A Project Born of Love, Gratitude and Nurturing by Cyma Shapiro
The first leg of (the three-year journey of) my new older mothers project is nearly completed. It is titled NURTURE: Stories of New Midlife Mothers and it features the words and photos of 25 (out of 50) new older mothers from across the country. In November, it will open as a traveling art gallery show. I hope it will close as a book.
These women subjects, ranging in age from 41 to 68, and coming from a variety of faiths, occupations, races, and circumstances represent nearly every conceivable family unit. Their determination, willpower and perseverance to get/have/obtain their children is the common denominator in the show, and reflects the amazing desire of many women to both mother and/or procreate. The convergence of these two aspects has birthed the very appropriate title: NURTURE.
Although my original intention was to gather a collection of iconoclastic (life) stories, it has become so much more: a project about gratitude, right intention, connection and giving back. The project reflects truths, honesty and the sheer grit of being a mother. It is a study into new older motherhood, compassion, nurturing and the overriding power of love.
In short, this entire experience has changed me. I expect it has changed the lives of some of these women who in voicing their “truths” have helped heal themselves, and will hopefully help countless others. I started this project filled with many questions for others; it turns out that all along I was just looking for me.
My project was intended to delve into the following questions: Why did you do this now? Would you do it again? How do you feel about new older motherhood? Why do you think this group is rapidly increasing in numbers? How do you think society views you?
I learned that most new older mothers never expect their lives to turn out this way. Many of us are just grappling with the reality of daily existence – whether it involves struggling with menopause while raising young children; parenting two generations; experiencing midlife in a differing way than our own parents did; or readjusting our own expectations of what we expect middle age to be. To add to the mix is society’s view of all of this…………………….
While we’re just plain living, to others we’re pioneering spirits forging a new path and creating a new road for future generations of women. While all mothers often say, “Huh?” in response to their rapidly and unexpectedly changing lives, many of us as older moms say the same thing, only we really mean: How did this get this way, what do we do now, where do we find comfort and nurturing and solace? The most important question, which is a constant reminder in our daily lives, is: How will we cram what used to be 40 or 50 years of living (with our children) into 20 or 30? For us, there really is a goalpost, a discernible ending to our great journey – much greater now than in our early adult years. For us, living can only be in the moment, right here and right now.
For us, too, the lessons we impart to our children have that much more importance for us, and maybe more intensity to them. For us, life isn’t to be wasted, but to be savored. Not that other people don’t think this way. But for many of us who pursued this aspect of our accelerating lives with a vengeance, defying age, circumstances and in some cases, gravity, this is our very foundation. This, too, is what defines us and sometimes separates us in relation to the entire spectrum of mothers. So, to all of the midlife mothers around the world, I celebrate you, embrace you and welcome you into this new existence. I’ve welcomed me, too.