Cyma Shapiro Chats with Julie Metz, author of Perfection
Q: You have become easily identified with your bestseller, Perfection— a story about love, betrayal, and finding oneself. However, many readers are unaware that you are also nearly classified as a new midlife mother, having conceived in your late 30’s. How does your age factor into your story?
A: Age is a factor in my story. When my mother gave birth to me in 1959, she was considered an older mother at age 30. I had my daughter at 37. When my husband died I was 43, and the mother of a six year old. To start over as an older parent at 43 was one of the many challenges I faced.
Q: You’ve said your current household is full of “girl power”—one woman in menopause and one teen on the cusp of life changes. This is a new trend, reflecting the complexities that are emerging from new midlife motherhood. What are your feelings about this phenomenon? How has this forced you to reexamine your own life?
A: I am mindful of this situation every day. I recall having difficulties as an adolescent with my own mother because she seemed “out of touch,” though in fact we were closer in age than I am to my own daughter. I struggle to stay current, whether it involves mastering new technology or understanding social trends so that I can stay connected to my daughter’s life. The truth is that I often feel exhausted and clueless.
Q): With the emergence of new midlife mothers, do you think traditional societal expectations are slowly dissolving? That is, do you think a relaxation of family structures will eradicate many traditional norms within our lifetime?
A: Our own family looks conventional enough from the outside: man, woman, child, but we have different last names. Our goal as parents is to provide support for our young adult while fostering her growing independence. But for now we choose to do this without some of the traditional formal labels. Around me I see many divorced women and single mothers struggling with similar challenges. Personally I don’t think formal labels mean as much to kids as what’s really going on. So I try not to worry too much about traditional labels.
Q: As a midlife mother, what do you have to offer now, that you would not have had during your younger years?
A: I like to think I am smarter, but mostly I think I am better able to accept the idea that I am imperfect.
Q: If you had to live your life over, again, would you have chosen this same path?
A: While I often wish I had the energy of myself at 25, I have no regrets. I love the child I have so much, so there is nothing I’d want to change.
Q: We say that this zeitgeist is a result of breakthroughs in medical technology; socio-economic freedoms for women and a relaxation of traditional norms — all converging on our generation. Given these new opportunities, will you educate your child differently than you were educated by your mother?
A: I would love my daughter to take time to find her true calling before having children. My mother led by example and I don’t know that I would take a different approach. My hope is that coming generations of women and men will help create a society that is more open to working mothers. And I hope my daughter will be able to make career and mothering choices that will suit her life and talents.
Q: Finally, do you have any advice for new midlife mothers?
A: Make time to keep yourself healthy and fit, so you can keep up with your kids!
Julie Metz is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Perfection, which was a 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Glamour, Hemispheres, and websites such as Wowowow.com (The Women on the Web), Family.com, and the story site mrbellersneighborhood.com.