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Posts Tagged ‘Mother’s Day’

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.

My Mother’s Blessing

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

I intend to add this moving piece by Katy Butler to “The Buzz,” but in the interest of getting it up on Mother’s Day, I’m posting it here first.  Katy and I have covered similar subjects over the years, and I’ve always admired her writing. A former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, she is the author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, forthcoming from Scribner.  This essay ran in the Insight section of the San Francisco Chronicle on Mother’s Day, 2013.

Katy lost her mother four years ago; mine has been gone almost forty years.  It’s an ache that never ends.

Mother’s Day, my mother would often say when I phoned her in Connecticut, was a sentimental holiday cooked up to sell greeting cards. Yet I called anyway, and I think she was secretly pleased by the loving notes I sent her. Ours was not a greeting card relationship.

When she was young, she’d wanted to be an artist. But middle-class women just after World War II mostly got married and stayed home. Her frustrated ambitions, artistry and anger were poured instead into making that home as perfect as she could. She reminded me of the Balinese saying, “We have no art: We do everything as well as we can.”

I was nothing like that. As a teenager, I felt like another woman’s daughter, incapable of meeting her high standards and frequent criticism. She wore her blonde-streaked hair swept up in an elegant French twist. I was awkward, with long dark hair, and lost in books.

She’d been raised in South Africa and served tea at 4 every afternoon — a family ritual I was prone to mar by knocking over the milk or burning the toast. She sewed her own clothes. I gave up on sewing forever after trying to make a simple shift one summer, only to have her rip out my wobbly seams and re-sew them perfectly herself.

When I graduated from college at the height of the feminist revolution, I fled west, free to pursue my dreams in a way she hadn’t, desperate to escape her critical eye and become a writer.

I made sure not to get trapped in a life that looked anything like hers. I worked as a reporter, bought a house, dated, married, divorced, dated some more, and paid the dry cleaner to hem my pants. When she visited, she could barely conceal her disgust at my messy house and refrigerator full of expensive goat cheese and wilting vegetables. And I, in turned, harbored secret contempt for what the poet Adrienne Rich? called “the victim in ourselves, the unfree woman, the martyr?.”

When my mother was 77, my father had a major stroke, and my view of my mother — and hers of me — turned upside down. My father could no longer take a shower alone, and struggled to finish a sentence. The housewifery she’d honed over a lifetime — skills mostly lost to my generation — served her well. And she, in turn, was grateful for my reporterly skills when I used them to research medical alternatives and helped her hire caregivers.

“With my practical skills and your brains, we make a great team,” she said.

She kept my father at home, and out of a nursing home, for seven years, providing support that few Baby Boomers, given our history of divorce, will be able to rely on. When she was impatient, she got up two hours early to meditate and do yoga.

As a teenager, I’d had contempt for her rigid schedules. Now they formed the underpinnings of an increasingly difficult life. They carried her through my father’s death and the first months of her lonely and increasingly fragile widowhood. She developed congestive heart failure, and with my support, declined open-heart surgery because of the risks of stroke and dementia.

A year after my father’s death, I went to Book Passage, the bookstore in Corte Madera, to hear one of my former writing students read from his book about tea, and the rituals that surround it.

Throughout the reading, I couldn’t stop thinking of my mother. I remembered how she’d swirl boiling water in her beloved Japanese iron teapot, gracefully set out her thin china cups, and gather our family each day at the kitchen table. But I had been too defensive and clumsy, too afraid of her criticism, and too much of a feminist bookworm, to learn from her.

In an outpouring of love, I told her all this.

“Katy,” she said. Her voice was weak. “You’re good at other things. You are yourself.”

It was her final blessing to me. She died two days later, with my brother at her side. This is the fourth Mother’s Day since her death, and every year I admire her more deeply, accept myself more, and fear her less.

Note: If you live in the San Francisco area, mark your calendar. Katy will appear at Berkeley Arts and Lectures to talk about Knocking on Heaven’s Door, at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley, at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2013.

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…)

Motherless Daughters & (Other)mothers.

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

This morning, I followed a link to a Mother’s Day contest sponsored by the Selah Independent, a local newspaper in central Washington (state), and noticed that out of the eighteen elementary school finalists — all of whom wrote lovingly about their mothers — this was the grand prize winner:

“Dear Mom, Mommy you use to buy me stuff a lot. I loved it when you massaged my back. It feals good. You are the best mom. You tuck me in my bed. You took me to the mall. I liked to play roly poly at bedtime. We laid on the floor and rolled real fast. We laughed. I miss you a lot, a lot, a lot. What is it like in heaven? How are you doing up there?” – Bella

(more…)

What Women Want on Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Let’s face it: Mother’s Day is a Hallmark holiday. Besides, given the enormity of the role, mothers should be honored every day.  But that isn’t what happens is it, ladies?  So it’s kind of nice that there’s at least one day when our children and spouses have to acknowledge us!  The question is, what do we want from one another?  Watching my old friend Barbara Biziou’s video in which she suggests giving your mother a box of symbolic goodies, including quotes that you like, gave me an idea of three non-material gifts I’m going to give my daughter and three I”d like from her.   But let me start with one thing we should do for each other:

Take a picture together. I’ve been asking mothers and daughters to send (via motherublog at gmail dot com) photos for the Mother U gallery.  But guess what? They’re hard to come by. Why? Because we’re usually behind the camera.   And the men of the family rarely suggest taking a picture of us–except perhaps on special occasions.   My mother died when I was 29, and it makes me sad to realize I don’t have one picture of the two of us, except my wedding. (more…)

Second Graders Reveal the Truth About Moms

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

This is a little tidbit circulates on the Internet, often around Mother’s Day. Moms of every age need a good laugh at least ten times a day. This should count for one:


Why did God make mothers?

1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.

2. Mostly to clean the house.

3. To help us out of there when we were getting born. (more…)