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Archive for the ‘grandmothering’ Category

4 Surprising Ways to Mother Yourself

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

My mother, one of her five sisters, and "Bebe" (their mother)

Your mother/ yourself.
Whether she gave birth to you, adopted you, or married into your family…

Whether she is a distant memory or a frequent visitor…

Your mom–or any woman who “mothered” you–is in you, for better and worse.

Mothers, Grandmothers:  Do yourself a favor this Mother’s Day:

See your mother through adult eyes. She is more than the woman who took care of you as a child.  Be a detective. Find out what she’s like as a person–what she cares about, what holds her interest, what music she loves, her favorite foods, stories about her childhood and past loves.  Interview her as if she’s someone you just met.  If she’s no longer alive, ask family members about her.

Right-size her role in your imagination. If you’ve got her on a pedestal, see her vulnerabilities as well as her strengths.  If you’re still holding grudges, let them go. Give up the power struggle. It’s not doing you any good.  Instead of being reactive–blindly imitating her or trying to be her polar opposite–make conscious choices about what works for you in the here and now.

Appreciate your common struggles. View her choices as a mother through the lens of your own motherhood.  Can you understand better–given the circumstances of her life–why she was strict or lenient; why she was a stay-at-home mom or spent time out of the house; why she was interested in everything you did as a child or seemed more interested in herself?  Can you appreciate that although you “mothered” in a different time, you are affected by many of the same social forces that constrained her life?

“Bank” memories of your mother. Gather photos:  the two of you, you as a child and teenager, her as a girl, her with her mother.  Sit with them.  Let yourself remember the stories–the good, the bad, and the sad.  Let your feelings, especially mixed feelings, flow.  Savor the experience. Save the photos in a scrapbook or scan them into a computer folder. Jot down notes and remembrances. Then, share the result.  If your mom is still alive, make two copies–one for each of you–and view them together.  If she’s not, sit down with your children (or a close female friend) and tell them what you learned about your own mother.  Understanding her will help you understand yourself.

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]

Why We Need to “Re-vision” Our Mothers

Monday, April 25th, 2011

This post was inspired by the newest addition to The Buzz, written by Janice Eidus, author, among other books of The War of the Rosens and The Last Jewish Virgin.  Janice and I met each other through Facebook, and when she passed through my town recently to do a reading, we finally met in person.  Being mothers, we both talked about our children and our mothers.  I suggested she write something for Mother U–perhaps exploring how the mother/daughter theme works its way into her novels.  Little did I realize that Janice’s piece, My Mother/My Writing: Turning Childhood Memories Into Fiction, would evoke memories of my own childhood.  “We had the same mother,” I quipped in an email to her.  Well, not exactly, but close enough to bring back memories–and some regrets.

My first grandson was only four months old when my daughter and I first began discussing the “motherhood union.”  Jen actually came up with the term, when I said to her, “It’s like we’re in the same club now.”

It’s easy for me to think of Jen and I as part of the motherhood union.  Not so my mother and me.  It’s not that we had a contentious relationship–the screaming in our family was delegated to my eleven years older (and very protective) sister.   At first it was simply that I didn’t know my mother.  A former teacher who now was the lady of the house, she was considered “old”–35–when she had me, her third child. (She had lost a baby after my brother, nine when I was born, and often reminded me that I was her “change of life” baby, her “surprise.”)  Everyone was out of the house when I was growing up, so I spent a lot of time alone or with “the help.”   My mother was always busy, shopping, volunteering and, mostly, putting out elaborate spreads when “the girls”  came over to play mah-jong or canasta.   Then there were the times she’d take to her bed, claiming another “sinus headache,” which, looking back, was depression.

I wasn’t angry as a child–maybe a little sad, but I didn’t feel deprived.  It was the only kind of mothering I knew.  By the time I was a teenager, I had developed great people skills.  I was a kid other kids’ mothers loved.   It got me places.  Still does.

Cut to a week before my wedding.  One of “the girls” called my mother to tell her that my father had been having an affair with Shirley–a buxom redhead (think Jessica Rabbit) who lived across the street and just happened to be my mother’s best friend.  Although I saw his behavior as reprehensible–and felt guilty because even I had known about Shirley–it was my mother who turned their divorce into public spectacle.  She’d rant about my father to anyone who’d listen.  At one point, she aired her complaints on national television, to the delight of host Alan Burke who loved stories of sex, sleaze, and sensationalism.   I saw as little of her as I could.  I had my own marriage to worry about.

Even after Jen was born, I bristled at every visit.  I hated that sometimes she’d just show up, asking if she could take the baby for a walk.   Then, as Jen got older, it was lunch.  Then, it was for an afternoon at her apartment.  But slowly, as she and Jen developed a relationship that had nothing to do with me, I began to soften, seeing a side of my mother I’d never have imagined.  (more…)

Consulting Grandma: How to Make the Most of An Often-Wasted Resource

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

“What do I know?” said a master family therapist in mock self-deprecation,  “I’m just the grandmother!”  One of her grandchildren had a learning disability, which she–a well-known and respected professional–knew a great deal about, both professionally and personally, because she had also raised a son who had an LD.  She now saw similar signs in her grandson. “But they don’t ask my opinion,” she said of her older son and daughter-in-law,” so I don’t offer.”

Many modern grandmas find themselves in similar positions.

New-Style Grandmas

Old-Style Grandma

Grandma was once a kindly lady whose “career” was motherhood, and as the children left the nest, her life grew increasingly smaller.  Not so the current crop of grandmothers, many of whom have adult children and PhD’s. Gail Sheehey calls them “fly-in” grandmothers.  They’re constantly on the run, now juggling their multiple interests and responsibilities with randmotherhood.  The irony is that strangers consult them, but their grown children don’t.

What a shame–and what a wasted resource. Whether you’re dealing with a learning disability, an eating disorder, or some other type of parenting issue, your mother might have invaluable information both as a mother and as a professional. So here are some guidelines for both generations that might help. (more…)

Surfing with the Kids: 6 Surprising Benefits

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

For the record, let’s stipulate that there’s a lot of worthless, if not downright offensive, material online and that some who lurk in cyberspace have less than honorable intentions. Let’s agree, too, that some of us are smitten, perhaps too much, by our tech toys. Accordingly, MIT professor Sherry Turkle warns us in her new, must-read book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other, we ought to consider the “price” of our “enchantment” with technology.  (Read an excerpt here.)

But as Turkle is quick to remind us, the Internet isn’t going anywhere. It will continue to change everything from our relationships to our professions to the way we think about life. The question of how it will change us, though, is up to us. Howard Rheingold, the man who coined the terms “virtual communities” and “smart mobs” and has had a front-row seat on the unfolding drama of the Internet, puts it this way:

Will our grandchildren grow up knowing how to pluck the answer to any question out of the air, summon their social networks to assist them personally or professionally, organize political movements and markets online? Will they collaborate to solve problems, participate in online discussions as a form of civic engagement, share and teach and learn to their benefit and that of everyone else? Or will they grow up knowing that the online world is a bewildering puzzle to which they have few clues, a dangerous neighborhood where their identities can be stolen, a morass of spam and porn, misinformation and disinformation, urban legends, hoaxes, and scams?… the humanity or toxicity of next year’s digital culture depends to a very large degree on what we know, learn, and teach each other.

Call me an optimist, but I think we can seize the digital future-ironically by joining forces and sharing the experience with digital natives–children and teens who have grown up with the Net (if not your own, a friend’s or neighbors’ kid!). This might seem counterintuitive. (more…)

Grandma Jane Meets Oprah – Part II: Score One for Ageism

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

This post, a continuation of Jane Fonda’s recent appearance on Oprah, was also inspired by a recent happening in my own life.  A few days ago, I wrote an essay about writing that included this phrase:  “As my 41-year-old daughter pointed out…” Two early readers–one a man in his sixties, the other a woman in her late forties–thought I should I take it out. Whether they realized it or not, they were suggesting a kind of psychological airbrushing to make it less obvious that I am not young. (more…)

Grandma Jane Meets Oprah, Part I: “Growing Up Every Day”

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Oprah hosted Jane Fonda today–what a pair.  Jane, ever the chameleon has run through Barbarella, Hanoi Jane, Jane the serial wife, workout Jane, and now introducing….Grandma Jane.   And then there’s Oprah, who is one of the most visible and powerful woman on the cultural landscape.  She has few peers; Jane is one of them.

But this post is about Grandma Jane (although I don’t think she’s called “Grandma”)–Jane in a new phase of life.  I, who went kicking and screaming into this phase, can relate.  It’s a time that comes too soon, a passage, if you will, that whispers in your ear, “No matter what you see in the mirror, you’re the older generation now.”   But, at the same time, it’s also a time that brings unparalleled moments of love and delight. (more…)

Mother to Daughter: I know more than you realize

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Over the five years we worked together on our three “Baby Whisperer” books, the late Tracy Hogg and I often marveled at the fact that so many modern mothers had stacks of parenting books on their night tables, went to parenting classes, consulted the Internet and various child-rearing sites when they were confused or worried–but overlooked an important, and often better,  resource:  their own mothers.   Some worried that their mother’s advice might be “out of date.”   (Admittedly, we don’t know how to close that damn stroller, but babies haven’t been similarly modernized!)  Others feared that if they turned to their mothers for advice, they would somehow open the door to endless intrusions.  Still others felt as if asking Mom was a sign of their own incompetence.

Of course, mother/daughter collaborations run the gamut, from women who don’t feel they can function without their mothers to those who believe that Mom has nothing to offer.   In “My Mother, the Parenting Expert,” our latest addition to The Buzz, psychologist Mindy Greenstein, author of the upcoming memoir, The House on Crash Corner, was solidly in the latter category when her son was born.  Daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she had spent most of her childhood fending for herself–and struggling to understand her mother and to be understood.  She couldn’t imagine calling on her mother for anything.  But as is often the case when a young woman joins the Motherhood Union, circumstances forced her to take a second look.

Confession of a Once-Reluctant Grandmother

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

It’s the pose that gets me.  He looks so old.  I can’t even see his face, but I know that’s my first grandson, son of my first born.  When I look at that photo, I see pages of the calendar flying into space, the way they showed the passage of time in old movies.   I remember the Before.  When Jen was pregnant, I was happy, but the idea of becoming a grandmother didn’t please me.  How could it?  I didn’t know what that meant, any more than a preganant women knows what it will mean to be a mother.  All I could think about were the images of kindly, white-haired old ladies, knitting booties, waiting for the next visit.  That’s not me, I thought.  I have a life, a career, places to go, people to see–and I’m certainly not old. I was sure I’d love him or her, but I didn’t really get what all the fuss about grandchildren was about. (more…)