The Uber of Nanas (Grandmotherhood Comes of Age)
I was appalled! Not a good thing on Mother’s Day Weekend.
I searched for grandmother images on Google and my screen was filled with nasty and crazy-looking old women, with white hair and wrinkles and walking aids I despise the term “glam-ma” because it implies that grandmothers are not naturally glamorous. I have become a disruptive (as in innovation) nana in many respects.
I expect to live to be 120, which means that my new granddaughter will be 60 when I pass on to the other side (where I hope there’s a nice beach and wifi).
This post is not intended to be bitter or angry. I love my life. In fact, I view myself as something of a role model for my generation. When people say to me, “You don’t look 60,” I respond by saying, “This is what 60 now looks like.” I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life and I have more choices than the mothers and grandmothers who came before me. And, in honor of them this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to the genes and influences that shaped who I am.
First, some family history…
My own Nana Molly had some wild stories to tell. She came from Russia at 8 without speaking a word of English. Her own mother had died and she had to help her abusive father raise her brothers and sisters. She lived to 99, was married three times, and talked about buying a motorcycle practically until she died. Nana Bess (my paternal grandmother) died young. She put up with my grandfather (who had “issues”) and I just remember her as a sweet blur who looked and sounded like Betty Boop. She gave great hugs and lived in a small but really swanky Manhattan apartment.
My mother was a different kind of rebel. She married “late in life” for her generation (at 27) and almost didn’t do it because my dad had run off with an old girlfriend and then begged her to take him back. Obviously, I’m glad she did — otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post. She got a graduate degree from Columbia and taught the deaf. She raised three kids practically on her own (because my father was off delivering other people’s babies) and usually took the time to feed my reading and art addiction, taking me to the library and crafts store. She’s now 89 and tells me often how proud she is. Whenever I criticize her mothering style, she says, “We do the best we can!” That’s now my mantra of motherhood.
And then there’s me. I drank the 1980’s Kool Aid and worked like an animal in financial services and other executive marketing positions at big brands until I got the “C” in front of my title. I hired and fired babysitters, dealt with health and household issues, traveled, and then did mommy-and-me stuff on the weekends. I looked and felt like hell most of the time. Because there was no technology, I either had to show up or stay home. There was no middle ground. Starting my own business at 48 was also a challenge…it was my third baby and something was always slipping either at home or at work. I’m finally figuring it all out, just in time to enjoy my new granddaughter, who will have many more options and will (hopefully) learn from previous generations.
The bottom line is this…motherhood is awesome but no one hands us an owners manual when we give birth.
My generation of grandmothers is an interesting lot. After great careers, most of us find ourselves unemployable within the current system. And, if we could get jobs, we’d be making 68 cents on the dollar. Many of us have started our own ventures. Many of us are single. We are creating the Uber of grandmotherhood.
We are wired. Those of us who are tech-friendly can keep in touch with our families and friends anytime, anywhere. As soon as she can babble or speak, I hope to Skype or Facetime with the grandbabe. I set up a Google Drive for baby pix and often get real-time “action shots” in the middle of my workday.
We are mobile. I am en route to D.C. as I write this. I simply booked the Acela online and then ordered a car to take me to Penn Station. Women of previous generations had to wait to be “driven” by their men. I don’t need a cane or a even a porter because…
We are active and healthy. I lift weights and sometimes bike and spin. I rarely eat carbs. I can stay up and dance until 3AM. I don’t need naps. (But I really like them sometimes.)
We are wise. Because we spent so much of our lives tending to other people (family AND bosses), we realize that our time may really be now. As long as we can cover our medical bills and find people to pay us for the work we do, we’ll be OK. I plan to launch a multi-million dollar venture by the time I hit 70…and I’m taking steps towards that goal. After having seen hundreds of “kids” (aka millennials) at Tech Day and Collision, I realized that I have the skills and confidence and business smarts to innovate and disrupt too.
So, here’s my challenge in Honor of Mothers Day 2016…
- Let’s think about how our own mothers and grandmothers paved the way for us to thrive. We learn from our grandmothers’ and mothers’ mistakes as well as their guidance. If your mom is alive, say “thank you.” If she isn’t, think about how she lives on in you.
- Let’s find creative new ways to make money and speak up about ageism and stereotypes of older women in our society.
- Let’s celebrate our daughters and granddaughters and teach them to always be strong, make good choices, not beat themselves up for their shortcomings, to demand to get paid what they are worth, and to forge new paths. If you have a son, teach him to always treat women with respect and not to take a good woman for granted.
- Let’s enjoy every day of our lives…no matter how many we have left. Let’s take care of our bodies and minds. (I want to still have a lot of girlfriends when I’m 120!)
- Let’s start populating our social media sites (including this page) with stories of REAL 2016 nanas…the women whose only wrinkles have been earned through hard work, charity, and tending to others. I really don’t want to be looking at those Granny Google pix next year!
P.S. Enjoy my little Mompalooza album. I kept it short because home movies — even digital ones — kinda suck.
Most important…happy Mother’s Day!!! I hope you get flowers. If not, buy some for yourself, please!