Questions to Ask Your Mother (or Father) Before It Is Too Late

Pretty much without fail — I call my mother every single day. I love checking in and seeing how her day was and filling her in on mine. I realize not everyone does this — but I love the relationship I have with my mom. If it’s one hour or one minute — we always check in with each other. It’s very comforting.

I recently did a teleseminar with Meggin McIntosh and of course my mom was listening on the line. She’s been my biggest cheerleader for every stage of my life and I’m fortunate to have her in my life. Not everyone talks to their mother every day but as Meggin writes in this guest blog — there are some questions you should be sure to ask the next time you talk:

List of Questions to Ask Your Mother (or Father) Before It Is Too Late

by Meggin McIntosh | The Ph.D. of Productivity™

Regardless of how old you are, you may have already lost a parent. And, chances are that if you haven’t, it won’t be too long before you are faced with that loss.

(Note: This was written about 2 months before my mother died and I wish I’d made the list much, much sooner.)

My mother is currently in a nursing home and is not doing too great due to dementia, so there will not be significant improvement before she dies. Given that, I am having a lot of regrets right now, including wishing that I had asked her a lot of questions when I could (i.e., when she could answer). Unfortunately, it is not an option now – so I can only recommend these for your consideration.

These are just some of the questions I wish I had asked my mom – instead of some of the meaningless questions I asked that just filled the time (and I hope you learn from these suggestions):

1. What do you most regret about your life? What would you have done differently if you could have? Imagine the lessons that someone in their sixties, seventies, or eighties could teach you.

2. What strength do you wish you had possessed in earlier parts of your life, such as your teens, twenties, thirties, and so forth? Notice and ask about why certain strengths repeat in your parent’s answer and why other ones change.

3. What are you thinking about now…about death? I started thinking about this question soon before my dad died and wish I had asked him. Now, as my mom is relatively close to death, I wish I could ask her this question, too. However, it’s not a bad question to ask someone anytime, particularly as they get older. It would provide insight just knowing different people’s answers.

4. What has been your biggest disappointment in life? And, what has been your greatest accomplishment in life – so far? Wow. Especially as your parent ages, you may receive some incredibly honest answers. Why would they need to posture at this point?

5. What do you wish you had asked your mother, father, siblings, or others before they died? What are those questions that you really wish you had sought out answers to – before it was too late to do so? If you have a mother like mine, she has thought about things like this. Or, if she hasn’t, your question will prompt some fascinating reflections on her part. Believe me…I wish so much I had asked questions like this instead of just talking about things that flat out didn’t matter.

6. Was there someone you almost married instead of dad and sometimes wonder what would have happened “if”? Tell me more about that. These are stories that aren’t written anywhere except the person’s heart and you don’t want those stories to die with him/her.

7. What advice would you give me about life, about people, about relationships, about work, about home? My guess is that you have gotten PLENTY of unwanted advice from your parents throughout your life. But now, see what you get when you ask for it. It may be the same or it may be very, very different. Either way, it’s worth getting. If you’re smart, you’ll set up a tape recorder (or other recording device!) so that you capture it. Someday, you’ll wish you could have your mom or dad’s voice to listen to.

8. What one thing would make you feel better today? Often times we do what we think will help the person feel better but it’s not what they need at all. So ask.

9. When did you feel prettiest (or most handsome) in your life? Generally, as we age (past a certain point), we are not looking better. All I need to do is look in the mirror to verify that fact! But with an aging parent, you are helping them bring up a positive, special time in an earlier part of life by asking this question. It’s a gift to help them reflect on such a positive memory.

10. What question should I be asking you so that I can live the best life possible? This is not that different from an interviewer asking you this type of question when you are interviewing for a job or a promotion. It’s quite open-ended and will allow your special person to give you a window into a lifetime of living and learning.

As I am writing this, it is too late for me to ask my mother (and my father) these questions. I hope it is not too late for you. Just ask one a day and see what happens with the relationship.

Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D. is known as�The Ph.D. of Productivity��. She has MANY lists of tips that you can access (free) at and

19 replies
  1. Sandra K.
    Sandra K. says:

    What a terrific article and heartfelt comments. I, too, lost my mother and maternal grandmother 20 years ago and wished I had asked them questions about what life was like during times of historical significance in the 20th century.

    That said, I’ve learned to embrace some mysteries, like why my mom chose my name and how my mom did it raising 5 kids (dad hardly ever changed a diaper!). Nonetheless, a list like this is never too early to start thinking about and acting upon.

    My dad happens to be a good storyteller, so I’ve begun recording conversations with him when he’s on a roll. I plan to give these recordings to my siblings, nieces and nephews once he passes. Nothing like hearing dad’s or grandpa’s voice passing down family tales of yore.

    Ask lots of questions and record the stories! I cannot emphasize this enough. ?

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Thanks for sharing Sandra! What a wonderful idea to record those audios. That will be a treasured gift one day. Warmly,Paula

  2. Neelam
    Neelam says:

    i really wish my children would ask me about my life, my childhood,my ups & downs.
    I had an arranged marriage & came to the U.S.
    Maybe they can’t relate, but every time I tell them something from my point of view, I’m told that things are different here.

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Thanks for your comment Neelam! Appreciate you taking the time to write it. That’s very interesting – I’m sure they’re not trying to be dismissive and would love to hear about all the details eventually. Maybe you could write it down for them? I’m sure they would treasure the keepsake of a journal. Best, Paula

  3. Ash
    Ash says:

    I will interview my mother tomorrow for mother day I need 10 questions to ask her, I have some questions in mind But I like to have the best questions.
    Please help
    Thank you

  4. Martin D Jones
    Martin D Jones says:

    Thank you for your very enlightening and emotional questions to ask my parents. They are both in their mid-eighties and are disabled now and sadly slowly debilitating in mind and body. We Brits do find these emotional things very difficult to broach having the ‘stiff upper lip’ thing of the day’s of our Empire. And being a man I think it is even harder than a woman to ask these questions without causing a drama out of it. I will have to tell them your story first and they should get it. Recording them! What a brilliant idea something to cherish and play back in the future.


    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Hi Martin — so glad that you found inspriation and value in this post. Meggin, who wrote the guest post, has some really great ideas and I think it’s so wonderful that you’re going to go out of your comfort zone and find out the answers. Good luck!


  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    Thank you for the list. My mom and dad died 11 yrs ago. Wish I knew more about their lives. Now my son is to be married in 6 weeks, and I decided to answer these questions and more for him. Decided to write down our life together (I adopted him and raised him as a single mom) so he never forgets. I want him to know these things even if it is not important to him now. He’s my only child so all the stories have to come from me. Thank you for a starting place and the inspiration to get started.

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Hi Linda – I’m so glad this post touched home for you. I think it’s wonderful that you will answer these questions for your son – he’s lucky to have you. Best, Paula

  6. Sole
    Sole says:

    My Mom died two weeks ago….and I never had the chance to ask her these questions.. I feel I know the answer to some of them but now I will never know the answer. I wish I had read this before…now it kills me to know in cannot ask her anymore.

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Hi Sole — I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. I hope that your message encourages others to ask these questions today. Thank you for sharing your story and reading my blog. Best, Paula

  7. Emma
    Emma says:

    Thanks for this, I found out yesterday my mum has two years left of life..if she is lucky, the cancer she has been fighting has spread. I want to make a film for myself and my two daughters tp preserve her essence. looking for inspiration and found your list that I will use. Thanks for sharing.

    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Emma – thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. I do hope that this post helps you to make the most of your time together. What a womderful idea to make a video to remember her. Stay strong and good luck!

  8. E.N. Rich
    E.N. Rich says:

    Thanks for this great list. We all have family members we love whom we need to ask these questions, if we still can. I also lost someone before I could gain all the insight I could have from them about their life and perspective.

  9. Laura
    Laura says:

    Hello Paula, How lucky we are to be so close to our Moms and have them cheering us on through the good and bad times. Like you, I check in with my mom everyday and I know I look forward to hearing her comforting voice on the other end of the line, even if it’s just for a few moments. This list from Dr. McIntosh gives me even bigger and more in-depth conversations to look forward to – and they are definitely important questions to ask. I am sorry it was too late for Dr. McIntosh to ask her parents these questions, but am grateful she is sharing this list with those of us who still have that time. With life as precious and short as it is, there really is no time like the present.


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