Gillian Jones: On being a good mom

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NORTH ADAMS — When I was a little girl, playing with my dolls, I always imagined that I'd be a mom someday. While my life went in another direction as I followed my dreams and had a career, I have at times lamented not being a mom. However in the last couple of years, I have found myself using those untapped skills and applying them to taking care of my mom who is 86 and suffering from dementia.

"Home is Where my Mom is," reads the wall hanging on the wall above my mom's bed in the living room of my home. My home revolves around my mom.

While the notion of taking care of an elderly parent is one that might make some cringe, it has become a gift for me, for the single most important person in my life. Not only did she give birth to and raise me, but she has shown me a love that is truly unconditional. For that, I am truly lucky and grateful.

I realize that not everyone has good things to say about their mother. Many mothers become moms "by accident," and do not embrace the role well. There are a multitude of complex reasons why mothers and their children don't get along. Some mothers have done terrible, unthinkable things. Many children don't even talk to their mothers nevermind take them in and care for them in the twilight of their life.

I know I am fortunate to have had a mom that truly wanted to be a mom and was supportive of me. No mom is perfect, but my mom did the best she could. As a single mom from the time I was six and my brother was two, she always advocated for us and put her children first.

Her own relationship with her mom was strained and complex at times. My grandmother and grandfather divorced shortly after my mother was born so my mom never had much of a father figure in her life. As the youngest child, her mom expected her to stay home after graduating from high school and support her. This was not a plan my mother had any intention of following. Against the wishes of her mother, she left home and went to live with her older sister, Shirley, with whom she made a home for many years.

For many years, my grandmother didn't speak to my mother or her sister. I guess my grandmother was a master of the "silent treatment." Fortunately my mom never, ever used the silent treatment with us.

'YOU WERE WANTED'

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By the time my mother met and married my dad, she was in her mid-30s. When she had me, she was in her late-30s and from what I understand from my Aunt Shirley, Mom was more than ready to settle down and start a family. They say that older parents are often more patient and better prepared to be parents, even if they aren't as youthful. I think that is true in my case.

In Hulu's dystopian drama "The Handmaid's Tale," based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, June Osborne, a.k.a Offred, is the main character. When we meet June's mother Holly, in a flashback in the second season, the viewer sees a feminist mother. The episode delves into the strained relationship, as Holly is disappointed with June for not doing more with her life.

"I was 37 when I had you. You were wanted," Holly says to June.

That statement seems to sum up how my mom must have felt about having me. At the time, her pregnancy was considered risky and geriatric for her advanced maternal age. But I believe she wanted to be a mother with all her heart. She told me about the time she held a baby for the first time and was so overwhelmed by it. Even now, she smiles whenever she sees a baby, whether it is in person or on the television.

While my mom's own attempt at a nuclear family didn't work out like she had hoped, she continued to do her best to raise us the best way she knew how. Challenging at times, as being a single mother is, she sacrificed much.

So while I don't expect everyone to understand how I can take on the responsibility of caring for my mom while trying to work full-time, preserve my career, and try to live my life, I cannot imagine not doing it. Also, I wouldn't be able to do it without incredible help from others.

I hope I can mother my mom in the same fashion as my mom mothered me. I take comfort in that and I hope she does, too, as she experiences a familiar type of caring. She deserves it.

Every day, I can see my mom fading as dementia and aging takes her from this world. I don't know what lies ahead exactly, except the inevitable, but what many people tell me is that I won't have any regrets that I cared for her, as she did for me.

Gillian L. Jones is a digital visual journalist for The Eagle and has been writing opinion page columns on care-giving. Her email is gjones@berkshireeagle.com. 


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