother/sister/daughter and it gives them reason to travel and be adventurous too.

  15. Btw, did you really pawn your mom's precious moment dolls? Tooo funny!
    I never heard of butthurt either, must be some new college slang word.

  16. Renee-I've done my own share of guilting...perhaps it's a "mother" thing. And you're right...even though at that moment she was unhappy...I think a part of her is proud. I hope.

    Sara- You're two cents is always worth a million. Thank you.

    Loulou- I just stumbled on yours as well...I think through Libby at An Eye for Detail. Welcome and thanks for the comment. I was really searching for...but never do others in this situation deal with it? Thank you for the reassurance. And yes, I've got fab kids. I hope they travel the world as well.

    Jackye- In fact, that's what I've been proposing to her. She always wants to travel when she's here but it wouldn't be so bad if she just stay. Like visiting a daughter in California....or something1

  17. Jackye- My mother wouldn't be caught dead with precious moments dolls, I've never met a guy named Ray, let alone spent a week with him in a motel in Massachusets! Do you suppose I need to add all this to my bucket list???

  18. I have a son who has been living in LA for over 6 years. I miss him badly, but it is his life, he his happy and I love to hear happyness in his voice over the phone.
    The best gift that we can give to our children is letting them go.
    Besides, I had a dear friend who was maybe 57, well, she was gone in 45 days: life is short and ends abruptly. Enjoy yours, it is your time.

  19. Oh Delana
    The eternal dilemma of living btw worlds. I remember how torn I felt when I expatriated for good. It is never easy but you are living your dream, oh so courageously. Is there anyway that your sister and mom could visit you in France? It really helped my parents & sibs to be able to see my world. And Provence is beautiful anytime of year.

  20. Every time I have my mum on the phone she wails 'oh you live SO FAR AWAY! Why can't you be like other daughters and live near so we can do things together???'

    From her point of view I'm one thing (probably selfish, uncaring etc) but from my point of view I'm something else - single mother holding down a job in a lovely part of the world and living an independent life that she can visit on MY terms.

    Of course it all goes a bit pear-shaped when she has a mini stroke and ends up in hospital, but I do have 2 brothers who can visit.

    My mother is of the generation whereby daughters stayed on hand and were useful although she moved from Wales to London so really she's no one to talk! Frankly, if I didn't live so far away I'd be swamped with demands, so here I stay leading my one chance at life the way I want. If that's selfish then et alors?!

    We'll go on doing what we want because we can, and if we didn't, we'd look back and see what? A wasted life.

  21. Hey Delana,

    So, my aunt and I will be in Provence the middle of July. We would love to visit with you. Let me know what's going on with you.

    Renee Christofferson

  22. Delana,
    I have missed all of this and I'm sorry. Your son's comments are perfect and hilarious. I'm glad you posted this because it's what we all feel and grapple with living abroad.
    aidan xo


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