Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Story

by Angel La Liberte for www.flowerpowermom.com

Part 1: The Wake-up Call
One day, back in 2008 when I was still forty-seven—and my son Alex was five and daughter Lizzie two—I was delivered a life-changing blow. Or, you could call it a wake-up crack in the head.

In that honeyed-little-kid voice, Alex suddenly piped up and said to me: “Hey, Mama, do you know what you’re going to be when I grow up?”

I was in the kitchen (where I usually live these days, but not barefoot because washing the kitchen floor is somewhere in the proximity tooth-brushing the knobs on the toilet base on the domestic priority list), practicing the fine art of domestic “multi-tasking”.

Ergo, I was mentally AWOL. It was a good time and place for a kid to nail me if they happened upon a fortuitous opening. And that’s just what he had that very night. A fortuitous opening. And he took it.

Vaguely amused, I asked, “No, Alex, what am I going to be when you grow up?”

“My grandma!” he replied, grinning triumphantly from ear to ear, evidently expecting a round of applause.

I froze on the spot with a spaghetti spoon in mid-dangle, thunderstruck. As if the moment were divinely ordained, I remembered the oft quoted verse from the bible: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, thou has perfected praise”

“Grandma…,” repeated the grinner. Suddenly I saw the light.

Everything that had made me often and inexplicably miserable, profoundly exhausted, a parental outsider in the pre-school playground, paranoid about disease, dying, and mortality in general, all laced with nostalgic longing for a dose of familiar camaraderie lost somewhere in my youth—well, it all boiled down to that one, simple truth: I was mother to my five and three-year-old children. And I was already old enough to be their grandmother.


Part 2: How Did I Get Here?
Let me begin with the single, most important, axiom of midlife motherhood:

No woman kicks back in her twenties and plans the course of her life just to cram in popping a few kids sometime after she’s forty or fifty, like a sad afterthought—the “red-haired stepchild” of life’s priorities.

It doesn’t work like that. Having a child is—and always will be—the most important choice of a woman’s life.

I was born in 1960, a child of the Flower Power generation. It would be the next millennium before I had my first child.

The 1960’s marked the beginning of an era when women were expected to do something with their lives other than planting themselves, “barefoot and pregnant”, in the kitchen baking brownies.

Back in those days, everyone was gung-ho that some book learning and a career more lofty than bottom feeding in a corporate typing pool while waiting for a Jimmy Stewart clone to come along, should come first.

Even so, my first marriage took place at the socially correct age of twenty-six, after I’d managed a BA (Hons) in Psych. But the fairy tale ended abruptly there.

The union promptly crashed on the rocks of Failure-To-Communicate when I discovered that my (then) husband didn’t want kids—along with a host of other little unexpected surprises I won’t delve into here.

Exit stage left, at age thirty.

It then took another ten years, including some relationships best defined as “learning experiences” or even “cul-de-sacs” (not to mention the de rigeuer kissing of a few unprincely frogs) before I met the Real Deal.

There he was: Frank. My new husband. The Man-Who-Would-Be-Father. And I knew it the minute I clapped eyes on him. We were inseparable from our first date.

It was 2001. I was forty, and finally on the road to motherhood.

And I was blessed with the “mother” lode: first with a son, just before I turned forty-two in 2002 and then with a daughter, when I was almost forty-five in 2005.

Miraculously, they were conceived without the need of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). I was of the blessed and fortunate few in the “grandma class” of expectant mothers.

In fact, they were created “artlessly”, with a load of love and a heaping helping of elbow grease (literally).

Now I’m pushing fifty. I’m truly a midlife mom. A Flower Power Mom.


Part 3: The Birth of Flower Power Mom
I’ve learned some hard facts since having my kids: it’s a brave new world that will judge you without a hearing on your choice to become a midlife mom.

Don’t expect anyone to cut you a break—you chose to have a child when you were supposed to be harboring a growing fear of pushing up daisies instead.

You made your (flower) bed and now you’re going to lie in it with all of the sagging cellulite, aching arthritis and second chins your body can muster. After all, you’re a misfit who refused to subjugate your maternal urges to the “natural order”.

At least, that’s what some say.

What I say is that you can’t crush a growing army. Over 40s motherhood is changing the demographic of the American—and global—family.

Despite the lack of welcome—my ineligibility to be a member of the under-40 Stepford Moms—I felt inspired to celebrate. Women having babies after forty represent the neo-liberating force of our generation.

The return of Flower Power.

The power unleashed by the Age of Aquarius—an era spawning the scientific inventions that have empowered a woman’s life to blossom after forty—a watershed moment when our liberating foremothers were already fading away.

We are Renaissance Moms.

Motherhood after forty and longer life expectancy for women are here to stay. And if we ever needed the compassion of our age-related peers (other new 40+ moms), it is here and now, in the daily trenches of midlife motherhood.

To prove the point, I tested it out:

Most any mother under the age of thirty-five who heard Alex’s “Grandma Story”, would gasp (horrified) and whisper “Oh no!”. (Like, how revolting!)

Any mother (or grandmother) over fifty would immediately fall over laughing. (What a gas!)

Reactions were defined by age.

Ergo, that single, defining moment in 2008 was the birth of a mission. Alex had woken up the so-called sleeping dragon (or old dragon, in my case).

It is a mission to reveal the truth, to share, to commiserate and, ultimately, to unveil and celebrate the secret life of Flower Power Moms, as it is lived behind closed doors.

So, welcome to the club—the Flower Power Mom Club.

It’s a place where you can find the honest reality in motherhood after 40, share the pain (bitch if you need to), strive to be your finest, remember the old days, and have some laughs together.

And, oh yeah, there are only two requirements of membership:

1. Acknowledge your gift: A mother’s fierce, tender love, entwined with a “grandmother’s” cup brimming with life’s wisdom. (How fine is that?)

2. Keep your dreams alive: remember—most of all—to “stay gold”. (Recommended remedy: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton)

Angel La Liberte

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