As new mothers learn, there are two approaches to parenting. You either emulate your own mother’s attitudes and style, or you run in the opposite direction.
My mother, God rest her soul, grew up with very little and it seemed to suck the joy from her being. She was competent and responsible, but never gave the impression that she liked the job.
So I knew when I had my own family I would write a different playbook. I would be nurturing, supportive and involved. Relentless in boosting my children’s confidence. I’d yell and punish when the situation warranted it, but I would also live for their laughter.
Did I expect an award for this unconditional love? Hardly. But I did get life’s grand prize. A son and two grown daughters who are making their mark on the world through their careers, relationships and acts of giving. Truly, I can see evidence of my investment in them and am delighted with the return.
So imagine my surprise when I was interviewed for an article in the New York Times about mothers and daughters that are very close, and it created a firestorm of criticism. Oh no! I’m worse than a Tiger Mom. I’m a Momzilla!
At least according to the snarky haters and sanctimonious experts who mouth off on the Internet: #digitaldouches.
It started innocently. The article was intended as a fun look at moms who are so attached to their adult daughters, they hope/expect to be invited to their bachelorette parties.
So happens I did tease my daughter, Alex, about joining her bridal party and friends in Bloomington, IN when she celebrated last fall. I am an IU alumni, too, as is my younger daughter, and it is just my happy place. But truly had she chosen Vegas or the Bahamas, it would never have occurred to me to be there. I’m not a drinker or a party girl and a big night out is when I can stay up past eleven.
So I repeat. My being on the guest list was never a real consideration, just something we joked about. And unlike the other mother featured in the article, who not only went to Vegas, but planned the whole weekend, I stayed home and stalked Facebook photos. Not to pine for the party that got away. To enjoy my daughter’s happiness.
But in my heart, I understood why the possibility appealed to me.
I got married at 22 without any wedding fanfare. In fact, barely a wedding at all. My parents were unhappy with my choice of mate (“Oy! He’s a New Yorker. A shanda!”) and bet on my divorcing him as soon as I realized my huge mistake. That’s why they were only willing to spring for a garden ceremony in the courtyard of our family synagogue along with a small backyard reception. Somewhere there are pictures.
And were they right? Thankfully not. Lee and I will be celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary this month and have a made a wonderful life together that remains strong and vibrant. We count ourselves among the lucky who made it this far and still enjoy each others company. Not every day, but that’s for a different post.
Meanwhile, I shared with the NY Times writer that when my daughter got engaged, unlike my mother who wanted no part of the festivities, I was beyond excited and happy. A child’s marriage is a milestone for the parents, too. Proof that you raised ’em right because they can love another human being, maybe even more than themselves.
Not so according to the haters. Though the article has yet to appear in print (it will run in this Sunday’s Style Section), the digital version was posted two days ago and has resulted in a massive pileup of finger-pointing. It also spawned a second article/attack on Jezebel, mostly towards me.
The consensus? I am a horrible, overbearing, pushy mother who can’t back off or let my daughter live her own life. Clearly I will have to take responsibility when her marriage ends because I have imposed my demands. Also, I need to get past my own wedding disappointment and stop living vicariously through her. And on and on.
Not buying it. Alex and I adore each other. Laugh together. Shop together. Talk about life, love, jobs, sports, movies, books, music, celebrities and hair, but of course we don’t share everything. There are boundaries and we’ve never been confused about our roles. We are neither friends nor sisters. We are a mother and daughter who honor, respect and love each other for who we are.
Our relationship, and the ones I enjoy with her brother and sister, have far exceeded my expectations of motherhood. And while I wish that I’d enjoyed a similar relationship with my own mother, I came to appreciate that she did the best she could. She loved and respected me, thought I was the funniest person on earth, and though we didn’t pal around, she honored me most by letting me be me.
My hope for the haters who are certain that they will define motherhood differently, is that one day they will be as blessed as me. Plus, I can go back to Bloomington with my daughters any time. Maybe they’ll even buy me a drink at Nicks.
Want to read the NY Times article and weigh in?