My Life Will Be Different From My Mother’s

Happy Mother's Day

May 6, 2011 by

During the 20th century, it was a common goal of determined females: That our lives would be different from that of our mother’s.

I was hell-bent to take the road less traveled for females from ethnic blue-collar families when I packed my trunk and took the train from Jersey City, New Jersey to Seton Hill College, Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  It was 1963, before the women’s movement, so none of us at that all women’s Catholic college articulated what we were after.  But, you bet we were after not being our mother’s daughters.

In the new book Art And MadnessAnne Riophe records the same fierce conviction.  In 1962, she recounts, “I lived near her [mother], the economics ruled. But I would have a different life from hers, I told myself.” That different life turned out not to be a better one.

Oh sure, the lion’s share of Baby Boomer women did carve out lives different from those of our mothers in myriad ways.  We became educated whereas our mothers had a high school education.  We fled marriages as well as intimate relationships which were abusive or held us back in our careers.  Our mothers had stayed.  We were the first generation which stopped whipping up the three squares.  To the day she died my mother kept cooking, even though there was no one except herself to cook for.

In some ways our lives were not different.  Until my early 60s, bipolar illness had come in spurts, leaving financial wreckage, lost opportunity, and diminished self-confidence.  My mother’s mental illness was more severe, transforming her from the traditional 1950s housewife to a creature who didn’t bathe, sleep, or speak in a normal fashion.  No, I didn’t escape the mental illness.

There was also the self-consciousness about physical appearance.  She was ashamed of her Eastern European body style, especially the thick calves and thighs.  When a man asked to marry me in 1969, I asked: Why.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone, never mind a male who still had a privileged place in society then, would want to bother with me.  Not until a total breakdown in 2003 did I work on loving myself.

However, the gap between what I had set out to accomplish and what I am accomplishing now has significantly narrowed.  It took bottoming out on both the norms of my mother’s world and the rigid ones I had strived to put together for myself to make a real one to live in day by day.  With that ability to function in reality has come understanding about my mother’s little universe.  Probably unlike many Baby Boomer women, my mother was not especially unhappy or tormented.  After all, she was not there.  My generation of women seemed too much there.

About the Author

Jane Genova Has Written 24 Articles For Us!

I’m a coach, book author, and lecturer on careers, specializing in transitions. When I was 58, I restarted my professional life. That was in 2003. Since then I have I have muted into one of those renaissance folks who keeps multiple lines of work going. My latest book Over-50: How We Keep Working has helped thousands of people realize that exciting careers don’t depend on your age. I write four blogs: Jane Genova, Law and More, Career Transitions, Over-50.
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1 Comment

  1. Jane – You’ve given us much to ponder. With distance comes retrospection and understanding that although we might have different dreams and dragons there just might be more “alike” than we would first think.

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