Turning into your mother? Why the inevitable is not so bad, after all.

Far more than wrinkles, sagging boobs and loss of flexibility, it seems women everywhere have one giant fear: turning into their mother. 

You know you’ve heard the words from your friends, or uttered them yourself: Oh my god, I canNOT believe it, I sound just like my mother! Or, Please just kill me if you ever see me doing THAT! Or, Help, I’m becoming just like HER!

There are books devoted to the subject, every May women’s magazines and newspapers alike rehash the topic, and if you Google the phrase “turning into Mom”, you’ll get thousands of hits.

Everywhere the very idea of being Mom is mocked, reviled. You may not wear Mom jeans, have Mom hair, observe a practical Mom bedtime. Shame on you if you do.

Ours is a youth-obssessed society; that’s certainly no newslfash. Because “Mom” is somehow synonymous with “old”, women seem desperate to avoid the title, unless it comes attached to a perfectly posed black-and-white image of peaceful Mom cuddling sleeping infant. You can be a Mom, but you can’t look or behave like one.

I don’t get it.

I understand that there are plenty of women out there who grew up with deeply flawed mothers, and that the very idea of turning into that parent — that women — is more than distasteful. It’s downright horrifying. I’m not talking about them.

I’m talking about the rest of us. And, believe me, there was a time when I was much younger, that I would cringe whenever someone teased me, saying my words or actions were just like my mother’s. After all, like everyone, I wanted to be me, to be an individual, to be my own person.

But that’s youth. That’s when we’re supposed to flail and search and find a path to becoming ourselves.

Then we grow up a little and realize that particular journey of self is never-ending. At the same time, we figure out that parts of us are immutable — and reflecting our parents is one of those parts.  This article in Psychology Today explores how neuroscience and genetics can help explain this, and offers some insight regarding ways we can alter our Mom “genes” to shape our own relationships.

On the other hand, maybe we don’t want to, not entirely. These days, when someone compares me to my mother, I’m flattered. She is, of course, a flawed human being, as we all are (no, I will not count the ways either of us makes mistakes), but overall, I could do much, much worse than to emulate her — with my own flair, of course.

I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and see a bit of her face etched on mine. When someone doesn’t arrive home when I expect them to, I pace in front of the windows, lips pursed, pretending not to be worried and failing miserably. And while I don’t yet say, “Oh, good Lord,” I have been known to utter a few “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”s from time to time.

I hope I have inherited the good stuff too, her endless generosity and unconditional love. Her daily attitude: “When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, step out from under it and do something kind for someone else. Lo and behold, just that extension of kindness will lighten your burden, free up your shoulders, and make your world feel a little brighter.” The way she calls me, almost every day at the same time, and doesn’t get upset when I can’t get to the phone. The way she is plunging forward in retirement to immerse herself in her new passions of art and music.

Every day, as I settle a little bit further into who I am, I can’t help but notice the phantom reach of the women who helped me get here — not just my own mother, but my grandmother too, and my aunts, and friends’ mothers — I can’t help but feel the arms that held me and guided me, even when I was fighting against them. They are not me, but they are a part of who I am.

As I’m writing this, I’m wearing a pair of old jeans. You might call them Mom jeans. I’m also wearing my long house sweater — my Mom sweater?

Turning into Mom?

Things could be worse.

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9 thoughts on “Turning into your mother? Why the inevitable is not so bad, after all.

  1. I think the problem comes when we catch ourself saying and doing the very things that our own Mom’s drove us crazy with. As I age, I’m finding I actually look more like my father! Now, that’s scary.

  2. jen, great blog….and, yes, i have already made that turn….i look in the mirror and see that beautiful face, remember that beautiful woman, my mother. and did i mention that i have grandma mickeybunky arms? or that i make aunt elvira potatoes? that i walk a little off center like grandma florence? thank you for reminding us all of the wonderful women that were and are in our lives and helped us to become wonderful (well, still a work in progress) women to those young women that follow in our path…..xo

  3. In the midst of an angst-filled morning, I needed just the kind of post you wrote. You are right- there’s a lot worse than turning into your mother. Especially if it’s your mother at her best. Now that is awesome.

  4. Beautiful post. I can relate to so much of this and happily, in recent years, I’ve been coming around to the idea that I would be lucky to turn into my mother!

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