When I was young, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. Then I hit thirty and wanted to stop time. Similarly, when I had babies, I eagerly awaited each milestone, believing that mothering would become easier and more enjoyable after they could walk and talk and do amusing and amazing things. Then they became teenagers…
Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids with my entire being and wouldn’t trade this wild ride of motherhood for anything, but this role isn’t for the faint of heart. Not only doesn’t the learning curve level off, but at times it appears to escalate, so the job often seems to get harder, not easier, with time. Despite knowing myself much better in my fifties than I did in my thirties, I feel I understand kids less as I shepherd my adolescents through various crises while they inch their way toward adulthood.
And this is all hard enough when dealing with a typical child, let alone coping with the extra struggles that accompany parenting a child with a special challenge (whether that is a learning-based, emotional, or physical one). Often it appears that the harder we moms try, the worse things get. That confusion makes us question every parenting decision we’ve ever made. All that questioning not only wreaks havoc on our families, but can also really mess with one’s sense of confidence and accomplishments. It is shockingly easy to feel alone and a failure, especially when wading daily through a social-media sea of overachieving, gorgeous, happy-as-a-pig-in-mud kid posts by your peers. But the worst part of all is shouldering all the blame for anything that actually goes wrong. How often has everyone from your child to society foisted the responsibility for whatever mistakes your kids make onto you?
I’m aware that I’m not covering new ground here. My grandmother used to tell her kids, “Just call me Tony,” as if she were some random person on the street, when she needed a break from them blaming “Mom” for everything from an unwanted genetic trait to a poor test score because “she didn’t make them study.” When I first heard about that, as a child, I didn’t understand her at all. Now I wish I could conjure her ghost so I could hug her and bow down to her wisdom. The best part about my Gram’s plea is that it forces the kid to cope with his or her own problem, which is what will best prepare him or her for adulthood. Oh, the irony!
If you, like me, have experienced any of this roller coaster when raising your family, then you will relate to the main protagonist of my new release, TRUTH OF THE MATTER. While not biographical, the story is infused with many of the issues we middle-aged women face, both as mothers and as women. In every conceivable way, Anne is smack in the middle of things: her marriage is falling apart, she’s raising a highly anxious teen, she’s caring for a beloved grandparent with dementia, and she’s abandoned her artistic career. But not until she’s thrust outside the comfort zone of her familiar life is she able to confront how out of touch she’s become with her own needs and dreams.
It is so easy for women to fall into this trap, particularly for women of my generation and older. We are groomed to care for others—to be effortlessly and endlessly empathetic, which can be exhausting on many levels. Self-sacrifice becomes a badge of honor, a test of worthiness. But what happens to these good mothers and daughters and wives when their kids leave, their parents die, and their husbands walk away? How do they move forward when so much of what they’ve done with their time is wrapped up in the people who are leaving them behind? These are some of the questions I explored while working my way through this story with Anne, her daughter, Katy, and her grandmother, Marie. If you’re interested in the answers, I hope you’ll pick up the book.
In the end, I do recommend taking my grandmother’s advice from time to time. We don’t need to accept responsibility and blame for the many and varied things we cannot and will never be able to control. It is equally important that we embrace the things we love and remember not to put ourselves last on everyone’s—particularly our own—list of priorities.
I hope you pick up and enjoy my newest book. I’m super proud of this one, peeps.