Being the mom of a known person: we’re no different
I am often asked what it’s like to be my daughter’s mother. Others have told me they hesitate to ask about it but are curious nonetheless. So here goes. As some of you already know, my daughter is a young woman who boot-strapped her own business from her early 20s with no college degree, no seed money and no family connections. She now runs a media company, holding empowering rallies for women from all over the world and inspiring new generations of entrepreneurs. Her fashion-to-media journey there was both exhilarating and devastatingly scary for me to watch. I had no one to consult with when she asked me for emotional or even practical support, since I was in uncharted parenting territory — not one I could study up on by buying a few books at Barnes & Noble or speaking with other parents.
You see, parents like us exist in a vacuum. There is, after all, no club we belong to where we compare notes on our crazy risk-taking offspring. We may not worry about where their rent money is coming from, but just like every other parent we are anxious. We lose sleep. And we wonder if we will ever be enough for them when they truly need someone to turn to.
Just creating the title of this post felt like an act of sheer vanity. How can I talk about this topic without sounding like a narcissist? Unlike other moms who talk about “issues” with their kids, I guess mothers like me are supposed to stay silent since we no doubt have nothing to complain about. But successful kids also have a lot more to lose than average offspring, making our fears go places you can’t even imagine.
For as long as Facebook has been around I have been posting there about my daughter’s accomplishments, her public appearances, and the magazine covers upon which her photo is plastered. I recall that for the first 5 years or so that I “shared’ her on social media, I was apologetic about it, telling my friends, family and connections on Facebook to “unfriend” me if I became annoying. I had to share and vent somewhere about it, and social media seemed a good place to do it as long as it was with people I knew. Fortunately, I was met with enthusiasm by them, telling me not to hide my “overwhelm” and to continue to post with pride each time she was mentioned in the press or appeared somewhere notable in print or on television.
One of the most gut-wrenching things I think about is — what would happen if this all disappeared tomorrow? It almost did once, and the pain I felt for my child was excruciating. Her first business sailed into glory and then faded in clear public view. She had never intended to become the CEO of a company of 350 people. She just never wanted to work for someone else, and this is where she landed because she has an incredible sense of focus and a huge work ethic despite her ADHD ways.
During that ride, however, she wrote her first book — an auto-biopic about her crooked, sometimes scary, and very unlikely road to success. And it became a New York Times best seller. Those of us who have written all our lives have to ask — what are the chances of this happening? The book, her persona and the all interviews she did created a huge following for her, but she was not without her critics as well. I was treated to a whirlwind book tour in New York and San Francisco complete with my daughter’s entourage of press people and assistants. I was in writer/mommy heaven. And Katie Couric actually wanted to meet ME. The press treated my baby girl kindly, but after a while, I discontinued wanting to see what anyone said about her. Many of their assumptions were wrong even if they were positive, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Then there was a TV series “loosely” based on her book. While it made her into a take-no-prisoners business woman, she was also portrayed as an uncaring, unfeeling person on a tear to be successful at the expense of everyone else. Truth be told, she was terrified about hiring her first employee, thinking she would be responsible for putting food on someone else’s table and luring her away from another job. She worried about overworking her and about being a bad boss as well, since no one had ever shown her how to run a business.
Again, I was treated to a magical day — one set high on a hill in San Francisco, where the show was being filmed. I met some of the actors and sat in a trailer with the writers and producers. I lunched at the restaurant “commissary” they had set up and it looked every bit like it does in Hollywood. But there was nothing I could do about the series portraying me as a deadbeat mom who abandoned her daughter at age 12 — an alcoholic two-bit actress who slept her way to the bottom. This is called “creative” non-fiction, since such an insecure yet driven character must have had a shitty parent somewhere along the way. As a writer, I understood the story line. As a friend and family member to others, they were outraged at the personification. But no matter. It’s all over now. And I can say I met some famous people and went to a Hollywood screening.
In my mind my daughter will always be the little troublemaker school teachers complained about. She could drive me to insanity when the “push-me-pull-you” mother-daughter mambo took over. And she will always be the child who stole my heart the moment she was born. She is generous to a fault and has honored both her parents often. I can ask no more than she never let all this go to her head, and so far it hasn’t.
Now in her mid-30s with me in my late 60s, our relationship has softened over the years. I have learned to stay silent when not asked for my opinion, whether it be about her life, her business or her future. We no longer get dramatic and that suits me just fine. It took time and tears and a lot of love to get here. But I find that the older I get, the more I fret. So I no longer have Google notifications set up to see mentions of her in the news. While my pride runneth over, I am just like any other mom, worried about what I may have done or said that was wrong as she was growing up and wondering if any of it gets discussed on a shrink’s couch.
And I would be just as proud if my baby girl had decided to be a teacher or worked in sales as long as she was happy and fulfilled. Bottom line? We do the best we can while we have them and have to leave the rest up to them. As for me, I worry and wonder about her even with lots of contact. Her life is very different from most others and the things a mom is supposed to help her grown daughter with are mostly not required of me. Her being in the public eye is something I have gotten used to, if that’s even possible. My daughter is doing her own life the only way she knows how. And I am just along for the ride, cheering from the bleachers.