We’ve been talking to mothers and daughters about their relationships and their roles. Here are their thoughts on various subjects.
On the early days of motherhood when Mom came to help out…
Your mother is the only one who really understands how it feels at that moment. She did the laundry, she made me food, and she kept saying, “You take care of the baby, and I’ll take care of my baby.
She wasn’t in there holding the twins, and that’s what I wanted her to do. It was a crushing blow to me, because she I realized that if she was that way when I needed her most, that’s how it was going to be. I think it was because she had no help when she was my age and doesn’t ever want to be in the trenches again.
On seeing Mom through new eyes:
Before it felt like kid against Mommy, but now I have kids myself. I’m less adversarial and critical because I recognize that I’m going through what she did and have a better understanding of why she did certain things.
We have this whole realm in common now. When I ask her what it was like for her going through the different stages of child-rearing, we have hours and hours of conversation
She’s much more intelligent than I gave her credit for, and we’ve shared thoughts I’d never imagined we could share.
On letting go of past hurts:
I was still fighting and angry for a long time and then I hit this point where I realized, she’s a good person. I could have done worse. If anything were to go wrong, I know she’s be here in a heartbeat. So now I try to appreciate rather than nit pick about everything that drives me crazy.
We have come to a new relationship since I became a mother. Where she failed me in my adolescence and twenties, I can now appreciate a lot of her strengths, especially with young children–and I can see that she gave me a good solid foundation.
On fielding advice and handling your mother’s ideas about parenting:
My mother takes all her cues from me. She could have her own approach, and probably she did do things differently, but she has supported my direction and choices in child-rearing 100%.
I wanted to let the baby cry for a little while but my mother said, “Let me just go up and I’ll rock her for a second.” I said, “If you go up, I’ll be really mad at you because I’ve been working on this for a week.” It did make me feel guilty, though, and it made me second-guess myself.
I still nursed my baby at 14 months, and, my mother was very sarcastic: “What are you–a woman from Appalachia?” I didn’t find it funny, especially coming from her. Things are a lot more relaxed now that the children are older. The less I needed her and depended on her, the better the relationship became. Point by point, we don’t agree on that much about parenting, but I don’t easily get bent out of shape because I’m used to it.
On missing your mother:
I wish I could ask her questions and know more about her life
Every milestone occasion, even every little thing like his first steps, it hurts because I think, Why couldn’t she be here to see this?
On becoming a grandmother:
It took me almost until the baby was born to be comfortable with the term grandmother. It meant that I was older, that I had to be a certain kind of thing that did have a name. It was like belonging to a particular class. But the word has a very different meaning now.
It didn’t make me feel old. I was a little proud of it, being only 52 at the time.
I was eagerly, proudly, happily looking forward to it.
It made me feel old at first, but you never saw such a metamorphosis when that baby arrived. It was instant warmth and a feeling that this is a real baby–a direct line from me.
On giving advice:
I do it obliquely, like “Oh, is it all right for him to be climbing on that?”
I try to share my own experience, rather than tell her how to live her life.
When I watch her with the kids, I remember how hard mothering was for me–I had help and it was still exhausting.
On seeing your daughter as a mother:
When she had her first child, I was mesmerized watching the two of them. It brought back all the good and wonderful things I’d forgotten.
I don’t worry about her in the same way. I see her as very capable. She’s not my little girl; she’s someone’s mother. I like seeing her so competent
On changes in the mother/daughter relationship:
On today’s parenting practices:
I hate all those safety contractions–the belts, the buckles, the helmets. It’s amazing that our kids survived childhood.
I never breast-fed, so I couldn’t help her there. I felt a little inadequate and even guilty because she thinks it’s sooooo important.
Both my daughters say that there are rules about TV, but I’m not so sure. We didn’t have an electronic baby sitter in my day.
On differences between a mother’s relationship with her daughter’s child(ren) and her son’s:
You’re not as close to the boys’ children, because it’s the wives who run the men’s lives. They’re the ones who communicate, who make the plans, send the pictures. And usually they’re closer to their own mothers.
It’s definitely not the same with each grandchild, regardless of whether it’s a daughter’s child or a son’s. But it depends on how far you live from the child, the child himself, and where you are in your own life. I had more time when my daughter’s baby was born, and they lived twenty minutes away, so of course I was closer.
I don’t want to burden my daughters with old-lady issues.
When my mother was 52, she was old. At 52, I was going for my Ph.D.
I’ve always thought about my mortality. I try to exercise and take care of myself. The fact that my mother lives with my husband and me makes me think about my mortality. I want to be alive when this child goes to college, when she gets married, but the truth is, at some point, I’ll check out and I’m going to miss something.