From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Once a Mother, Always a Mother

As I approach the age of Grandmothers, I notice more clearly how significant age differences are in our society. While age differences were always there, I’m certain that there used to be more people who were older than me. I am beginning to feel happy just to wake up in the morning and know that I haven’t been kicked off the island yet. So far, I am still in the game. Along with their father, I have raised two beautiful children who are now grown up and self-sufficient. On this Mother’s Day, I will experience the rare joy of spending time with both my mother and my daughter. For a brief moment in time, my invisible umbilical cords will feel less stretched out than usual. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

·        Our first relationship was with our mother. It is easy to become sentimental when we think back to our first relationship, that private and special one-to-one connection with mother. Whether they are our mothers biologically or by adoption, it was she who gave us the building blocks for our future. In most cases, it was our mother who noticed our unique strengths and weaknesses and who came to our rescue when we needed an advocate. It was our mother who held us close when we were frightened and taught us how to navigate through our lives.

·        Disappointment and unpleasant memories can surely get in the way. Ideally we remember the times when she was our heroine, our role model, our Mrs. America and our greatest fan. But all too often, we think of her shortcomings. If we are lucky enough that our mothers are still alive, it is easy to compare her to the way she used to be. When we look at her, we may feel disappointed by her lack of mobility and youthfulness. We may be disappointed that she is too tired to be the grandmother we thought she would always be. It may be difficult to reconcile comparisons of our mother, before and now. But just as she noticed our potential long before we grew to maturity, it is now our job to remember her strengths and remind her of the good times we have shared.

·        Mothers continue to matter long after we leave home. Our mothers occupy a certain part of our hearts which is often too delicate to discuss. Yet just below the surface of our everyday lives, unkind words about our mothers may unleash an unparalleled display of rage and loyalty upon the offender. Even if our mothers were not good enough mothers, there is an innate awareness of her contribution to our lives. As children, our very existence and survival was in her hands. As a grown-up, we may still continue to seek her love and approval.

·        And when we become mothers. Some years later, you may have also become a mother. In this case, “to mother” becomes an active verb which involves making a lifelong commitment to another being, human or otherwise. Being a mother involves taking responsibility for safety, health, education, social connections and other necessities. To be a mother is a 24/7 job which changes and evolves over time but which never ends. To mothers, our children feel like extensions of us. So no matter how old they get, we still blame ourselves when our children skin their knees or can’t find work or fail in their relationships.

Having a mother and being a mother are life experiences which are wrought with opportunities for love, guilt, joy, worry and every other human emotion. As such, our survival at times may depend on our ability to step back and be rational! As separate human beings, we will not always be able to anticipate each others’ needs and wants. As each of us grows and changes over time, we will not always like each others’ choices. Even with a lifetime of love and connection, it is important to develop and maintain respectful boundaries.

This Mother’s Day is a great time to focus on positive feelings for our own mothers, step-mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, second-mothers who we’ve adopted into our lives, friends and those who have dedicated themselves to caring for others all over the globe. Happy Mother’s Day!

©Copyright, 2010, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

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