Dear Rachel,

I am a single mother of a teenage daughter whom I have always been close with. But this past year no matter what I say or do I can never seem to do right. What is most hurtful is that recently she is blaming me for everything wrong in her life. She is angry that I don’t have the money to buy her what she wants, that she doesn’t have a father at home, and for the school she is in which she hates. I have always done everything I could for her but she doesn’t seem to appreciate any of it and recently left home to live with a friend. I am in so much pain and want her back home but can’t bear to live with a daughter who claims to hate me. Furthermore, she just turned eighteen so she is a legal adult so I can’t really make her come back. What should I do?

Devastated Mother
L.A., CA

Dear Devastated Mother,

I am so sorry to hear about the struggles you are going through. And there is no doubt that such harsh accusations must be causing you a tremendous amount of pain.

Reflecting back on my life as a teenager, I remember I had an uncanny ability to blow everything way out of proportion. And since I wasn’t able or willing to take responsibility for my actions or consequences, anyone around that I could blame for my mistakes, usually got the blame.

As we grow and mature, G‑d willing, so does our perception. Most teenagers have some degree of difficulty seeing anything beyond themselves, their feelings, their pain and their vulnerability. Seeing the larger picture, reviewing the past, recognizing blessing in their lives and working towards the future is the kind of insight that usually only sets in a bit later down the road, after we've lived life a bit more.

It sounds like your daughter is attempting to do just that. Perhaps her leaving home is a step towards her personal growth. It sounds like she has some issues to work through and might just need a little space. It is easy to think that everyone else has a perfect life until you are actually outside of your own to realize what you had. I am hoping that with a little distance she will be able to evaluate how she treated you, what she is able to do to help improve her life and how to come back home.

In the meantime, I hope she is in a safe, supportive and loving environment, receiving the space and the discipline she needs to feel "okay" with herself. Unfortunately, on her way to finding her "peace" she left you in a lot of pain and confusion. It does not sound like right now having her home is necessarily the healthiest thing for either of you, especially if she does not want to be there right now. However, I encourage you to a) make sure that she is being well cared for and supervised, and b) really pray that she finds what she is seeking in her life. Prayer is the foundation on which the Jewish woman builds and strengthens herself. So, if you do not do so already, making a special time each day to pray just for her. It could open up a lot for the both of you.

Furthermore, she is eighteen. As much as she still is a teenager, she is also a young adult. Which means that as hard as it is to see her make space for herself, it is also an opportunity for you to make space for yourself. It is clear that as a single mother you have dedicated so much of your time to raising your child. Now is also a time you can focus on yourself, your happiness and your growth. Spend some time cultivating a talent or hobby that you may not have had time for in the past. Find a Torah class for women in your area and work on your spiritual growth and development. While she is not at home, utilize the time to better yourself!

Raising a teenage daughter is a challenge in the best of circumstances. Being a single mother with financial struggles only makes things harder and more complicated. You aren't necessarily supposed to know how to do everything "right." No one knows how to do it right all the time. Accepting that in an honest and humble way is very important. All that is expected of you is to do the best you can.

Try to keep an open line of communication. Let her know you are there and available when she is ready to talk. And while it may be hard if you fear she hates you, let her know that you love her. While right now she may not be ready for this type of connection, hopefully she soon will be. Even though you didn’t choose this situation, you can try to make it positive and let her know that you are willing to give her the space she says she wants. Her leaving is not necessarily about you but more about what she feels she needs.

I also encourage you to seek a support group for mothers of teenagers. As a single mother, you will hopefully meet other women in your situation, maybe make new friends and it will hopefully be an outlet for encouragement, support and good advice as well.

I hope soon that your daughter will realize how lucky she is to have a mother who loves and cares for her so deeply and that the two of you will be able to once again have a close relationship.

Rachel