Karen, 29, a school teacher from Boston, still remembers the unusual—and deep—connection she had with her friend’s mom.
“I had this friend, who shall remain nameless. She was kind of a ‘mama’s girl’ and always inviting me to her mother’s house for dinner, which I thought was strange. But I was bored one evening, and hungry, so I took her up on it,” she explains.
Upon meeting her friend’s mother, who said to Karen, “I don’t cook, but I’ll make sure you’re fed,” Karen sat down to talk and discovered the woman’s life story was fascinating. Escaping the inner city, she had dedicated her career to public service and now was giving back to the community working with children. For Karen, it was “like a blueprint for a life worth living.”
She then found herself wanting to spend more time with her friend’s mother—but not her friend.
“I was having some personal issues, and I really wanted to talk my friend’s mom,” she says. “I called my friend and asked her to put her mom on the phone. I’m not sure why she did, no questions asked.”
It’s “totally natural” for us to seek out mentors in life, and they can come from anywhere, shares Samantha von Sperling, lifestyle guru and creator of the Ask Sam advice blog. Turns out, Karen hadn’t been close to her own mother, so her friend’s mom became a kind of maternal surrogate.
But that relationship can fall into jeopardy if the friendship is tested.
When her friend hooked up with one of Karen’s exes at a party, she “learned about it through a third party, which was really upsetting.”
“Even though he and I weren’t together, it felt like a violation of the girl code. I just couldn’t hang with her anymore,” she says.
So what did that mean for her mom friendship?
She felt she had to give that up, too.
“I never really spoke to her mom after that, which was kind of a bummer,” Karen says.
“The hardest part is not getting closure with the parents. You didn’t get to say goodbye, and that can feel unfortunate,” explains Samantha.
She suggests sharing your feelings one last time.
“I think an email is the right choice. A phone call is too raw, difficult and intrusive, and may come off a bit aggressive,” Sam says. “Just say that it was a pleasure to know her, and you really appreciated your time together.”
And don’t expect a response.
“A parent really has to side with the child no matter what—even if their offspring was the one in the wrong,” she says.
As for Karen mending fences just to stay close to mom, Sam sums it up like this: “There are 8 billion people on the planet. You can find a person on this earth whose time you enjoy—and their family is a bonus.”
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