Mothers (now Grandmothers)
If you’re a grandmother in your fifties, sixties, or early seventies, you’re probably a lot like “the mothers” we interviewed. Of course, you are not all alike–but certain threads run through your stories:
You grew up as a girlie girl. Growing up, you were supposed to be sugar ‘n’ spice and everything nice. Your mother probably stayed at home and modeled what a “good” woman does: stand by her man, keep a clean home, and be the ever-cheery gatekeeper of the family. You were supposed to follow in her footsteps by taking a non-stop trip on the Cinderella track, hoping that someday your prince would come.
You married young but eventually traded in your Mrs. for a Ms. If you went to college it was more often than not, to get your “MRS” degree. You tied the knot in your late teens or early twenties, going straight from Daddy to hubby. You wore your new title like a badge of honor–at first. But then the world started to change. You might have lived happily ever–without changing partners or sexual orientation. But as your marriage matured–or you left it–many of you also switched to “Ms.” and gave yourself permission to “do your own thing.”
You mothered in the era of quality time. You probably thought you’d be a milk-and-cookies mom, just like your own mother, but the more you moved out into the world yourself, the more you embraced the notion of “quality” time as a way to assuage your guilt. You were among the first generation of super moms, and your kids the first latch-key children. The women’s movement seeped into your home and affected your parenting practices. Even if you didn’t think of yourself as a “feminist” when your little girl was growing up, you were conscious of not wanting to limit her horizons.
You threw down your dishtowel and chased your dreams. You may have been a barrier-breaker from the beginning, launching a full-blown career right out of college, but more likely you didn’t. At cocktail parties, no one bothered to ask what you “did”–you were a wife and mother. But during the seventies many of you decided to do something that mattered to you. Perhaps you went back to college (if you hadn’t finished it earlier) or got an advanced degree. You did your own work when the children were at school or in bed, or after planning and hosting the dinner parties that would advance your husband’s careers. You took jobs, threw yourself into unpaid but demanding work outside the home, even dove into all-male professions and vied for spots at the top of the corporate ladder. And now you’re “wired,” too–texting, checking your Blackberry and Facebook pages, reconnecting with old
Your daughter has children, but you are not your mother’s grandmother! You didn’t experience “empty nest” issues, because you didn’t “live through” your children (as you probably complained your own mother had). And you’re certainly not hanging around the house knitting booties for your grandchildren (well you might be, but it’s one of many things on your list). You’ve been part of a generation that rewrote the rules. No surprise, then, that you are also revamping the institution of grandmotherhood. Of course, you adore your grandchildren. But you have a life, too. As one 60-year-old put it, “Somehow the image of a kindly old grandma just doesn’t jive with my inner Mick Jagger.”