It's All Good. For Now.
Phase I ~
You’re an enviable, golden Yummy Mummy… an attractive 35 year old with 3 kids under the age of six and an active life full of go.
It’s Monday which means the nanny comes at 8. Looking fabulous in your Lulu Lemon, you load the Rover and carefully – but quickly- navigate to the local elementary school where, unsurprisingly, you find yourself at the end of the queue… just enough time to scan Instagram and check the Mommy Blogs.
Finally at the front, you dump-and-run so you can get your spot at the gym… (abs and asses matter at this point in your life, because beauty is skin deep).
After class, it’s time for a cuppa-catch-up at Starbucks with the girls (on all the news that doesn’t really matter)… a little fashion talk, some shade about failing husbands and false friends, chatting up the most recent social event… YM topics are endless.
Before you know it, it’s wine o’clock and you’re feeding the kids. In just a few short hours, you’ll have time to catch up with your man, and later – binge on Netflix.
A topic rarely mentioned or noted in a typical YM day? Anything having to do with your mother. She’s been sidelined while you live your youthful life with your younglets. Besides, you don’t really need Mom in these early days of motherhood; you’ve got the nanny, the housekeeper, and the gardener. Maybe you’ll see Mom next week.
Phase II ~
Your YM years are waning with the onslaught of midlife. Friends still say “you look great”, but they complement the compliment by adding “for your age”. Your kids have finished college and launched their real lives. You’re letting them go (because you’re emotionally healthy like that now…), but your empty nest is full of what-next?
Too early for you and Husband to retire, you consider your many options; sell real estate… open a boutique… get your masters... Endless part-time possibilities. You still go to the gym, but these days, your blood pressure gets more attention than your booty. In class, you feel like an outsider as the next generation of Yummy Mummys talk about tinkling and toddlers. (… been there/done that… )
Coffee-clatching after class, you share your emotional growth with your midlife-ing girlfriends, discussing important topics like menopause, mammograms, and – Mom. She’s on the periphery, but your own expanding experience as a mother has augmented Mom’s appeal as a friend. She’s weathered menopause and mammograms herself, and navigated the peaks and pitfalls of marriage and child-rearing. Perhaps she has some wisdom to impart. Mom has become someone you can identify with and relate to. She’s become your wine-o’clock-woman.
Phase III ~
Overnight, your station in life as a fiftysomething, is replaced with the angst of being 60. Despite the barrage of Instagram, FB and Twitter feeds proclaiming 60 is sexy, and 60 is the new 40 - it’s just not. Sixty is sucky. It’s the beginning of the decade before your 70’s, and 70’s are the beginning of old. An exodus of estrogen has left you with a growing concern for skin care, hair removal and podiatry. You trade in your pumps for pajamas and, as if overnight, comfort counts. Your whole perception of being in the world shifts as your sexy is replaced with a crush of indifference from the Universe. You are officially formerly hot.
During lunch with the ladies after yoga, the quality of your conversation has grown deeper, reaching into topics like healing, happiness, and helping - Mom. In fact, Mom has become the center of your days and hence, your conversations.
She’s been in the friend-zone for well over a decade now, but things are changing. At 85, Mom surrenders her license and you become her driver, doing errands with and for her. You bring her to an increasing number of doctor appointments (so many body parts), each of which ends with a call for further testing and a follow-up. Mom’s eyesight is failing, so you help with the bills… and since her memory’s a little wonky, you keep her schedule now… and, oh, and maybe just do a little light housekeeping…
You’ve officially become the defacto caregiver. In addition to loving you, she needs you now. Her fear of going to assisted living grows daily, assuaged only by your commitment to help more and more… sometimes until it hurts. You are becoming her everything.
You want to be okay with your growing role, but it’s tough. You hate to think this way, but it would be hugely helpful to know when Mom’s time is up, since your own future is on hold pending the outcome. Well into retirement, you shelved the side hustle you began in your 50’s and you’re thinking of wintering in Florida… of selling the big house and finally downsizing… of spending more time with the grandkids.
But those plans will have to wait. The task at hand is mothering your mother. Payback is a bitch, but she was there for you all your life, and now - it’s your turn.
Phase IV ~
POA, DNR, CCR… You understand the meaning of the acronyms associated with old age and you’re listed as Mom’s proxy everywhere. You know the difference between assisted living, skilled nursing and acute care. You can recite her Blue Cross and Medicare numbers by heart. You’re able to list – and spell – each of her medications and what time of day she takes them. You know the details of every surgery she’s ever had, and how much hardware was left in her body as a result… The scope of mom-data in your head is truly astounding.
More important than the mountain of material you’ve amassed on Mom, is your growing understanding of exactly who and what she is. By now, you’ve spent so much one-on-one time with Mom that you truly know her likes and dislikes… her politics… her fears… what she had for dinner and whether or not she enjoyed it… how she felt about her own parents… her college days… her courtship with your father… There’s not much you don’t know about Mom at this point.
With softened edges, her vulnerability is louder than her voice. She lives in the present moment, taking it one day at a time. Despite the pull on your life, you appreciate her in ways you never imagined. She is subtly teaching you how to grow old - gracefully.
She expresses her immense gratitude for all you do for her. She means it… and you feel it.