How is your life different than your mother's?
Posted May 2, 2008, 9:43 am
Growing Bolder asks leaders, thinkers, writers, life coaches, entertainers and role models to weigh in on issues affecting our lives.
Our question is: How is your life different than your mother's?
I am quite like my mother in several regards because she was way, way ahead of her time. Her words to me as I enrolled in college were: "You'd better find a profession at the end of your four years at school that will support yourself, because, my dear, you are one man away from welfare..."
A woman born in 1908 to parents who'd become very wealthy thanks to importing and distributing a famous line of "new-fangled" Swedish washing machines throughout the midwest, my mother, as of June of 1929, was the third generation of females in her family to earn a college degree. In the last week of October of that year, she returned home from a glamorous graduation cruise to Europe and back, and by the time her train arrived in Chicago where her parents were living in an elegant greystone on Lake Shore Drive, her father--who had sold his company and invested everything he had on margin in the go-go 20's leading up to the Crash October 29th--suddenly (and literally)--did not have a penny to his name!
Instead of heading for Washington DC where she was scheduled to take the Foreign Service exam in early November, my twenty-one-year-old mother begged her then "beau's" father, a Harvard lawyer, to give her a job running the firm's switchboard so she could pay the rent on a cold-water flat her mother had taken on LaSalle Street. My grandfather basically had a nervous breakdown and later that year died mysteriously (probably a suicide) in a hotel in Seattle. Around the same time, my mother's "serious" boyfriend dumped her for a young lady whose parents had avoided such misfortune, and for the next decade, my mother supported what was left of the family, somehow managing to pay for her kid brother's tuition at Northwestern University.
Given the disaster that her life had become, she didn't marry until she was thirty (officially a "spinster" in those days) and was thirty-six by the time she gave birth to me. Somewhere along the line she had learned to type and insisted that, in addition to my AP classes in high school, I also learn this skill as "you never know when it can help you avoid being a cleaning lady." As it turned out, typing came in extremely handy as I followed a path into journalism, and later book writing. My mother also married a writer, and for years collaborated with my father in a full partnership, both in their marriage, and with his work, editing and typing his manuscripts for the radio classic "One Man's Family," and--I have no doubt--tweaking some forty-five short stories he wrote for such publications as Saturday Evening Post and Colliers.
When it took four years for Harlan Ware to write the novel Come, Fill the Cup, which was later made into the movie starring James Cagney and a fledgling actor named Gig Young, my mother employed all the skills she'd learned during the Great Depression to stretch our food budgets and keep our mortgage paid. "Darling," she'd say with a certain droll smile playing at her lips, "your father and I live from hand-to-mouth in a big way here in Hollywood," adding later in life, "but you know, sometimes I feel as if the elastic isn't quite as stretchy as it once was!"
My mother believed passionately in women's education, as do I. She felt that, in return, women were expected to "row their oar" when it came to paying the bills. She was brave, gutsy, and didn't suffer fools much, which could be intimidating at times. I think the biggest key to her character is that, as Captain of the Francis Parker School girls basketball team, she continued to play in the championship game with a broken arm.
In that regard, we're probably not alike...but I realize (especially now that that I have a thirty-eight-year-old son who can type as well as edit video and shoot documentaries), how blessed I was to have had her as a role model during the 1950s when I was growing up at a time when for women, at least, such liberated mothers were in short supply. I wish she were around for her to read this.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom...
About Ciji Ware
She is an author of fiction and non-fiction novels, an Emmy award winning television producer, journalist, sought-after event speaker, and former radio host. Her latest nonfiction work, Rightsizing Your Life, was selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the "Top 5 books on retirement." A series of her novels, including the bestselling Island of the Swans is being reissued during 2010-2011 by Sourebooks/Landmark publishers. A graduate of Harvard in History, Ciji lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
At my age, my mother was slowing down. I am anything but slowing down. My mother was retired and loved the thought of going no place for days at a time. I love to go places all the time. My mother felt she was "old" and I feel like I am still young. She concentrated on aches and pains; I concentrate on working out and eating well.
She loved to drink wine; I am into green tea. She was "through with men," I adore being with my husband. Basically she looked at life as close to being over and I look at life as having the opportunity to do all the things I want to do. My mother felt that it was too crowded to celebrate Mother's Day on the actual day. I feel that it's festive to see everyone out celebrating motherhood and I love being part of the festivities.
About Christine Schwab
Christine is a renowned style expert and fashion consultant who has appeared on "Today," "Entertainment Tonight," "Oprah," "NBC Nightly News," "Live with Regis and Kelly" and more. She's been a spokesperson for many of the world's most powerful fashion brands and retailers. She is all about helping smash ridiculous and unfounded stereotypes, like women over 40 don't care about fashion and style. She’s the author of "The Grown-Up Girl's Guide to Style."
Dr. Tim Athey
This is a question that I often ponder these days. My mother is now an 80-year-old widow, living by herself in a retirement home, and struggling with many health problems. My wife, Pat, and I are now responsible for her care and we have the responsibility, and opportunity, to be her primary social and emotional contact in life.
One of the interesting things about caring for an aging parent is the "trading places" phenomenon that this question addresses. Not only do I, as the child, provide my mother with the opportunity to reflect on what her life was like 30 years ago when she was my age, but she also gives me the opportunity to reflect on what my life might be like 30 years from now, when I'm her age.
This is a powerful aspect of our maturing relationship with our aging parents and one that we all should ponder on this Mother's Day.
About Dr. Tim Athey
Tim Athey, Ph.D., is president of Transition Leadership in Fort Collins, Colo. He works with executives, managers and business teams across a wide spectrum of public and private sector organizations to improve leadership effectiveness and business results. Tim has authored several professional articles on leadership and recently released his first book, "The Second Journey: Mid-Life Challenges for the Baby Boomer Generation." For more, click here.
Dr. Laurie Helgoe
At first glance, my mother's life at my age seems about as different as you can imagine. She had just birthed her 10th child, my younger sister. Mom and Dad had eight kids at home, and two successfully launched. She later told me that she loved giving birth, and she was very proud to see every one of her children graduate from college (and some beyond).
While my husband and I decided to keep our family to our two wonderful boys, I find myself continuing to give birth in other ways. I launch clients who have gotten stuck somewhere along the way, and every book I write feels like giving birth (in both the painful and joyous ways!). Perhaps mom's creative energy is with me: I am currently birthing two books at once! Ouch!
About Dr. Laurie Helgoe
For almost 20 years, psychologist Laurie Helgoe has been helping clients pursue their desires through therapy. She is author of “The Boomer’s Guide to Dating (Again),” “The Anxiety Answer Book,” and "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Breaking Up." Helgoe is also an actor and speaker and contributing columnist for Wealth Manager magazine. She currently resides in Charleston, West Virginia, where she is working on two new book titles.
When my mother was 45, it was 1974. I was 12 years old then and my sister was 9. Seems to me that life was a lot simpler then. I'm sure she was involved in the same kind of activities I'm involved in today. We were active in our church. I played baseball and she was very supportive.
I could always hear my mother encouraging me even when there were other parents cheering. I do the same for both of my sons now. She was involved in school activities with my sister and I. Something that has stuck with me since then is my mother only worked part time until my sister and I were well into our teens. That's the way our family is today.
My wife only works part time and is with our sons, age 10 and 5, from the time they get out of school. I think that's important. It seems there are just a lot more anxieties today than there were in 1974. But I could be wrong. I'm sure my mother worried about all of our health, paying the bills and providing for us as best she could, along with my dad. I tell everyone who will listen about my mother's influence on my life and there are two things that stand out.
My mother encouraged me to read. She took me to the library all the time. During the summer we always were involved in reading programs where we listed the number of books we read during the summer. My sister and I always were near the top of the books read list once the summer was over. My mother also kept my sister and I busy with swimming lessons when we were young. I took swimming lessons until I was about 16 and advanced as far as life-saving courses. My sister was on a swim team for a while.
I try to pass those things on to my kids now. Of course, they love the swimming part but my 10-year-old has not welcomed the reading part yet.
About Nick Gandy
Nick Gandy is the Director of Communications for the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization for the state of Florida. Part of his duties with the Foundation is to promote and publicize the annual Florida Senior Games State Championships. For the last eight years, Gandy has met many 50+ senior athletes at the Games and enjoyed hearing their tales of accomplishments. He will be eligible to compete in the 2012 Florida Senior Games. For more information about the Florida Senior Games, visit www.flasports.com.
It's NOT your mother's midlife when you go to Google to find out two things -- if you are going to die from your hormone replacement therapy and what is the perfect preschool for your 3-year-old. It's not your mother's midlife when your attitude says, "Oooo what a cute, sexy little thong...maybe I should get one." But your body says, "Ah, no.. Better stick with the big whites. You can't handle it." It's not your mother's midlife when the little heart tattoo you got on you abdomen when were 20 now looks like a birthmark on your thigh, and you wonder if it might be cancerous.
About Marilyn Kentz
With Nancy Alspaugh, Marilyn co-authored "Not Your Mothers Midlife: A 10-Step Guide to Fearless Aging, a groundbreaking book that helps women face middle age with confidence. Marilyn is a member of the popular comedy duo, "The Mommies." Marilyn and Nancy are both authors and activists.
My mom bucked the trend, and she was ahead of her time. She not only worked when we were growing up, she had her own textile manufacturing business -- an entire plant! And she belonged to a country club, took nice vacations and had live-in assistance when we kids were little in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
She didn't try to do it all herself; she knew when to delegate and seek support. She made her own opportunities and didn't feel shy about it, either! The biggest difference is that she felt pressure to have kids and I never have. That has given me some freedoms that she didn't have, but I don't think my quality of life is any better than hers ever was.
About Kerul Kassel
Kerul is an expert on mastering your time and living your dreams. She’s a coach and consultant to executives, business owners and individuals. She knows how to increase productivity and eliminate procrastination. She’s the author of "Stop Procrastinating Now."
Dr. Ronda Beaman
My mother never was my age! I am younger in thought, spirit and action at 54 then she was able to be as a young girl. At 17, she was married with a child on the way. She had all three of her children before she was 22. I have a girlfriend who just had her first at 42! The thing that is most different for mothers today versus our mothers' lives yesterday is options -- we have more of them, we exercise more of them and we demand and expect more of them.
Truth be told, many of our mothers began the fight for those options, many of us benefited from and carried on that fight and we all share the belief that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The option to be a mother, to have a career and a self and to develop an important voice in society are gifts passed from one generation to another. Every day is and should be Mother's Day!
About Dr. Ronda Beaman
Ronda is the author of "You’re Only Young Twice: 10 Do-Overs to Reawaken Your Spirit." The manual on how to grow younger from the inside out has been praised by critics and readers. She’s the ultimate renaissance woman -- a doctorate in leadership, a dream coach, a distinguished professor, a personal trainer. She has enjoyed an accomplished career in advertising, public relations, broadcasting, wellness, and she's a wife, mother and grandmother.
We titled our first book, "Not Your Mother's Mid-life." We have nothing against our beloved moms, we are simply grateful that we are the lucky ones -- the first generation of women who don't have to endure the fear of aging quietly or alone. We don't have to suffer, we don't have to be ashamed and we don't have to LIE if we don't want to.
For our dear mothers, there were no guidelines for being happy, healthy, glorious women once they reached a "certain age." Life for their generation was about being modest, frugal and taken care of -- something most of us know very little about. Our generation is made of a variety of uninhibited women from powerful executives to intelligent, creative stay-at-home moms to those who tattoo their bums and believe a good credit card is the world's best prescription mood enhancer.
Men ruled the house for our mother's generation, whereas today we call the shots along with them. In our mother's mid-life, feelings and family secrets were kept to yourself. There were no books by famous women talking about their menopause. Psychologists were for those with extreme problems and no one, repeat no one put on sold-out shows about their vaginas!
Most of our moms lived for their families at the expense of themselves, or else they were single and childless and called "spinsters." As the lines in her face deepened (no Botox!) the kids grew up and left, and golf, gardening, charities and bridge parties took the place of them.
Compare her to the middle-aged woman of today who has a couple of in vitro-fertilized twins, no husband necessary, and a full-time job to boot. To her, the empty nest means the kids are messing with the birds in the backyard again. Today a woman is not defined by being middle aged, she has the freedom to define for herself what she wants the second half of her life to be. And for her, 50 is indeed the new 30.
About Nancy Alspaugh
With Marilyn Kentz, Nancy co-authored "Not Your Mothers Midlife: A Ten-Step Guide to Fearless Aging,” a groundbreaking book that helps women face middle age with confidence. Nancy is an Emmy Award-winning TV producer who produced network and syndicated shows, including "Leeza." Both are authors and activists.
While there are many differences, such as I still am happily employed and my mother never worked outside the home; she was forced to drop out of school in the 8th grade and I am a college graduate; I feel healthy and fit and she never exercised; I have had the opportunity to travel around the world and she could only dream of doing so, I am happy that I am not different from her regarding the call to service.
My mother received the prestigious Presidential Lifetime Service Award, the Catholic Church's Salt Light Award, the Governor's Volunteer of the Year award in West Virginia, and dozens of other awards for her volunteer service, and I am trying not to be different than her in that area.
About Joan Hansen
Joan is the director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Orange County, Fla. RSVP is designed to help people 55 or better to participate more fully in the life of their community through significant volunteer services. She has worked with seniors for 28 years.
My mom thought of herself as a homemaker and at my age (and still is) basically focused on her children and her involvement in their and her grandchildren's lives. I was always involved in my creative career, and although cherishing my marriage, I've chosen not to have children.
By now I've reinvented myself within my creative world several times, from fine art to costume design and styling to style consulting. Now at 61, I act is if I'm 20 (with optimism that is) basically beginning again, proving myself as an author and expert in my field (style) and working incredibly hard toward a daunting goal.
About Sherrie Mathieson
Sherrie Mathieson is an award-winning costume designer and stylist who has created a manual to help bring you and your clothes into the 21st century. Her book, "Forever Cool: How to Achieve Ageless, Youthful and Modern Personal Style" is full of tips for men and women.
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