Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Sara and Melissa Talk About...The Mothers in Our Lives

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. We are currently in our fifth year!

This month, we are talking about the mothers in our lives. Even though Mother's Day is over, there's still plenty to say! 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them. 

Sara Steven:

I’ve been watching the most recent season of Hacks, and while it’s true I’m behind by a couple of episodes, I’m enjoying the new episodes and the obvious camaraderie between the two primary characters, Deborah Vance, played by Jean Smart, and Ava Daniels, played by Hannah Einbinder. They’ve formed a unique friendship, but I also get this sense of motherly oversight that Deborah seems to have for Ava, possibly due to Deborah’s strained relationship with her own daughter Deborah Jr. (DJ). Maybe she’s bestowing sage advice and wisdom because she doesn’t feel she can do that for DJ. Or maybe she wants to look out for Ava, considering there doesn’t seem to be anyone else who is doing that for her. But it made me think about the various television “mothers” who sort of “raised me” by way of their own sage advice, particularly during a time when I didn’t feel like I had a very prominent mother influence. I imagine a lot of 80s children felt that way. We were encouraged to sit in front of the old boob tube, a welcome respite for our hands off parents. The term “helicopter parent” hadn’t been invented yet, that’s for sure. 

I thought of six mothers who had an impact on me while I was growing up, in various ways. They are:

SIX: Angela Bower from Who’s the Boss?

My own mother had been a stay-at-home parent, so it was a different experience for me to see a mother figure who helmed her own company and could juggle parenting along with a job that was outside the home. Angela was quick-witted and held her own with Tony, showcasing how she could be an amazing role model for her own children and Tony’s daughter Samantha. 

FIVE: Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch

I imagine many of us grew up watching The Brady Bunch, and even though it had originally aired before I was born, I utilized Nick at Nite as much as possible so I could submerge myself in a life from the 70s. Carol was sweet and always placed her children as a top priority, a deep down conversation at every turn when the kids had questions or needed guidance about something. I loved the original show and I loved the spoof movies too. I thought Shelly Long did a great job as Carol.

FOUR: Peg Bundy from Married with Children

Peg gave no f****. She did what she wanted to do, said what she wanted to say, regardless of what anyone else thought. I think she most represented the type of mother I was used to, who didn’t tend to my every whim or make me home cooked meals or bake cookies after school. It was interesting because before Peg, mothers were often portrayed without much autonomy. They were always an extension of their kids. But with Peg, she was her own person and had a separate life from the kids. She didn’t think she had to keep Al happy, either. He was responsible for his own damn happiness.

THREE: Maggie Seaver from Growing Pains

I mainly watched Growing Pains because of Kirk Cameron. Kirk Cameron circa 1980s, not the Kirk Cameron of today. There is an episode where Maggie is talking with her husband, Jason, and while they’re conversing, Maggie is applying body lotion to her arms, her legs, and even her elbows. It was a scene that had taken place right before bedtime, and I didn’t understand at the time why she’d apply lotion like that. But now that I’m in my 40s, I completely understand why. It felt like she was showing us what it is like to live the life of a woman. She was feminine and charming, and tough. 

TWO: Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie

I loved this show! Little House transported me back to old fashioned values and what I imagined a close-knit family to look like. Caroline had an immeasurable amount of patience. For her kids; her husband. She did what she needed to do to provide love and care to her family, but never took any of Harriet Oleson’s guff. 

ONE: Roseanne

Roseanne (from the 80s/90s) really spoke to me when I was growing up in the 80s. Her family was a lot like my family. We were blue collar. My father worked for the local cannery, doing his best but at times we struggled to make ends meet. When Roseanne grabs two boxes of mac and cheese from the kitchen pantry, proclaiming it’s what’s for dinner, I knew exactly where she was coming from. Those were my type of dinners, too. When her daughter Becky wanted a new dress for a party, there wasn’t enough money to buy one, and I knew how that felt, too. But despite the struggles, there was a lot of love there, too, and I loved that. I loved the acerbic humor. That show had been my comfort show for years. She was my comfort mother.   

Melissa Amster:

I consider myself to be a good friend matchmaker. My friends can attest to this! However, there's one friend match I would really like to see happen, even though it's been about 20 years already. I haven't given up hope though! I would like my mom and my mother-in-law to be friends. They're friendly toward each other, but I doubt they are in contact outside of family get-togethers. I would attribute it to long distance, but most of my friendships (including my friendship with Sara) are long distance and thriving! I have good relationships with both my mom and my mother-in-law, and could sit and talk with either of them for hours. And while they are different in some respects, I think they actually have a lot in common! Here are some examples:

1. They both like their homes to be clean, and that somehow translates to wanting my home to be clean too.

2. They both have a good sense of humor, even in different forms. My mom enjoys comedies and loves to laugh. Her laugh is distinct and recognizable too. My mother-in-law likes to tell jokes and always has a good pun to share. So she could easily make my mom laugh! There you go.

3. They enjoy being grandmothers and they can easily bond over sharing one set of grandchildren. 

4. They both like musical theater. I'm sure the musicals they enjoy would overlap and they'd find some in common. 

5. They're both fashionable and have a great sense of style. They would enjoy going shopping for clothes together. 

6. They both love drinking coffee. How they raised kids (at least their firstborns) who only drink tea is beyond my comprehension, but they share the coffeemaker when they visit our house at different times. 

7. They like to travel, whether it's within the US or to another country. I'm sure they could spend hours talking about the various trips they have taken.

8. Saving the best for last....they both love to read! And that's something I bond with both of them about. I'm sure they've read a lot of the same books from my collection and recommendations. I know historical fiction is at the top of both of their interest lists. They could even start a book club together if they were so inclined! 

There you have it. I don't expect them to be besties or BFFs, but I think it's never too late for them to connect and form a friendship and I think they would actually enjoy getting to know each other all over again. They are going to be in the same room in a few weeks, when my son graduates high school, so who knows what could happen! 

Having said all this, it's rare for me to find pictures with my mom and mother-in-law together. The only ones I know I have are from my wedding and from my (soon graduating) son's bris. (I shared the latter in a post a few years ago, but I doubt anyone would remember seeing it.)

To give some background to the picture from my wedding:
At the tisch, the groom’s gathering before the badeken (the ceremony where the groom veils the bride after checking they are marrying who they are supposed to), the mothers of the bride and groom break a plate as a sign of tenaim, symbolizing the couple’s commitment to one another since the plate can never be put back together. (Adapted from In this picture, they are holding a napkin that contains the pieces of the plate, but I guess the camera caught them at a weird angle.

L to R: My mom and my mother-in-law (2004)

L to R: Me, my mother-in-law, and my mom (2005)

Tell us about the mothers in your lives!

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