Image 01

Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

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!

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…)

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…)

Elizabeth Edwards’ Secret Weapon

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards walked that fine feminist line between being a generous, caring, supportive individual and, at the same time, not taking s – – t from anyone.   She had a secret weapon–better yet, a suit of armor.  I met her at a book-signing of Saving Graces, which came out in 2006 when I was researching my book. Her subtitle–Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers–says it all.  This was a woman who cried with a stranger she met in a ladies’ room, who appreciated the checkout guy and the mailman, who shared her grief with strangers on the Internet.  In short, she appreciated, depended upon, and sought out the empathy of others.   Even more important, she knew how vital it was to return the favor.   The September evening  I met her,  I had arranged a brief hello with her publicist, explaining that I wanted to interview her because, whether she had used the term or not, her book was mostly about consequential strangers.  I was first to approach the podium after her talk.

I stood there at first as a journalist and had planned to tell her a little about my project.  But as I handed her a book to sign, I blurted out that my family had just suffered a terrible tragedy.  My great nephew, my sister’s first grandson, had drowned in her pool. At 14, he was already an amazing and versatile athlete, so no one realized he was in trouble.  (Later, we would learn he had a heart condition and that no one could have saved him anyway.) I told her I wanted to give her book to his parents. “So could you please inscribe it to Heidi and Louis?”

“”Oh, dear, I’m so sorry.  When did this happen?” she asked, acting as if no one else was in the room.  It wasn’t fake empathy.   In that moment, I could feel–and her eyes confirmed–that she truly cared and felt my pain. (more…)

Four Reasons to Thank Everyone in Your Life

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones and to reflect on all the caring and support we have in our lives.   But what about people who aren’t in the room but who share slices of your life and who have contributed, in great and small ways, to the fabric of your life–your consequential strangers? (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.

Could You Live With Your Mother/Daughter…Again?

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

New on the Buzz this week, You Can Go Home Again— Moving in with Mom, in which social psychologist Susan Newman explores what happens when three generations live under one roof.   It’s certainly not the standard living arrangement–only 4% of households, or 3.9 million families, qualified in 2001 when the Census Bureau first began tracking this phenomenon.  But that figure has increased–among other reasons, because of the economy.  A 2009 report by Peter D. Hart Research Associates noted that  more than a third of workers under age 34 are living with their parents:  “The deterioration of young workers’ economic situation in those 10 years is alarming.”

Although the report doesn’t break it down this way, it seems that many of these “boomerang kids,” as Mary Quigley calls them on her Mothering 21 blog, are unmarried and/or childless twentysomethings who have flown the coop and come back again.  But others are probably a bit older, married, and may even have kids of their own.   Three-generation households can also be the byproduct of a divorce, illness (parents’ or child’s), and other types of crises that call for what some might view as desperate measures.  Indeed, according to a Pew Research Center analysis entitled, “The Return of the Multigenerational Family,” as of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation.

But even if you don’t actually live with your mother/daughter, Newman has some good advice for all of us.   As she explains:

There’s a shift in power—or should be. Ideally, parenting becomes a cooperative effort, with adult children in the leading role.

That’s good advice for all of us!