How it feels to be on the brink of a life passage, from youth to middle age to death.

The Dark Side of Parental Love

The old saw that you're only as happy as your unhappiest child—even if the child is an adult—has some scientific underpinning. But there was one finding that was not only surprising but a bit disconcerting. The parents who thought their kids were better-adjusted than they themselves had been in their twenties weren’t all that pleased. Read More

It's no me she's envious of .....

I've been dealing with an envious mother for twenty years, with no sign of it letting up.

I think part of it is "culture envy" - when she got pregnant at 18 (1972)she lost her job and had to marry my father. Sometimes we forget just how much the world has changed in the last 50-60 years.

As soon as I started choosing what happened next in my life - getting a job at head office, choosing the man I wanted to marry - THAT'S when she got massively competitive. Even my divorce and late-life pregnancy (I was 35) brought out the worst in her.

Because I had choices she didn't have.

What about when they try to keep you down?

The worst is when parents simultaneously try to make you into whatever they couldn't be, but also try to keep you from having things that they didn't or showing extreme distress when you have things they didn't.

parents as underminers

These first two comments (from people who have chosen, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous) suggest that there are many ways for parents to undermine their young-adult children, and many explanations for why we might do so. Anyone who thought that parenting gets easier once the kids are grown clearly wasn't a grown-up with parents of his own!


I can't pretend I'll be any nobler than others. So I hope to god I'm a grumpy bitter old lady when my baby is grown and doing everything I wish I'd had the focus and gumption to do. Probably the best I can do is acknowledge it and make sure it's not his problem.

Oh, and save for retirement. Since I had him at 42, when he's in his 20s, I'll be in my 60s and if he's self-sufficient, then I can retire and finally spend time travelling and relaxing with friends. It'll be harder to be bitter if I'm sunning myself somewhere in Belize or Croatia or something.

Mothers and daughters and letting go

It's just the natural order of things, particularly among mothers and daughters. I think mothers have always envied the increasing choices and opportunities their daughters had that earlier generations were denied, but they also fought tooth and nail for them to have those choices and wouldn't want it any other way. When I was in high school in the 70's, I told my guidance counselor I wanted to become an airline pilot. He scoffed and told me to forget it - that was a man's job. My daughter is now a doctor and wonders why I didn't just go ahead and become a pilot anyway. She doesn't grasp how overt the oppression and sexism were in those days. My 83-year-old-mother envied me for having the courage to get a divorce and build a new life for myself after raising my kids, since she felt she had to stay in an abusive marriage her whole life. I'm very proud and happy for my daughter and all young women, but their successes were built on the backs of their foremothers and, although a little acknowledgment would be nice to hear, it's the conundrum of motherhood that we must let go, wish them well, and look at their successes as our successes, too.

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Robin Marantz Henig is a science journalist and co-author, with her daughter Samantha Henig, of Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?


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