There was a stereotype of my generation, probably others too; she was called the “Jewish Mother” but it included Italian, Irish Catholic or Eastern European mothers as well. She was the mother who hovered over her adult children like an avenging angel, bringing them smothering love and chicken soup at the mere mention of a bad day at work, a broken heart or, God forbid, a sniffle. She cajoled and pleaded openly for the daily phone call and was not above resorting to guilt to achieve her aim of being an intimate part of her children’s daily lives. She was the subject of jokes and sitcoms, and self-respecting women of my age were admonished not to stifle our children’s independence by such over-bearing imposition of our own aspirations and restrictions upon our fledglings. Between adolescence and grandchildren we are supposed to pretend to be non-custodial parents with court ordered supervised visitation only. Only the arrival of grandchildren once again bestows upon us full familial citizenship. This exile is self imposed, for the good of the child/young adult.
I’m here to tell you that is crap. The “Jewish mother” is the only truly honest mother. My children are in their mid-thirties, have lived independently since their late teens, are in stable, loving relationships, are successful in their careers and have wonderful, supportive circles of friends. I cry every time I leave them after a visit. When they get sick and I happen to hear of it, I offer advice on the best OTC cold “remedy”, when what I really want to do is sit next to them and rock them in my arms. I say “let me know if you need any help” knowing full well they don’t “need” anything. It is I who needs to cup their faces in my hands, fold them up in my arms and let their heads rest on my chest so they don’t see the tears of joy at the sheer pleasure of being allowed to comfort them once again.
The clearest expression of the way we mothers of grown children feel is one I read a while back, “becoming a mother is to spend the rest of your life knowing what it feels like to have your heart walking around outside of your body.” I’ve done my duty. They’re happy, successful and independent adults. So today I’m officially retiring as a modern Mom and becoming a Jewish Mother. L’chaim!