with Talyaa Liera
I'm Talyaa, the poster child for the concept that there's no one right way to be a parent. I went from stay-at-home attachment-parenting mom of four to being the non-custodial parent, working as a professional writer and channel-psychic. Let's talk about throwing away the parenting manual and exploding the myths and mystique of motherhood!
Check out my personal blog at Juxtapositioning.
My mom lives in a nursing home. She probably wears diapers. When I phone her (she lives in California — I’m in Seattle), she always tells me the same things: “We have a lot of fun here. The people are really nice.”
My mom can’t remember what she did that day, or what she ate for lunch. She doesn’t know her roommate’s name. She remembers that a bus takes them into town from time to time and she can buy things. I imagine her standing at a glass counter, holding a little coin purse stuffed with a few folded bills, sliding coins across the counter to buy a weekly candy bar. In my imagination I can see the five-year-old Janey doing the same thing, only back then it was a nickel she slid across the counter instead of — how much do candy bars cost these days, anyway?
Some people would say I have lost my mother. I think I finally see who she is.
Women of a certain age — in our 30’s and 40’s and older — are having similar experiences as mine. I call it mothering our mothers. I wonder how you feel about that.
Not every woman’s mother develops Alzheimer’s like my mom has, but most of us go through an interesting journey with our mothers. When we are young, we are the child and they are the grownup. That part of our lives and the roles we play then are pretty clear. Then as adults we cross into peer territory, if we are lucky: two women comparing lives and supporting one another. And then, later still, the weird part: as they age, our mothers relax and even regress a bit while we grow wiser and stronger. That’s when it feels like mothering our mothers.
I didn’t recognize this switch in my relationship with my mother until it was painfully clear that she needed help (her house was ankle deep in piled-up mail and cat poop, a reality she had shamefacedly hidden in our phone calls but could no longer hide when I went to visit). But looking back I can see now that she needed mothering long before I knew it. But at 77 she needs mothering now. Lots of it. And I suspect that she is not alone in that need, that many of our mothers need our mothering, even if they are eyebright and chipper and playing tennis into their 80’s.
Many women naturally sink into the role of mothering their mothers. Why wouldn’t we? We are already mothering our children. Calling your mom to remind her of a doctor’s appointment or ask her how her new shoes are feeling isn’t a big stretch beyond wiping up a spilled bowl of Cheerios or listening to your preschooler tell a long story about the imaginary rabbit he saw on the playground.
I still wonder how this mother-your-mother thing works out for other women. I know that for me, it’s been poignant. I saw that my mother would never be the mother I had always hoped she would be. Instead, I see a woman who tells jokes to the nursing home staff and who talks to strangers and treats them as friends. This is a huge jump from the mother I remember who used to be a recluse and nervous around people. Now I think I see the real Janey, and I am so glad.
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