This conversation is sponsored by the nice folks at Ebay,who want to remind you and me both that Mother’s Day is coming up next week – May 11th – and at this point in our lives, we should probably be coming up with better Mother’s Day gifts than all those misshapen clay mugs we gave the women who raised us back when we were in elementary school.
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There is a certain type of iconic “mother of adult children” character that looms large in Americans’ cultural imagination. You know the one; even though her little girl or boy is growing up and moving on, mom can’t let go of her primary identity as “Tyler’s Mom” or “Savannah’s Mom,” and thus, remains hyper-involved and hovering, often to an obsessive and ridiculous degree. This meddling mom-type can definitely be pretty darn entertaining, which is likely why she shows up as a recurring character in all kinds of movies and TV shows and books.
To wit, allow me to introduce you to….Susie’s Mom:
But I wonder, with most women now working full time, and so many moms having to delay retirement due to divorce and the economy, plus the fact that we are having kids when we are older, meaning that lots of us are just ramping our careers back up at about the time that our kids age out of the house, is this hovering mom-type like Susie’s mama in the video a reality any longer? Or is she just a funny, retro throwback who, while still often seen on the screen or in the pages of chick-lit, has in reality become an endangered species, la June Cleaver, Aunt Bea or Carol Brady?
I mean, how many 55 or 62 year old women do you know who have the time to obsess over their adult children’s day to day lives? Even moms of adult children who might want to do things like reorganize the kitchen cabinets in the apartments that their adult children now inhabit are probably too busy paying their own bills or starting a new company or maybe even just enjoying things they couldn’t afford (in time or money) when they were still fully responsible for their offspring.
I also know many 60-70 year old women who have finally retired from their own paid employment, but who are now spending many hours a week providing childcare so that their daughters and daughters in law can earn a living (my own amazing and wonderful mother in law Janice falls into that category). That doesn’t leave much time for meddling and interfering either. After six or eight hours of taking care of her grandchildren, your average 60-something woman with her own life and interests isn’t going to want to do anything but get away from her adult child’s household and concerns so that she can go spend some time enjoying her own.
My oldest daughter, J will be a senior in high school in the fall. And then, if she’s anything like I was, after May of 2013, she will never really live at home with me again. Although I was close to my parents and family, I couldn’t wait to get out there into the world and do my own thing. At that point – I was her oldest – my mom still had what ended up being 25 more years of a very demanding, full time career in journalism and PR ahead of her. She only retired two years ago. For my mother, me leaving the house to go to college meant one less kid at home to supervise and oversee, and that meant more ability for her to focus more intently on her work, having put that off to some degree during the years she had to divide her focus and daily logistical capabilities between mothering and career.
So here are my questions I’d love to discuss in this run-up to Mother’s Day; is the era of the over involved, meddling mother of adult children over? Have changing societal expectations and economic conditions fundamentally changed what mothers’ 50s, 60s and even 70s look like? Did this specific mothering archetype ever really exist to any significant degree, or does her ubiquitous representation in all kinds of media and entertainment reflect some kind of secret longing that we all have for a mom would would have the time and interest and ability to come camp out at our apartments or houses and spoon feed us homemade chicken soup when we are sick – even if we are 25 or 35 years old? Do any of you reading this know or have a mom like this in real life? And what about you? How do you anticipate your role in your kids’ lives evolving once they are living on their own?
Tell me what you think, and I will do the same. Let’s talk moms of adult kids (because soon, I will be one!)