Rosie O’Donnell, her estranged daughter, and the public speculation on her parenting

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“Being a parent is the hardest job” has been uttered by mothers and fathers all over the world for decades. If you are a parent yourself, you will nod in agreement—there are days you feel like you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, and all you can do is hope you are making the best decision for your child.

As I’ve watched the unraveling of the relationship between Rosie O’Donnell and her 18-year-old daughter Chelsea play out in the media over the last several weeks, I cringe because I can relate to the tragedy that is happening within their family.

Rosie with Chelsea in 2002Rosie O'' Donnell

If you aren’t familiar with the story, Rosie and her adopted daughter (one of three she had with ex-wife Kelli Carpenter) have had a tumultuous relationship in the past few months, creating a media frenzy about the type of mother Rosie is, and what she did or did not do for her daughter in both the past and in the present. In a recent interview with Inside Edition, when asked if Chelsea loves her mother (who allegedly kicked her out of the house before reporting her missing), she quickly responded “No”; she cares about Rosie, but that love is a big word and she wouldn’t use that to describe her feelings. 

Although children say things they don’t feel or understand, hearing “I don’t love you” from them can be earth shattering, even if you know, deep down, they don’t mean it. 

We have all witnessed Rosie’s ups and downs through the years. Whether it was a new marriage, another divorce, a heart attack or professional setback, Rosie’s private life, for the most part, has been less than private. As this story continues to worsen in a very public way, the reality of this situation may hit home for some parents, including me. Although my story is not identical to hers, she has, in a sense, lost a child in an unfortunate way, and that is something I can sympathize with. It has been two years since I have seen my teenage children due to parental alienation, so I am well aware of the heartache that Rosie is feeling. 

Rosie, just like most parents, may have made some mistakes in handling certain situations, but most of us have no idea what it is like to have our lives documented for everyone—including a loudmouth Presidential hopeful—to judge, so who is to say what our reactions would be if we were in those same scenarios? It is so easy to look at another parent and say, “You shouldn’t have done it that way,” but finding flaws in your own parenting methods can be more difficult. How in the world could you have done the wrong thing by your child when you love them so much?

Rosie with Chelsea (center) and her two other children in May 20155th Annual Rosie's Theater Kids Spring Benefit

There are things no one tells you before you become a mother, and even if they had, you would never be able to understand until they happened to you. If someone would have told me what my relationship with my children would be once they reached their pre-teen years, I would never have believed you. If you were to ask Rosie the day she adopted her daughter that she’d be saying she doesn’t love her mother, I can almost guarantee she’d have said no, never. It is impossible to predict the path your child will take, which is one of the many reasons being a parent is the hardest job. 

I can sympathize, though, with the raging hormones of being a teenage girl, feeling like my parents were bringing me down; keeping me from being the adult I was preparing to become at that in-between age of  youth and freedom. But children can forget that although their parents are responsible for them, they are not perfect and have feelings, too; sometimes feelings that are even more easily hurt.

No matter what we go through as parents, the love we have for our children is endless, even in the midst of chaos. I have spoken to many parents who have had (or still have) rocky relationships with their children over the years, all of them still holding on to the dream that, one day, their child will return. As Rosie and Chelsea continue to navigate their relationship, it is my hope that one day her daughter will see that though mistakes may have been made, nothing will ever replace the love of a well-meaning mother.

Rosie with Chelsea in 2006The 27th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards Dinner

These words ring true in my own life and although they may not see it right now, I have faith that, someday, my children will remember the love of their mother. It will never go away.

Follow Erin Faith Wilson: @erinfaithwilson