When You Can’t Tell Your Mother What You’ve Eaten For Lunch

I once told a girlfriend that I felt a bit envious of people who complained about being “smothered” by their mothers. I would listen to their secondhand accounts of “busybody” moms and would imagine myself in their shoes, and would imagine my mother calling me. I would give anything for that.

Instead, the most recent memories I have of phones and my mother are one-sided. Me, calling my mom tens of times when she didn’t show up for a lunch with a friend. Me, calling my mom just to listen to her voice on her voicemail. Me, deleting that beloved voicemail greeting and recording a new one, to save family members from pain.

She will never, ever call me – even just to ask what I’d eaten.

I had no one that so cared about the minutiae of my everyday life. I had no one to celebrate (or bemoan) the little insignificant details with, or (like one friend was so annoyed by) anyone who cared to ask me what I’d eaten that day.

Or so I told myself.

A few days after this conversation, I got a text from my girlfriend, checking in on my day and asking me what I’d eaten.

She couldn’t have known, but her message came at the perfect point, as that day I had been so sad and feeling so alone and missing and wishing for my mother so terribly.

I laughed and cried at the same time as I read her text, so thankful for her, and for her thoughtfulness – but also that I’d been willing to be vulnerable in sharing something that had felt a bit small, and selfish, and ugly to me.

I realized that sometimes we can help ourselves to fill in the missing gaps of our lives by simply sharing. I’d never told anyone how sad this tiny aspect made me, and there’s no way anyone would have been able to guess such a strange desire. I remember telling myself after a particularly low relationship point that no one is ever, ever going to care about what you’ve eaten. No one is going to care if you’re a bit sick or a bit tired or down. (now I know this isn’t true)

What I wouldn’t do to be able to tell my mother what I had for lunch…

And the reality is that I can’t face-to-face tell her. I can write it down, or think it, or create an elaborate ritual, that’s true, but I’d rather save those moments for something that feels momentous.

I can, though, share my burdens and my sadness with the people in my life that I know truly care about me. And I can be there to reciprocate, when they would also like to share, too.

If you can’t tell your mother what you’ve eaten for lunch, I hope you will reach out to someone else who loves you. Or if talking about eating isn’t your thing (which I’ll never understand but I respect you for whatever it is you love), talk about whatever it is you are missing, no matter how small it may seem. I promise, they’ll be happy to know.

You never know: a “small” painful reminder of the love you feel like you’ve lost could become a regular, heart-filling opportunity to soak in all the love you have.

*Written while intensely missing my incredible girlfriends during this time of shelter-in-place and quarantine. Thankful for the group texts and voice messages and Zoom to keep us connected.*


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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