I have a 23 year old daughter – which is hard to believe since, like the old cliché goes, it seems like yesterday I was taking her to kindergarten. Actually what really seems like yesterday was moving her into the college dormitory. But that was almost 5 years ago and now we’re talking about jobs and graduate school and other grown up things.
After graduating from college last May, my daughter took a research job at Duke, leaving right after graduation and moving to a new town and starting a new phase in her life. I was (and still am) very proud of her for accepting this opportunity and for being brave enough to make this huge step on her own. She dove right into her job, got an apartment and set about becoming acclimated to a new area.. all was going fairly well, but several months later I could tell she was going through a difficult time. I could tell she needed her mama…
Like most mamas, I have that spider sense that alerts me when my babies are hurting – so I booked a flight to Raleigh and readied myself to provide encouragement, love and also some therapeutic mother daughter wining, dining and shopping. We talked, we debated, I gave advice, some she took, some she rolled her eyes at. In other words, mother-daughter relations 101.
During our conversations she told me about the pressure she feels to compete and to be perfect in this world. To have the perfect job, life, relationship, appearance, etc.. It made me sad, because I know she is not alone in feeling this way. So many young women feel that they are not “good enough” or even “enough”. Looking back to the dark ages when I graduated from college (1985), things seemed more laid back, no social media meant no Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, et al to make us feel inadequate. And I’ve felt it too.. And if a (relatively) well adjusted women in her fifties can feel this way, I can only imagine what it’s like for young adults just starting out in the real world. (More on the pros and cons of social media in a future post.)
It was a much needed visit for both of us. I needed to see that she was okay and she needed me to listen to her ideas and plans and provide her with encouragement. I needed to spend time with my girl, who I still miss everyday and she needed to be spoiled by her mom for a few days. So I tidied her apartment, bought groceries and worked out in the amazing gym in her complex. We went for long walks and had smoothies at Whole Foods and wine and dinner at a trendy Tapas place. We hit Nordstrom and Athleta. We got her car serviced. We talked about grad school applications and what dating is like in 2016 (Oh, the swiping!).
Then before we knew it, it was time for me to pack up and go back home. Thankfully, I had a large suitcase..
Now, as I sit in the airport waiting for my connecting flight home, I contemplate how our relationship has evolved over the years. From mommy and mini-me, to teen embarrassed by mom, to college moms weekends where we bonded with other mother daughter duos over drinks and giggles, to now; adult to adult.
My daughter and I have always been very close. Closer than I was with my own mother growing up (or maybe close in a different way). But then, my mom was raising eight children, and I have two. And the whole parent child relationship has evolved into something markedly different from what it was back then.
We’ve become more invested in our kids successes and failures. In the past, parents were somewhat detached from their kids lives – their role was to provide food, shelter and make sure we went to school, got vaccinated and had regular dental check-ups. Our social lives, sports and extracurricular events were on their radars only peripherally.
Today, mothers and daughters have more shared interests, we like some of the same music, clothing, and beauty treatments. We seem to talk more about feelings and relationships. There is a school of thought that says we are not supposed to be our kids friends, and while I agree, I think the trend towards being closer is a good thing.
When my daughter drove me to the airport and hugged me good-bye, she said, “I love you mom, and I’m sorry if I was moody – I just have so much on my mind and it’s so hard sometimes.” At that moment, I clearly remembered being her age and calling my mom when I was sad, frustrated or scared. And she was always there for me too. So maybe, times are not so different after all. “That’s what being a mom is about,” I said, “That’s what I’m here for…”
When I landed at home, my 19 year old son picked me up at the airport. Oh, I could go on and on about how sons and daughters are different! But we’ll leave him out of this blog episode…
Here’s to daughters (and sons) and parenting for life – because we are never done being parents!
Striving and thriving in the middle years!