From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Mothering: The Next Generation

The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.

Jill Churchill

Of all the astonishments of motherhood, watching my own daughters become mothers tops the list. Of all the rewards I could have asked for in life, this is the sweetest.

My daughters are better at motherhood than I ever was. And that’s not just false modesty, believe me. They were better prepared. They were not just smarter; they were wiser, too. And they were surely more ready to accept all the colossal challenges than I was when I became a mother at twenty-one.

These same daughters who once drove me crazy, who left their rooms in post-hurricane condition, who failed to send thank-you notes to their relatives for decades, have found their calling.

I watched Jill, Amy and Nancy swell with pregnancies and become responsible, conscientious mothers-to-be, reading voraciously and knowing what every single week of development meant. I spent those same months flying blind, more child than woman and surely not ready for the enormous job ahead.

I’m ashamed to admit that I ate carelessly, didn’t exercise and never even considered breastfeeding back in the early 1960s when having babies, for most women, was an automatic-pilot experience. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” might have been our motto before a new generation began to question and learn and reshape not just their bodies, but the entire pregnancy experiences.

But I was still a bit stunned when the daughters—who never took their vitamins, seldom ate right and got no sleep for years on end during college—were unrelentingly vigilant about their health the moment they became pregnant. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing.

Natural childbirth? A given. Ditto for nursing. Jill, Amy and Nancy were absolutely committed to doing everything right.

Yet when the babies came, our daughters greeted them with the same awe, wonderment and surrender that women have for centuries. They were as overwhelmed as we all are when a tiny, helpless infant is placed in our arms—and in our perpetual care.

Jill, the oldest, became a mother first. The birth turned our daughter, the hard-bitten public defender, into a marshmallow. Her sisters were no less vulnerable.

“Hello, my daughter,” Amy said through persistent tears when she greeted her first baby. Forget the corporate world, high-powered meetings and Manhattan art galleries. Amy’s new master was a tiny tyrant with an impressive set of lungs.

A second daughter arrived, and Amy continued the ultimate tightrope walk: balancing love and work, home and job.

And Nancy, the daughter who yearned so for a daughter, has instead greeted three sons. And she’s fallen madly, hopelessly in love with the bruisers.

In so many ways, each of our daughters has shown a new and unexpected side of herself. So in joyously welcoming our grandchildren, I have also re-met their mothers— my daughters. I have witnessed their strength and courage, stamina and commitment, self-sacrifice and energy.

My daughters are mothers—fine, loving, generous ones. Better ones than I could have imagined. And what a sweet, sweet reward that is for any mother—emeritus.

Sally Friedman

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