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Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

In behavior, design, domestic life, family, Health, life, love, Money, women on March 28, 2011 at 11:54 am
The 'Glasses Apostle' in the altarpiece of the...

Time for a new vision? Definitely! Image via Wikipedia

I returned home a few weeks ago after a three-week absence, the longest I had been away for a few years in one stretch.

I suddenly saw the bedroom, robin’s egg blue, with fresh eyes, and I wanted a change, a big one.

Now it’s soft, warm gray — the same color we’ve had in our small dining room for a few years. It’s the exact shade of cigarette ash, soothing yet clean and crisp without being cold. (It’s called Modern Gray from Sherwin-Williams and the owners of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie [one of my favorite stores] have the exact same color in their country home.)

One of the great challenges of everyday life is being able to see things with fresh eyes. It all starts to blur after a while into a haze of comforting, familiar, routine sameness.

Putting my mother into a nursing home jolted me — hard — out of this stupor.

I sat with her at dinner, a silent room filled with nodding gray heads, and came home desperately grateful for my sweetie’s laughter and loud music and even the noisy small baby downstairs.

We sorted through boxes of her belongings, lovely things she had acquired from all over the world, from hand-embroidered dresses from India to a folk art wooden animal she bought in London. I came home determined to toss everything without meaning or serious value to me, from my old wedding ring to the armoire that’s been in the garage for three years.

The cost of her care every month is as much as we, combined, earn. Now we’re looking into long-term care insurance.

What has sharpened your vision lately?

Matchmaking Mom Launches New Site — Date My Single Kid

In behavior, women on July 18, 2010 at 12:36 am
A heart-shaped Faberge picture frame with a po...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

This week marked the launch of DateMySingleKid.com, whose site offers a photo of its creator, Geri Brin, and her 31-year-old single son, Colby. He looks like a nice guy, cute.

Does he really need his Mom’s help?

From the National Post:

As the New York entrepreneur behind FabOverFifty. com, she decided to add a dating component to the website–not for her women readers, but for their sons and daughters. Unlike sites such as Lavalife or eHarmony, Date My Single Kid asks moms to upload photos of their adult children along with a brief profile; then, if another mom thinks she’s found a good match, she’ll send a message. “The goal is mom-to-mom communication,” Geri says. Date My Single Kid, which the Brins insist wasn’t created for the sole purpose of finding Colby’s future wife, went live on Tuesday. Within 48 hours, it had 200 profiles uploaded. Although many a thirtysomething guy would find it embarrassing to be set up on a date by his mother, the Brins think this system has its advantages. “Say you’re into gardening,” Colby says. “You might not think that’s cool or manly, so you leave that out; but your mom might mention it and it shows your sensitive side, and a girl might find that attractive.” Then again, mothers don’t always know best. “She casts a wider net than I maybe would,” Colby says about his mother’s broad search criteria. “Her main requirements are just age and gender.”

My family was always pretty laissez-faire when it came to my dating life. My parents, long divorced, were often far away, traveling or living many times zones distant. It wasn’t the sort of family that spent a lot of time vetting my beaux. (Might have helped.)

Only once did my Mom introduce me to a guy she’d met, an IBM salesman (yes) named Bob, from a small town in Saskatchewan. Bob had a closet filled with (yes) white shirts and dark suits and a BMW that (help me) he called his Beemer. (What can I say? It was a summer fling.) He was good-looking, smart, had a decent job. But, once we got past this approved exterior, there wasn’t a great fit. He did manage to piss off all my friends at a dinner party by calling them (accurately, but still) limousine liberals.

Has your Mom ever found you someone to date? How did it work out?

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?)

Telling A Mother's Story After Her Death: 'If You Knew Suzy'

In parenting on May 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Katherine Rosman , a Wall Street Journal reporter, didn’t know her mother well; after her death, she traveled the country to interview people who knew her better than her own daughter.

The result is a new memoir, “If You Knew Suzy”.

Elle calls it “bittersweet, compelling and at times hilarious” and People, this week, raved as well.

I’m curious about a book that investigates a mother’s life, as someone who doesn’t know her Mom well either. I haven’t lived with mine since I was 14 and she is intensely private. The closest I’ve ever come to plumbing the depths of her mind or memories was still only a visual of them, when I saw the images of her brain, preyed upon by a large tumor for many years without any of us knowing it, before her (successful) neurosurgery, which I wrote about. She’s led an interesting life, traveled the world alone, lived in Peru, England, New Mexico, but keeps much of her earliest life to herself.

Do you know your Mom well? Did you learn anything about her after her death that surprised you?

Do you talk to your kids about your own childhood and adolescence?

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.

No Kids? No Problem

In parenting, women on November 4, 2009 at 9:34 am
Family portrait with mother, father, two small...

Can you be a real family with no kids in it? Image by Powerhouse Museum Collection via Flickr

Any woman who chooses never to have kids — and doesn’t inherit any as a stepmother — ends up looking like a freak. All women want kids! Where’s your maternal instinct? Babies are so cute! There’s a loud, powerful, unavoidable litany. Not to mention the parade of celebs with their baby bumps, their babies, their toddlers, their kids, somehow suggesting it’s the coolest choice imaginable.

It’s a choice, as Laura. S. Scott discusses in her new book, “Two Is Enough”, the result of interviews with 171 people who chose not to have kids, experts and parents. She debunks a pile ‘o myths — parenthood makes you a better person, it’s different when they’re yours, parenting is the path to maturity.

As someone who never wanted kids, I know what people think of us. We’re weird, cold, unloving, selfish. Whatever. Here are a few things to think about should you feel the need to judge someone who didn’t procreate:

1) There may be serious medical issues, from cancers to mental illness, we don’t want to risk in having offspring who may be born with them. We know the costs, financial, emotional and psychological. We’ve made that calculation.

2) We may have had crazy childhoods, with parents who were mentally or physically ill, substance abusers or worse. Surviving our own childhoods was tough enough. Many of us were “parentified”, forced into taking charge of the adults who chose to bear us, taking care of them when we were way too young to handle it. We’re worn out. Parenting our own kids looks like another few decades of more wearying work.

3) Parenting, well, is really, really hard work. We’re not dumb! Sure, it’s deeply rewarding. So are many other activities.

4) Depending on your career choice or ambitions, handling the additionally relentless time, money and emotional needs of those utterly dependent on you is unmanageable. We want to do our work, or our avocations, really well, perhaps even obsessively, and we know something has to give — motherhood, or fatherhood, is it. We see the anger, resentment and fatigue of many women trying to juggle 12 kinds of excellence at once.

5) The choice carries consequences, of which we’re fully aware: people with kids may exclude you from their lives, we get asked to pick up the slack at work for parents’ needs, we have to think a little harder about what the future looks like. It’s not a predictable sequence of pediatricians/school/SATs/college/weddings/grandkids. It’s not predictable at all.

6) It’s just the two of us. Thanksgiving choices aren’t obvious. Neither is Christmas. With no distractions of kids and their needs, it’s all up to us to decide how to express our deepest values. Maybe it’s work, travel, volunteer work, mentoring. It forces many thoughtful conversations.

7) How and where can we connect with kids? I love talking to kids and hanging out with them, but with no nieces or nephews, it’s tough and a little lonely. I was a Big Sister for a while, but that’s a whole different story. This is something I’m still thinking through.

What’s our legacy? Big word, that. But parents take it for granted. They’ve had kids! There’s visible proof of their commitment to the future. For us, it’s deciding how or where we’ll handle our later lives. Who will receive the money and assets from our estates when we die? A charity, foundation, our alma mater? Knowing there will be no physical continuation of us, mortality feels very real indeed.

One of my few bookmarked women’s blogs is BitchPhd; here’s a poignant recent post on the exhausting challenge of single parenting.

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