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Posts Tagged ‘mom’

Do you hate Mother’s Day too?

In aging, behavior, children, domestic life, family, life, love, news, parenting, women on May 13, 2012 at 12:09 am
Česky: Matka a dítě. עברית: אם ובנה, 2007. Sve...

Česky: Matka a dítě. עברית: אם ובנה, 2007. Svenska: En mamma som kramar om sitt barn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bear with me.

Like many others watching the annual flood of maternal sentimentality, this isn’t a fun week for me. (It’s celebrated on May 13 here, but not necessarily in other countries.)

My mother lives in a nursing home in a city a six-hour flight away. I don’t plan to send flowers or a card, even though I know I should and would like to. I’m her only child. She has no grand-children and many of her friends have died or abandoned her over the years.

We haven’t spoken in a year, since our last verbal exchange consisted of her raging at me without pausing to draw breath. The Mother’s Day flowers I had sent went unacknowledged, then my birthday.

Like many mothers out there — not the cookie-baking, hugging, call me! text me! types — mine has no interest in my life. And she’s now doted on by a woman even the nursing home staff told me they found rude and weird, someone nasty to me whom I’ve never trusted.

So, Mother’s Day?

Meh. 

I know other men and women whose mother, for a variety of reasons, lost interest in their own children, no matter how well-behaved or accomplished or how hard we’ve tried, for a long, long time, to get closer to someone who…just doesn’t want it.

But we never talk publicly about it, the subject taboo.

I’ve re-written this post about 20 times, debating whether or not to even publish it. I am weary of secret-keeping.

My mother, who is beautiful, bright, sophisticated and charming, never re-married after divorcing my father when I was seven. She never seemed to miss emotional or physical intimacy.

When I was 14, we moved to Mexico. There, on Christmas Eve, she suffered a manic breakdown; I left within weeks to move in with my father and never returned to her home except for visits. I saw her first manic episode when I was 12, then again lived through them when I was 19, 25, 27 and beyond. She ended up in jails and hospitals all over the world, as she traveled alone and refused to stay on her medication.

For a long time, she wrote letters often and we spoke every week or so.

In 2003, a 4-inch tumor was pulled from her head and I asked the surgeon to “make her less of a bitch.” The words shocked me as they fell out of my mouth.

His answer shocked me even more. “Her tumor has made her aggressive for years, possibly decades,” he explained, thanks to its location in her brain. She was, for several blissful years afterward, loving, gentle and kind, the sort of mother I had longed for. (Here’s my magazine story about this experience, with a great pic of us when I was little.)

By the summer of 2010, when I flew out to see her on my annual visit, she had become unrecognizable to me, the amount she was by then drinking destroying what was left of her mental and physical health. I called my husband from the motel where I was staying and wept, in rage and frustration and despair, for 30 minutes.

When, if ever, would this shit stop?

The verb “to mother” implies nurture, care and concern. We automatically conflate the two, while “to father” often means simply to create a new life, not to stick around and take care of that child.

I’ve tried to be compassionate. I’ve tried to reach out, for decades. I’ve tried.

I’m done trying.

How’s your relationship with your Mom?

My New Mom, At 76

In behavior, children, domestic life, family, Health, life, love, women on March 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm
The Macchu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Sit...

Machu Picchu, Peru, where Mom and I climbed and once saw the sunrise together...Image via Wikipedia

Today is going to be a difficult day, as I’ll say goodbye to my mother — who I’ve typically been seeing only once a year for years, living a six-hour flight away from her.

Two weeks ago, I and a friend of hers moved her into a nursing home, her car and apartment sold, her Japanese prints and engravings and rugs sent to auction, some of her linens and antique textiles given to me and shipped back to New York, where I live.

I’m her only child.

She’s a new person, now, in a totally new environment, a loner surrounded by people she has just met and whose care and attention (or lack of same) will profoundly affect her every day and night. I’d be terrified. But she’s doing well. I burst into tears of relief yesterday at a pub lunch with her when she told me that her three windows, which overlook a private garden, were like three television sets, all view, all the time. She’s happy and healthy, and she had been neither for a long time.

I have been told — and see glimpses of it — she has some dementia. Yet we talked last night, in detail, about family and friends for four hours. I feel as though her intelligence is sands in an hourglass, and I have to grab it and savor it as often as I can.

Which is very difficult over the phone and from an enormous physical distance. Yet I am rooted to my adopted town and country — a half hour drive from her birthplace — as she is in hers, a 20-minute flight from mine.

We did not get along for many years. We’re stubborn, headstrong, feisty, private. I haven’t lived with her since I was 14 and we have always lived a continent or an ocean apart: she in Lima, I in Toronto; she in New Mexico, I in Montreal.

The closest we ever lived, when I was 26, was when she lived in Bath, England and I in Paris. I remember saying to her that year “I’ll meet you at the plane station”, a direct/weird translation of “aerogare”, aka an airport. That’s what happens when you think and dream in French!

Now, after 3.5 months in the hospital and a hip surgery and a bowel surgery, adjusting to the discomfort and indignity of a colostomy bag, she looks healthy and happy again. She uses a walker, but does so with an energy I hadn’t seen in a while.

Being my Mom, she told me to lose weight and asked me to buy her some tweezers — as a former model and actress, such details still matter!

So it’s with a heavy heart I peck out these letters in my hotel room, counting the minutes until I have to say goodbye.

It was never this hard before.

Call Your Mom — It'll Calm You Down As Much As A Hug, New Study Says

In behavior, parenting, women on May 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm
Mom and Girls

Image by 'Playingwithbrushes' via Flickr

For those of who who actually get along with your Mom, a new study finds talking to her — the sound of her voice — can be as soothing as a hug, reports The Guardian:

U.S. scientists believe hearing mother down the line produces the same stress-busting effect on her daughter as physical contact such as a hug or a loving arm round the shoulder.

In a study that will send phone companies into their own comfort zone, researchers found mothers’ calls released similar levels of the social bonding hormone oxytocin in girls as when they were in close proximity. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists report how they deliberately raised the stress levels of 61 girls aged seven to 12. The children had to make an impromptu speech and solve maths problems in front of strangers. This sent their hearts racing and levels of stress hormone cortisol higher.

The girls were then divided into three groups, one comforted by physical contact with their mothers, another by phone calls from their mothers and a third by watching a film deemed emotionally neutral, the March of the Penguins.

Oxytocin rose to similar levels in the first two groups and did not increase in the third, saliva and urine tests revealed. As this hormone’s presence grew, cortisol faded.

Leslie Seltzer, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the research, said: “The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone.

“It was understood that oxytocin release in the context of social bonding usually required physical contact. But it’s clear from these results that a mother’s voice can have the same effect as a hug, even if they’re not standing there.”

I like this because a real hug from my Mom is a very rare thing.

I only see her every two years, not nearly often enough, because we live a six hour flight away from one another, are on tight budgets and both live in apartments too small to offer a comfortable place to sleep for a week, adding even more cost to each visit.

On my worst days, though, I know I can find comfort with a quick call to her. Many men and women grow up taking this for granted. But it’s something I especially appreciate after a huge brain tumor was removed from her left frontal lobe in August 2002. It had, the neurosurgeon told me, transformed her personality for a long time, possibly decades, as it grew, affecting her temper and levels of aggression because of its location.

I like having a nice Mom now.

Do you call yours for comfort? (If not, who?)

What Runs In Your Family?

In behavior, parenting on March 28, 2010 at 9:38 am
WUHAN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Workers place an...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Every morning I knock my Mom askew when I open the bedroom curtains.

It’s a blue and green oil painting of her, done by my father, about 5 x 7, a nude done when they were first married. There’s a red and black version of her, also by him, hanging in the dining room — neither are terribly detailed, nothing creepy or embarrassing.

They divorced when I was six, so evidence of their initial love is as comforting to me as loving the beauty of the images as the fact they’re both well-done and of/by people I love.

Our apartment is filled with art and photos: by us, of us, by our parents or friends, alive or dead. My Dad, a former maker of documentaries and news television series, does just about anything creative well, usually with no training: engravings, lithographs, etchings, silver, oils. My sweetie recently took some great photos of Dad, standing at his easel in his bathrobe, working on a still life in his studio.

My mom was a radio and television and film and print journalist. She never attended college, marrying my Canadian Dad at 17 and following him from Manhattan to Vancouver, where I was born. Living there, they started an art gallery, representing terrific painters like David Milne. She modeled for the local newspaper. Creative fearlessless seemed part of their DNA.

I grew up taking all this for granted. Being creative, taking risks, trying stuff without — oh, yeah, training or education or official certification — having an idea and putting it out there for (gulp) mass public judgment and, one hopes, some decent pay, is just what Kellys do.

My partner grew up the son of a Baptist minister and a kindergarten teacher, of Hispanic heritage, born and raised in New Mexico. He’s the guy who told me — almost a deal-breaker when we were dating — that my closets were messy. (Um, they’re closets.) In his own loving/annoying way, he’s very much a PK, a preacher’s kid. They’re said to share fairly universal characteristics: kind, ethical, empathetic, good around adults, obedient to authority. I swear his gravestone will  carry the words, “Be careful.” In his excessively bossy moments, I call him Hall Monitor Boy. I hate rules!

But I love his ferocious work ethic, his joy in teaching and mentoring, his ability to handle any situation with grace and humility and the right degree of gravitas. When he was little, he was routinely sent out to show visiting preachers the local tourist sights, so he’s at ease with strangers and making people feel comfortable.

We don’t have kids, so whatever we are, or do, doesn’t play out within our own offspring.

What skills or beliefs or characteristics do you carry from your Mom or Dad or grandparents?

What of yourself do you see in your kids?

Does it make you cringe, or smile?

Baby As Tyrant? Zut Alors! Writer Says 'Perfect' Moms Need To Cut Themselves Some Serious Slack

In parenting, women on March 24, 2010 at 10:34 am
A woman feeds her baby on August 29, 2008 insi...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Provocative piece in The Times of London about a new best-selling book by French writer Elisabeth Badinter, a 66-year-old mother of three:

“The baby has become a tyrant despite himself,” she says. This to the joy of men, who are able to sit back and watch the football, unconcerned by the offspring-mother battle.

So what has driven women to accept this modern form of slavery? The economic crisis is one reason, she says, with motherhood suddenly looking like a better option than the uncertainty of the workplace.

The Green movement is another, with its back-to-nature beliefs in home-made food, mother’s milk and washable nappies — all obstacles on the road to emancipation in her eyes. “Between the protection of trees and the liberty of women, my choice is clear,” she says. “It may seem derisory but powdered milk, jars of baby food and disposable nappies were all stages in the liberation of women.”

A third explanation is the contemporary American feminist movement, which, she says, has made the mistake of trying to feminise the world in the hope of turning it into more a compassionate, tolerant and peaceful place.

“These new feminists say that we have hidden and undervalued the essence of women, which is motherhood.” Badinter dismisses the theory as wrong, because “men and women resemble each other enormously”, and dangerous because “it shuts the sexes in different circles”, leaving women closed off with their children.

American writer Judith Warner, a long-time blogger for The New York Times, covered the same territory in her 2005 book “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.”, reviewed (fairly scathingly) by the Times:

Warner has two points to make. The first is that, in affluent America, mothering has gone from an art to a cult, with devotees driving themselves to ever more baroque extremes to appease the goddess of perfect motherhood. Warner, who has two children, made this discovery upon her return from a stay in Paris, where, she says, mothers who benefit from state-subsidized support systems — child care, preschools, medical services — never dream of surrendering jobs or social lives to stay home 24/7 with their kids. In the absence of such calming assistance, however, American moms are turning themselves into physically and financially depleted drones….

This leads to Warner’s second point, which is more openly political than her first. Our neurotic quest to perfect the mechanics of mothering, she says, can be interpreted as an effort to do on an individual level what we’ve stopped trying to do on a society-wide one. In her view, it is the lack of family-friendly policies common in Europe that backs American mothers into the corner described above — policies that would promote ”flexible, affordable, locally available, high-quality” day care; mandate quality controls for that day care; require or enable businesses to give paid parental leave; make health insurance available for part-time workers; and so on.

Unfortunately, Warner doesn’t say how we might organize to get such policies passed in a rightward-drifting, Europe-hating America.

I don’t have kids so I watch the “mommy wars” from a safe, neutral distance. As someone who has lived in France — and seen how Frenchwomen remain, determinedly, still women after becoming a mother (no “mom” jeans there!) — I find two things about American motherhood bizarre.

If women spent one iota of their ranting, mommy-wars energy finding ways to make American motherhood more fun, healthy, relaxed and less insanely and individually competitive for all mothers, babies wouldn’t look like tyrants. But such collectivist thinking is often seen as something weird that other countries do.

The way women attack one another, focusing on individual choices as good or bad instead of getting the basic fact that employers here rule, that many other industrialized nations (yes, Canada) have paid maternity leave and those economies are doing just fine.

It’s not the babies. It’s the culture within which they are raised.

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