Being An Old Mommy by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan
Isn’t great how kids can keep it real? NOT, especially when it comes to age. One day in the bathroom my daughter let me know in a rather matter-of-fact way that I was an old mommy. I asked why she thought that. “Well you do have wrinkles like Grammie.” Ouch. Of course I responded with “but not as many.” For my daughter wrinkles are wrinkles. She’s not denying them why should I?
The judgment about the wrinkles comes from me. All the many voices I have inside my head bombard me with reminders that I am no longer young and that I should be doing something proactive about the said wrinkles. Of late the skin under my chin is growing older faster and more noticeably to me: getting saggy. Ackkkkkkkkkkkkk
I am not a plastic surgery kind of person. Frankly, I am not an any-kind-of-surgery person. What is so valuable for me in being an older parent is how much I want to keep my anxiety and paranoia and general fears to myself. I want to age gracefully as a great example for her. I am regularly looking at older women and trying to dismantle my interior judgments about what beauty should look like.
What is so helpful about my daughter’s articulation of my wrinkles is that for her it’s just an observation. She doesn’t have any judgment about it. Basically, I have had wrinkles her whole life. Since I had her at 41 it is safe to say that the big furrow in the middle of my forehead was fully formed. The texture of my skin has changed over the last ten years. I definitely work at having an inside out approach to my skin care. Yadda, yadda, yadda—no one but me cares about this—especially not my daughter.
What I try to keep in mind is that my habits of self-care are what she will model. I am bit weak on my evening routine, but she doesn’t see this because she is asleep when I go to bed. Lately, I have been thinking about doing my nighttime routine with her. I’m not quite there yet with that plan though.
I feel lucky that I am awake enough to hopefully respond “casually” to my daughter’s observations. The biggest impact on my daughter’s body image is how I feel about myself. That requires that I deal with my own issues and maintain a level of vigilance in keeping my own demons in check even as I try to rid myself of them. In How Mothers Impact Their Daughters’ Self-Image, Jaqueline Lapa Sussman’s, article written in 2012 gives great insight into this phenomenon. Though the article is focused on body image and menstruation, I think it’s possible to extrapolate from the information that the attitudes one has about aging are directly impacting how one’s children will feel about aging women (and for daughter’s about themselves).
In a way, later mothers could directly and personally impact for the better how society views the aging female body and face—if we can find the love needed to love ourselves as the wrinkles and changes appear.