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Archive for May, 2011

When the Next Generation Comes to Visit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Miami, 2011

With summer around the corner, the prospect of inter-generational house-sharing increases. So journalism professor Mary Quigly, founder of Mothering21–a site about “raising” older children (read adult children)–asked readers to share their experiences. Mary, who is not yet a grandma, recalls visiting her own mother’s pristine condo in Florida, usually without incident–except for the time one of her children spilled a cherry Slurpee on Mother’s precious pale blue carpet:

My husband and I  got most of it out after scrubbing with numerous chemicals.  Before leaving to go home, we  cleaned the apartment so spotlessly that on her next visit my mother never noticed the slight discoloration on the rug. I saw it though every time I opened the front door!

Now the shoe is on the other foot and we Boomers are the ones protecting our homes from sticky fingers and Slurpees.  Here’s the piece (in the interest of full disclosure, she quotes me in it!), which has familiar themes and good advice for daughters.   (The rest of the site is well worth a read, too.)

Now how about some responses from daughters who host their mothers about what it takes to be a good older-generation house guest? (Jen? Anyone?)   Ironically, after writing the above post, I remembered that I had, in fact, written such an article for the New York Times in 1979–Jen was 10 and Jeremy 7: “When Children Are House Guest for a Weekend.”  The advice holds up!

Mother U Asks: How Has Motherhood Changed You?

Monday, May 9th, 2011

“…giving birth to or raising another precious human being changes you as nothing else can.”

In her beautiful Mother’s Day offering,  What Becoming a Mother Can Mean to a Woman, published on Fox News online magazine, psychologist Phyllis Chesler, a distinguished professor of women’s studies and author of thirteen books, recalls the changes in her own life:

Female motherhood is both a sacred undertaking and a sacred experience.  Becoming a mother—giving birth to or raising another precious human being—changes you as nothing else can. You are pitched, head-long and feet-first into a parallel universe, a new way of life, a craft, a passion which tempers and deepens all those who engage in it.

For example, before I became a mother, my ego knew no bounds. I thought I could overcome all obstacles through force of will, not by bending to circumstance, or trusting in forces larger than myself. Becoming a newborn mother changed my life. It humbled me, slowed me down, made me kinder, and infinitely more vulnerable to cruelty.

Mothering a child is an incomparable rite of passage.

So, now that the pancakes have been served in bed, the car washed for you, the garage cleaned out (with your help of course), and it’s back to everyday motherhood, ask yourself, how has motherhood changed you?  Please state your age, so we can see if there’s a difference in the generations.  Of course, we older mothers-turned-grandmas have to dig deeper into our psyches to remember what it was like before children!

Best Advice from an Older Mother…

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Psychologist and prolific author Paula J. Caplan, whose Buzz contribution,  “On Each Other’s Side (Instead of at Each Other’s Throats,” was adapted from her 1990 classic Don’t Blame Mother — now out as The New Don’t Blame Mother and a must-read for mothers of any age — also writes Silence Isn’t Golden, a fascinating blog for Psychology Today.  Paula prefaces her May 6 post, Mother’s Day Thoughts: What’s Funny, and What’s Not, with this wonderful story about her own mother.  A kernel of wisdom (in bold) that I had to pass on:

When my book, Don’t Blame Mother, first appeared, a journalist from one of the major women’s magazines called me. For their Mother’s Day issue, they wanted to report “The Best Advice My Mother Ever Gave Me” as told by numerous interviewees. They knew I had just written this book. I replied, “When you said that, a response immediately popped into my head, but could you do me a favor? Before I tell you what it is, I’m just curious to see what my mother would say. Could you please call me back in five minutes?” She agreed.

I called Mother – Tac Karchmer Caplan – and told her what the journalist wanted to know. Her immediate answer: “Don’t wait till you’re old to say what you think.”

“Perfect!” I said. “That’s exactly what came to my mind!” When the journalist called back, I told her what had just happened. I heard her sigh.

She was disappointed. “That’s not really what we were looking for,” she said. “We were looking for things like how to keep mascara from running.” Mother, I like your advice the best! Thank you. And Happy Mother’s Day. (Mother is now 87 and still saying what she thinks.)

Three Generations of Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to Paula and Tac, to our daughters Emily Caplan Stephenson and Jen, and to mothers and daughters everywhere who are–we hope–doing their best to say what they think!

What About Daughters on Mother’s Day?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

My Daughter, the Mountain Climber

I am in Paris (where Fetes de Meres is not until June 7).  This coming Sunday, May 7,  is the first American Mother’s Day (if memory serves me,which it often doesn’t!) that I haven’t been with at least one of my two children.  I suppose I’m fortunate to have had so many other Mother’s Days with them  Or maybe I should consider myself lucky this year.  We all know that it’s just a Hallmark holiday.  And isn’t every day supposed to be Mother’s Day?  Yeah, right.

Cynicism aside, this can be a hard day for mothers and daughters.  Those of us whose mothers have died feel the loss even more acutely.  And some women can’t stand being with their mothers, not even for one day.  But even close mother/daughter duos have “moments.” Who needs the pressure to have a “good” Mother’s Day?  As the family grows and changes, you also step parents and in-laws and all their ideas, potentially making the day more strained than celebratory. Plans bump up against prior traditions: “Mother’s Day has always been at my sister’s house” is met with, “But our family goes to the Pancake House.”

The good news is that any relationship can shift toward a more positive direction.  In her “5 Ways to Strengthen the Bond with Mom”– just published on The Buzz — relationship expert Terry Orbuch directs her advice to daughters.  Here’s a few points we older-generation mothers ought to remember as Mother’s Day approaches.  After all, now it’s their day, too!

1.  Make a gratitude list. Just as Orbach advises daughters not to focus on what Mom does wrong, it’s a good idea for mothers to “take 10 minutes and write down a handful of things you really appreciate” about your daughter, too.  No one is all bad all the time, and humans have an unfortunate tendency to elevate the negatives. Consciously listing the good will help you gain a balanced perspective. And by the way, if you have trouble thinking of what’s she’s “given” you, just look at your grandchildren! (more…)

Mother U featured in “The Wisdom of Grandmas”

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

This from writer Beth Meleski, who interviewed a range of grandmothers in northern New Jersey for The Parent Paper and NorthJersey.com:

For many of us, our mothers have been our moral compasses, the ones we turn to for information, knowledge and advice. Now, as parents ourselves, it is suddenly easier to understand how much we need their guidance as we shepherd our children safely into adulthood.
The bond between mothers and their adult children is complicated. On the one hand, our mothers have been there, done that. They have survived the toddler meltdown in the dairy aisle, the 10-year-old who wasn’t invited to the sleepover, the teen who can’t get home by curfew, the senior who is wait-listed at his first choice school. On the other hand, advice from mothers is fraught with our shared history.
Jennifer Blau Martin, a mom and health educator who blogs with her mom, says that when we are new parents, we seek our mother’s advice to bolster our confidence. As our children grow, we trust ourselves more but we still occasionally need help. Jen suggests that our moms are a valuable resource because of their ability to view our plights with a level of objectivity. Additionally, mothers often have areas of expertise that we would do well to tap.
Her mother, Melinda Blau, journalist, author and creator of the website MotherU, (www.motheru.com) agrees. She offers this advice for mothers and children. “Mothers, wait until you are asked to share your advice and once it is given, let it go. Adult children have the right to decide whether to take their mother’s advice and also how and when to implement it.” To parents, Melinda has this to say, “If your mother shares her opinion without invitation, the adult reaction is to ask her to wait until you request her input.” Melinda asserts that seeing each other as a whole person, not just as mother or child, is key.
As Tiger Moms push the boundaries of success and Helicopter Moms monitor their children’s every move, and movies like The Race to Nowhere and Waiting for Superman highlight our children’s collective stress, the advice from our mothers, when they do weigh in, can be helpful….[continue reading the rest of this article here]