Is This Normal? I Call My Mom for Everything
"I can't figure out if I should feel embarrassed or not."
You've got embarrassing, tricky, and otherwise unusual life questions. We've got answers. Welcome to Is This Normal?, a no-nonsense, no-judgment advice column from HelloGiggles, in which we tap experts to find out exactly how typical (or not) your situation is.
Dear Is This Normal?,
I'm starting to treat my mom like my personal Google. Honestly, she's better than Google. I call my mom for everything: what to cook for dinner, advice on what to plant in my garden or how to decorate my living room, and (of course) every major decision, like which new washer and dryer to buy. I've tried asking my friends, but their answers are all over the place.
During the pandemic, I've realized I call Mom even more than before the COVID-19 lockdowns began. Is it normal to call my mom about… everything? I can't figure out if I should feel embarrassed or not that I'm a grown adult who calls her mom to even figure out what to wear or which show to binge next.
Hi, Mommy's Girl,
Once I called my mom about my fingernail. (This may or may not have happened last week, while I'm in my thirties.) After a little mishap with a heavy laundry detergent bottle that crushed my pinky finger, it looked like I was going to lose my entire nail. After complaining (a lot) about how this detergent bottle could possibly do a thing like this to little old me, I turned to Google. And let me just warn you—if you search for images of crushed fingernails, it's nauseating.
I hated what I saw, so, what did I do? I texted my mom a picture, asking, "What is happening to me?" She called right away. I realized that what I really wanted in that moment was for my mom to fix my problem, kiss my boo-boo and make it all better, just like the good old days of princess Band-Aids.
I guess what I'm trying to say, Mommy's Girl, is this: It's more than okay to call Mom for every small and big thing that happens in your day. It's also more than okay to not call Mom for everything. You have to do what works best for you right now in your current life phase.
But what you're really asking me is if calling your mom for everything is normal. I've searched far and wide to find you the definition of "normal" on this one, but like you said, the answers are all over the place depending on life stage and relationship dynamics. Some people call their mom once every couple of weeks and don't share every tiny life detail, while others talk to their mom multiple times a day about anything and everything.
According to Siobhan Matias, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and mental health therapist, "When it comes to any relationship, doing what is best for you and honoring your needs is most important. As we go through life, our relationships ebb and flow based on life circumstances, which is totally normal."
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I've witnessed something happening to everyone, and I've even felt it myself: We're all seeking a mom's comfort to fix the brokenness and make everything better. On about day 10 of quarantined life as a newlywed, that's when it hit me: my mom (or any mom, for that matter) was not going to walk through the door of our new house. There wasn't a mom coming to make me chicken soup and pour me a glass of ginger ale with a straw to help settle my uneasy stomach. Instead, I started making daily afternoon snacks of sliced apples with peanut butter for me and my husband because something about it felt like a trip back to childhood with a comforting hug from Mom.
Many people will admit that they call their mom even more now during the lockdown. Why? Some have elderly or high-risk parents that they're worried about and want to check in on. Other people with kids have turned to their parents for childcare in new and unexpected ways during virtual learning and remote work. And some people, like me, just want to hear a familiar and soothing voice and catch up with a best friend.
Maybe it's something about this scary world of uncertainty that makes us all long for the comfort of a mom to make everything better, no matter what age or phase of life we're in.
"During the pandemic, a lot of people have increased anxiety and are seeking more connection in an uncertain time, so it's totally normal for the dynamics of relationships to change," Matias tells HelloGiggles. "The most important thing is to focus on what's best for you and not compare your situation to others."
My heart aches for the people who told me that they wish they could call Mom, or that they have dreams about calling their mom who has been gone for years.
My own mom is in this category, losing her mom before I was born. Growing up, she would often say to me and my brother, "You'll miss me when I'm gone." And that's a hard truth to swallow.
But, Mommy's Girl, you have to set your own boundaries in your relationship with your mom. And this might change over time, which is completely normal. It's not a comparison game. Find a rhythm that works best for you and your mom.
Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, known for her research on vulnerability, defines "boundaries" in her book Rising Strong with this helpful definition: "…boundaries are simply our lists of what's okay and what's not okay."
So, Mommy's Girl, when you think about your relationship with your mom, what's on your list of what's okay and what's not okay? Make your list and there you will find your "normal."
Here's what Matias says she would tell her own client asking this question about how often to call their moms: "Do what feels right in the moment and honor the energy you feel. If that means calling Mom a few times a day to check in, that's great, but it could also mean establishing a phone call schedule to allot a time where you can fully commit to a conversation. Boundaries and relationships aren't a one-size-fits-all."
If you and your mom are on the same page, then keep picking up the phone and calling her about that white chicken chili you're throwing in the slow cooker for dinner—without worrying if you're calling too much or too little, or what other people would think of your relationship. Keep texting her pictures of the stubborn weeds growing in your garden and asking her how to fix the mess. You can even call Mom about that crushed tiny pinky finger (just saying).
Your mom probably can't fix what's broken (believe me, she will try), but she can listen and commiserate and tell you to go put on your own Band-Aid.