Today’s spinning grandmothers has nothing to do with spindles and wool. They say today’s 60’s is the new 40’s. We are healthier, more nutritionally informed and educated about the mind/ health relationship to longevity. We have the advantage of advanced medical care and preventative medicine. Statistics show that normal life expectancy for the Millennials may be into the early 100’s. Great news, yes?
Maybe for some, but along with this focus on youth and the ability to stay physically fit longer into the ‘grandma years’ is the slowly eroding Norman Rockwell’s image of Grandma and Grandpa. Perhaps a sad farewell and a bitter pill for those who want Grandma to still be round and cuddly and let’s face it – comfortably ‘old-looking’ like most of our real Grandmas looked in the 1940’s.
My 1940’s grandmother was a bit overweight, wore neatly ironed house dresses and her gray hair in a bun on top of her head. She was warm and snugly and wore an apron when she cooked. Grandma looked like all of the other grandma’s I knew as a child. But the sad reality is that my grandmother also died in her late 50’s of angina from her fatty cooking and hard work slaving over the stove and caring for her ten children. I would say, honestly, not so great for snugly Grandmas in those days.
The 1940’s WW II women and soon to be grandmothers of the 1960’s were emancipating themselves. No one would ever have accused my mother or her sisters of slipping into the gray ‘grandmother background’ as their mother’s generation did. Mother looked like all of the other women in the 1950’s who were still homemakers, but younger looking, interested in homemaking, but just as interested in fashion and looking good. The 1960’s grandmothers were slowly inching their way out of the stereotypical image of grandmas past. They, like most grandmothers of their era, loved their husband, children and grandchildren first, but keeping up with fashion and beauty trends came a close second. And a job outside of the home to keep busy after her children were emancipated was not frowned upon either. (As a matter of fact I owe my career to my mother.) Grandmothers were beginning to not live in the shadows of ‘old age’ and were still having a life in their second chapters.
The Millennial Grandmother. This is where within the timeframe you and I jump in, and I am a little confused about my role as both mother and grandmother post childrearing, too. Not confused at my overwhelming love and undying support for my children and grandchildren, but confused about who they might expect me to be. I am not my mother. I am not my grandmother and maybe I may not be like the average over-fifty woman. I am me. As a woman I want to be honored as relevant and accepted for who I am, warts and all, and appreciated for what I have contributed to their lives. We are all trying our best by trial and error.
Women of my generation, for the first time, are more free to be ourselves, always evolving perhaps, but not forced to be put in boxes with labels. We are women first. We don’t have to be ‘old’ in our thoughts or actions. We mothers all have always had needs and wants stored on the back shelf while our energies were dedicated to focusing on getting everyone out of the nest equipped with the greatest survival kit we could put together. But those personal needs and dreams of ours never died while sleeping. Our grandmothers and mothers may have dared to dream a life of their own, but few could live those dreams beyond their jobs as mother and caretaker of those she loved most.
Perhaps the label ‘Mother’ is so strong that our children grow up not knowing who we really are after we take off our ‘Mom’ hats and we each begin our own lives. News flash children of ours. We are the same person we have always been. The same people who wiped your bum and kissed your scrapes when you fell down. The same people who cheered at your football and basketball games and dance concerts. We haven’t changed. But you have, and by doing so, sometimes you expect us to still be wearing the ‘Mom’ hat and not allowing us to be free to be who we always have been before you and I were introduced.
Every birthday I am reminded that my diary only has so many pages left and how much the conflict of my and my husband’s needs and my desire to spend as much time as possible with my children and grandchildren is a reality. In this age of family diaspora, the juggling act never ceases it seems. I am sure we are no different than most.
In the end, I am so grateful to be living in this time – in the NOW, because my generation of women, mothers and grandmothers, as I noted before are usually younger physically and mentally than our chronological ages. Due to this wonderful phenomena of being able to live a full life after raising our children, I believe we are sometimes a shock to our children.
Well, mothers unite this Mothers Day. We should have a message for our children. They are going to have to get over it, because our grandchildren are cool with it and most of us well over fifty don’t want to be other than who we are and comfortable in our own skin.
As long as we can have ‘forever careers’ if we want-or not, go to Vidal Sassoon, wear MAC lipstick, do yoga, SoulCycle, Tweet, text, WordPress, Instagram and have Facebook friends, humor us. We mothers and grandmothers are in this life on your side for the long haul and are just being the women we have always been hidden under the ‘Mom’ hat. Could it be you were too busy living your own lives that you just didn’t take the time to see?
©Sandra Hart 2015. All Rights Reserved.