Moms matter: The influence of mothers on their adult children

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

Lorraine Self plays piano with her daughters Paige Self, front, and Brooke Lange listening, Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Related: Deseret News readers share gratitude for mothers

When Paige Self was 8 years old, she went with her mom on a mini vacation. They didn't go far, just across town to a hotel where they stayed the night, just the two of them. Paige was one of Lorraine Self's six children, and time alone together was precious. She remembers vividly sitting by her mom on that hotel bed.

Last month and 35 years after that vacation, Paige sat on the edge of her mom's bed in a hospital, holding her hand. She thought about the fact that she won't always be able to do that. Her mom is 85. She's still active now, but a day will come when she's not a phone call away.

Paige said she needs her mother in different ways than she did as a little girl, but she does still need her. "I don't think we pay attention to it enough, with daily life, work and school. We get caught up in the silliness of everything, but faced with that possible loss or actual loss, it makes you really reflect on what's important," she said. "Sometimes it's just as simple as knowing I can call her and tell her I had an awful day at work. I don't have them often, but being able to make that phone call matters." When a close friend died suddenly not long ago, Paige was bereft. She drove to her mom's house, where Lorraine soothed her and held her while she cried.

Motherhood is not a time-bracketed period between a baby's birth and when she reaches adulthood. A mother's influence is ongoing long after a little boy has become a grown man. "It doesn't matter how old you are or what you do with your life, you never stop needing your mum," actress Kate Winslet said once, as she accepted an Emmy award. It's not an original observation. Google "need your mom" and heartfelt variations can be attributed to more than 200 different individuals, as well as various blogs and websites. Even scientific research confirms the pull of the parental bond after children are grown. It is "one of the longest-lasting social ties human beings establish," wrote researcher Kira Birditt, of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, in a study on parent-child relationships during adulthood, published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Changing over time

The mother-child relationship is also a work in progress, changing with the stages of a person's life. Becky Vacanti of Seattle, Wash., said her relationship with her mom, Patricia Siebenmark, has been much different as an adult than it was when she was a kid. "I always loved her, but we were not friends," she recalled. Her personality was very different from her mom's, who was a first grade teacher in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Her older sister Jane "shared everything in high school with mom. I would share nothing."

Becky married and moved away, so she and her mother didn't see each other often. She once flew her mom in for a visit. They went shopping and to restaurants and "had a great time," acting like a pair of kids. Five years ago, her mom moved to Seattle, too. She has battled strokes recently. It is in the midst of this mental decline that her daughter, now 54, has been impressed with her mom's grace in adversity. "She's been loving and gracious and just amazing. I don't think I would do as well as she has," Becky said.

So the daughter who wasn't so close sits quietly with her mom and talks of family and what's happening at home. She visits her mom in a nursing home at least three times a week and tells her, over and over, "I love you, Mom." She means it.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere