The Slippery and Sometimes Thankless Slope of Motherhood: Its Joys and Perils

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

— Jackie Kennedy Onassis


In this department, there are no do-overs. You get one shot at getting this right. . . and that’s it!

I was lucky. No, blessed to have given birth to two healthy children. The strange thing was I never expected to be a mother. I didn’t even envision myself in that role growing up. And yet, as I reached my mid-twenties, those pangs of maternal instinct came banging on my door anyway, saying: whatever plans you’ve got in mind for yourself lady, forget ‘em!

And I did, with the happy obliviousness of a person slipping on a pair of shoes, two sizes too big.

But hey, what did I know? I was still young and stupid and about to learn very quickly my needs would come last. That and my perspective on everything would change.

I always believed babies were beautiful creatures. Messy, but beautiful and never moreso then when they’re ours. Right? I mean, I don’t think it’s possible for a mother to look at her child and say, “ewww, what a creepy looking nose.” We’re simply not programmed that way. For us it’s imperative that we look past any and all imperfections and hold our precious little offspring up to a level reserved only for future kings and queens. Because if we don’t, we’ll never survive the path called rebellion, stretched out before us.

It’s a harrowing road, yes siree Bob, and for some strange and crazy reason we don’t even think about. No matter how many children we have. It works along the same glutton-for-punishment vein as birth. You simply forget those labor pains and go back for more. I think it has something to do with the female hotwiring, similar to robots. Press the button, spread the legs and off you go. Oh yeah. Thanks God, I owe ya one!

Anyway, like I said, you innately look past those things. You do because the being you gave life to, is suddenly this whole person. This tiny mass of giggling arms and legs taking their first step across the room; boarding the school bus for the very first time on their way to kindergarten, leaving you there crying as you wave goodbye; packing the car and heading off to college, person.

Yes, those prized moments of “firsts” seeing their faces lit with all the excitement and newness life has to bear, are the dividends. The rewards we get as mothers to be present in their lives as they take shape and hopefully embody those hopes and dreams we’ve laid at their feet.

I’m not sure our children ever truly realize all that we do for them. What great sacrifices were made on our part so that they could have a better education, live in a safer environment, experience life from all angles before going off on their own. As mothers (and fathers), we don’t do these things with any sort of expectation in mind. We just do them—and that’s that. We ignore and we accept that their worlds have imposed on ours and hopefully somewhere along the way that heartfelt realization will eventually come to them.

And if it doesn’t . . . oh well, we’re still good. There’s always tomorrow. Maybe.

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When The Mountain Came to Muhammed

Once you get to a certain age, (okay my 60+ age), everything changes.  Not just the obvious physical adjustments where stiff joints, bad hearing, and age spots become a part of your daily existence, but the I’m-going-to-set-the-world-on-fire kind of dreams that once consumed us are now lavished on our children and our grandchildren.  For the simple reason we are just happy to be alive.  Well, I am anyway after all those drugs I consumed back in the ‘70s during a social revolution where sex, drugs, and yada, yada, yada were considered very cool.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say our younger selves were very different creatures than the ones looking back at us now in the mirror.  But that’s okay.  Because as we glide into this next phase of our lives a greater understanding comes into play.  One of who we are and acceptance.  That need to prove yourself to the world, is now a thing of the past.  (Love it). You’re no longer swept up in the hypocrisy, the arrogance, the petty gossiping of what others think of you or say about you, because in reality who on God’s green earth has that type of time?  Really?  I sure as hell don’t!

No, at this particular juncture, the only one you have something to prove to is you.


Eight years ago, feeling irrelevant as though I’d missed the boat on so many levels of my life, I sat two of my friends down and informed them I was going to write a book. Neither looked shocked and were, if anything, encouraging as I embarked on what would turn into the hardest and longest project of my life (to date).   Months turned into years and the manuscript grew and grew and grew, leaving me to think that War and Peace would look like a novella against my epic—when and if I ever finished the damn thing.

And while I continued to pound away at the keyboard, in between working a full-time job and life happening, other stories that wanted telling popped into my head.  As a person infected with all sorts of lovely little issues—OCD, ADD and Procrastination-itis at the top of that long list—I felt torn.  I also felt that I might drop dead tomorrow, then where would I be.  I had so much I wanted to say.  So many conversations I needed to put out there into the cosmic Ethernet.  If for no one’s sake, but my own.

So I put my still-unfinished albatross aside and began working on a story I had floating around in my head, about a young woman living in New York City, who leads a most unconventional life, yet lives it quite alone.  As both a victim and a survivor of societal issues, I found her compelling as she breathed to life.  Her struggles seemed to be my struggles, or someone like me; which enabled the words to pour out at record speed.

Again as the Queen of Dawdlers, the fact that I finally finished something meant more to me than anything. And that I spoke from the heart about an issue that’s important and perhaps uncomfortable for some people, is equally tantamount to this newfound sense of accomplishment.  I’m not concerned whether or not some reviews might claim the topic is old news.  The truth is while issues are raised every day trying to bring about a higher public awareness, they are rarely resolved in short heartbeats.  It takes mountains and monumental efforts of time to grasp the big picture.  It takes talk.  Real talk where people have to open wounds, have to lift back those band aids with a sense of readiness as they tread on territory they would prefer not to roam at all.

Oh yes, I completely understand that one all right.  It took me thirty years just to articulate the grief I’ve been experiencing over the loss of my sister.  When I finally put to paper all those bottled up feelings, it felt like a bright light washing over me.  I was glad I finally did it.  I was even more thrilled that the essay was picked up by an online blogging community.  As my story reached thousands of people, I realized from the feedback just how necessary having these types of conversations are.  How else do we bring about real change? How else do we grow?

I believe in the long run people are desperate for honesty.  For truth and glimmers of compassion.  They are hungering for some brave soul to step forward and say:  “Hey!  I know exactly how you feel.  Been there myself quite a few times.  And you’re right.  It fucking sucks!  It took a long time to get my head on straight, and eventually you will too.  I promise!”

I believe it’s okay that we agree to disagree.  It takes great courage to speak the truth.  To live your life out loud with this sort of honesty of mind where things that feel shallow sink and things that feel true float upon the surface as you give voice to all those inner frailties that makes us human.  Because the thing is, we’re all fucked up!  To some degree or another.  I don’t see anyone here exempt from this messy pod pool of mankind. Not you, not me, not the mailman.  Okay?

Look, all I’m saying is that as we get closer to our number being called, we must remain true to ourselves and do what feels right.  So if that involves crusading the homeless, opening a cupcake shop, knitting sweaters for Etsy, swimming the Atlantic, or simply retiring to the west coast of Florida with all your Jujubes intact, then by all means. . . do it!

Me?  I’m writing another book.


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Sometimes It’s Just Not About The Gift

In 1963, the Easy-Bake Oven was introduced to millions of future little bakers around the world.  And I was one of them. Excited, didn’t quite come close to that tickled-pink moment when my mother placed it in front of me, all wrapped in a box and bow so beautifully. And it wasn’t even my birthday! I had no grand illusions what this strange miniature avocado green replica, complete with Betty Crocker cake mixes would produce. Any idiot could figure that one out in seconds. But it didn’t bother me. In my young mind I saw this as an opportunity to flex my tiny fragile wings of creativity and fly. It was also there in the kitchen baking side-by-side with my mother that a bond began to cement and the blossoming of an awareness, one surrounding her and all those many, many wonderful things she would, in time, come to do for me.

Things I didn’t always appreciate. But took very much to heart until I was ready to understand the message. And this was in spite of the fact she stemmed from a long line of Jewish women who brought with them this instinctual sense of needling guilt they felt compelled to pass along before they died, like salmon swimming upstream. I looked beyond it. Well beyond it I suppose because I knew, also instinctually, that there would come a day in the not so far away future when I looked into the mirror and it would be her face staring back—not mine.

me and mom

In my sixty-two years on this planet, I’ve often thought about the complexity of mother-daughter relationships. How the stories behind them are not always so simple, rather hard and even heartbreaking. But behind those stories is a love that transcends, that connects a moral compass pointing home. Always pointing home. Even for me. Yes, growing up I wore that “badass daughter” badge like nobody’s business. And that she remained vigilant to see me through those times, told me I needed to start paying attention. I needed to listen and I needed to learn.

I think it comes down to this: As much as I’d love to keep Hallmark and 1-800 Flowers in business, I can’t set aside just one day out of the entire year to honor my mother. Nor can I possibly squeeze into a twenty-four time frame a verbal list of all those incredible sacrifices, those things she’s taught me about life, about being the kind of woman, the kind of mother I need to be, the meaning of unconditional love, that marriage is hard fucking work, (however neglected to mention some weren’t worth the effort), how to have grace in the face of death, not to slouch, make sure I take care of my skin earlier than later, and that friends are those people who stick around long after the shit hits the fan…I simply can’t.

Many years ago I experienced something uniquely my own: the presence of mindfulness. In other words I had this “aha” moment. A formative split second realization while sitting at my sister’s deathbed, that today is all I have. And if I don’t show my mother how I feel about her and NOW in the simple and ordinary ways: a phone call, a kind and patient word, a visit and an “I love you,” I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Hard to believe in the middle of all that shit I had a wake-up call.  But if not then, when? Right?

I’m lucky that my mother is still with me. And while the tables are now turned and it’s me showing her a thing or two in the kitchen, as well as helping her work through the woes of transitioning from the stone age to the digital age, and acting as her steadying arm—I’m okay with that. More than okay.

You know, we all have our heroes. They come to us in the most outrageous of shades, packages and happenstances. Mine just so happened to come in the form of a cute, eighty-seven year old lady named Mom.

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