From Mother to Matriarch: making the transition
I’m a matriarch of a large and growing family. I love them all very much. More importantly, I like them all very much.
Our children and grandchildren were recently here for “Christmas in January.” Christmas in January has become a common theme in our family; it’s almost a tradition.
We laugh about celebrating Christmas mid-January because it happens every time we can’t find a date that works for everyone closer to Christmas, which is now almost every year.
Our three children live in three different cities and two different states; each is married and has children. Our grandchildren range from ages one to sixteen.
Traditionally we all get together around Christmas, spending a weekend at our house. We’ve downsized to a smaller home, so it’s small, crowded and wild when they are here.
The kids play. The adults visit. We eat good food. The main event is serving a dinner of only crab legs, then opening presents.
This year, when struggling to find a Christmas date when they gathered for my 60th birthday party, one of my daughters-in-law said, “We need to face the fact that we won’t always be able to get together for Christmas.”
Every adult in the room turned and said, “What?!” They agreed we will always get together.
The reality is this might not be true.
TIMES CHANGE. RELATIONSHIPS TRANSITION. AGING HAPPENS. My heart was filled with joy from their response though.
As a mother, I was fierce and protective. I was also overly structured and controlling. So, I should have known that who I was as a mother would not work if my family was going to stay connected as my children moved into adulthood.
As my children’s transition to adulthood was happening, I knew my parenting approach wasn’t working very well, but I wasn’t sure what was going sideways.
When I would voice my opinion about things, such as where they lived, how they dressed, or what they ate, it didn’t change their choice. It only caused them frustration and to distance themselves.
The transition from mother to matriarch was a steep learning curve, unexpectedly hard.
It took trial and error experiences to learn that both my job and the rules had changed.
In matriarchy, the state of being an older, powerful woman in a family, is marked by the birth of the first grandchild, then I’ve been transitioning from mother to matriarch for sixteen years, and I am still learning.
Today, I would say that BEING A MATRIARCH is the most BEAUTIFUL, FREEING, and ABUNDANT time of my life.
This stage of life has been the most CREATIVE and RICH and will probably last for forty more years.
A woman’s life is marked by three distinct stages; the beautiful and energetic maiden, the nurturing and loving mother, and the wise and strong matriarch.
In recent history, we have been fascinated by the maiden and the mother more than the matriarch,
This is so odd because A MATRIARCH CAN HAVE A VAST DEPTH OF BEAUTY in ways the maiden can’t, and THEY CAN LOVE WITH A GREATER RANGE AND COMPLEXITY than even a mother.
This is changing though. I see matriarchs around me who are impressive and influential. Who they are and how they show up makes an impact.
In my transition from mother to matriarch, there were several things I needed to LEARN and GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION to do before I could fully be a matriarch.
What I needed to learn
1. I needed to give myself permission to let the world take over where I left off.
One of the most freeing and challenging realizations as a matriarch is that as a mother of adult children, I DON’T GET A VOTE! In time I realized that I don’t even want a vote in what they choose in their lives.
Now I know now that my opinion is rarely needed or wanted.
The world is a university of learning that’s fairly safe and very effective. I’ve learned that THE WORLD WILL TEACH MY ADULT CHILDREN BETTER THAN I CAN.
When one of them makes a choice, the world gives them feedback. If they don’t like what they get, they can choose something different. Again, the world gives them feedback. It goes on and on.
This is an astounding interaction! The feedback is clear and unwavering.
When results are unexpected and unpleasant, they often talk about it. Today, they seem to enjoy sharing these experiences.
Now, when they share, I don’t blame or guilt them about their choices. t
There’s also no blaming or guilting towards me for what I did or didn’t do when they were growing up.
I have learned that my job is to love them, to listen to them, to have faith in them, and to have faith in the world.
Today, I have a much higher TOLERANCE FOR CHAOS and LETTING THINGS PLAY OUT. I enjoy watching them maneuver in their world.
If I weigh-in, I weigh in thoughtfully but infrequently.
You might be thinking, “What do you do when you are worried about them?” The answer is I love them and trust them to navigate their options
Or, “What do you do when they aren’t living up to their potential?” The answer is the same, I love them and trust them.
Or, “What do you do when you know you’re right about something?” The answer is almost the same, love them, trust them and maybe weigh in.
Mostly, I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping my problem-solving mother brain turned off and remembering that I’m a matriarch now. I let the world do what the world does. I find that the world does an almost perfect job for me which makes my life and my relationships so much easier and more joyful.
2. I needed to give myself permission to live a dynamic life and continue to create.
This took some work. I knew that one of the best gifts I could give to my children was to be happy. I AM HAPPY! IT’S A CHOICE, and I MAKE IT EVERYDAY!
I miss my children when I haven’t seen them for a while. But I remember that my job now is to design a life I love.
As a matriarch, I want to model a life that my children can look forward to once their children are grown. They seem to enjoy watching me make changes and find new interests.
I have done the heavy lifting of building a career and raising children. I’ve spent a lifetime studying human development. I have degrees and have done all that traditionally goes with that. That was my life as a mother.
I now have a private coaching practice where I take a limited number of clients. Coaching brings me joy. I learn as much from my clients as I give.
In creating and developing new ideas for professional and personal growth (like writing this article), I have thinking partner relationships that I learn and grow from.
I do yoga several times a week and work at taking care of my health.
For my new hobby, I have combined my love of walking and my love of world cultures. I started doing long, international walks of 100 plus miles. I do a walkabout a couple of times a year.
I have walked across Spain, England, and Scotland. I have walked in France, Italy, and Switzerland. This year I will do a solo walk in England and will also do a walk with my sisters and our husbands along the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey.
Developing friendships with women I respect and enjoy is another new interest. I didn’t have time for this when I was mothering. My friendships revolve around thinking, hiking, yoga, and travel.
It wouldn’t matter what hobbies I choose, or what new ideas I spend time developing. THE IMPORTANT IS THAT I’M CREATING and THINKING NEW THOUGHTS. I’m shifting from mother to matriarch, gracefully and consciously.
This transition requires me to stay in the world where I continuously learn and am challenged.
My children check in about once a week, and it’s nice to share something from my world that makes me happy. We visit about their world and sometimes make a plan to do an adventure together when it works out.
3. I needed to give myself permission to love and serve a larger community.
A matriarch has layers of experience that comes from life. As women age, she synthesizes the layers and layers of her life, and this becomes her source of strength, wisdom, and intuition.
A mother often models her parenting based on her perception of what good mothers do. Matriarchs have knowledge from doing, problem-solving, struggling, sacrificing, failing, succeeding, loving, and failing again.
The result of all of this, over time, is wisdom.
A true matriarch can only evolve from decades of living and still be standing strong, with life and love, still left to give.
Her wisdom isn’t drawn from heavy lifting and long hours. It’s the opposite. It comes from time to think. It takes her little physical effort to serve in influential ways.
Matriarchs have the capacity to challenge conventional wisdom, use their presence to sway perspectives, and bring social change.
Their love extends beyond human beings in their family structure. They’ve learned the value of all humanity.
They add value to whatever community they identify as theirs. This can be done in just small ways such as how they interact with other people. Or it can be done by undertaking big projects, like solving a community’s homeless issue.
I still work, have a growing family, and a very large extended clan, so I contribute to my larger community in a fairly minor way.
I sit on the board of a small non-profit that operators a yoga studio in my small, mining community of Elko, Nevada.
The studio’s mission is to bring holistic wellness to our members and community. The board is made up of focused, committed women.
The yoga studio provides community, a place to study yoga, and wellness workshops that wouldn’t be available to them otherwise.
What I have to offer is leadership. As the president of the board, I commit a few hours a week. It doesn’t seem like I have given very much, but after almost four years, the studio is maturing and contributing to our town.
It’s not required that a mother becomes a matriarch. It’s a conscious, ongoing project. A woman can have children, grow old, and never step into the role of a matriarch.
I’ve discovered that who I am and how I show up continues to influence my children and grandchildren. As I keep learning and developing, it gives them a different perspective of me and it’s a possible model for their future.
Over and over, I have seen women in my coaching practice who are excited and willing to transition from mother to matriarch, because it’s a beautiful way to contribute.
They know that if they continue to mother their adult children, as they mothered when their children were small, it will only result in decades of disconnect, loneliness, and frustration.
The transition to matriarch happens over time and with practice. MISTAKES ARE NOT FATAL. Children like to be in a relationship with their parents. And, they are willing to teach us if we pay attention.
The decades available to women to assume the role of the matriarch is underutilized by many middle-aged women. This is because the transition is confusing.
IT’S A PROCESS OF GIVING UP CONTROL IN EXCHANGE FOR INFLUENCE.
Becoming a strong, dynamic matriarch means changing how we parent. It requires making a conscious decision to show up every day not knowing our path but having a clear intention to evolve, create, and serve in new ways.
It’s a tough transition for both the parent and the child, it is a complicated dance. But it’s well worth it to have grandparents in my kids world!! I love this lesson to keep in mind as my own kids grow
Hi Laura, Thank you for taking the time to read the article and to respond. I so appreciate you supporting me in reposting it twice!
Oh, this is beautiful! I love the thoughts and ideas you’ve put out there in the world.
Thank you Kim. I so appreciate that you took the time to read the post.
Jamie – loved your article. I am now 65, getting ready to retire from working in a school library for 20 years and ready to move on. But I was very nervous about what my next life will bring. I have 3 grown boys who are now all married and one gorgeous grand son. Your article gave me a new direction. I was indeed trying to still “mother” them and it was not going well. They are spread out over the country and trying to get together for Christmas was a nightmare. They have new families. You made me realize I need to rethink my role and just settle in to loving and nurturing as a Matriarch. What a beautiful new role for me.
Thank you for sharing – I guess I should thank Sherry for sharing. New perspective was just what was needed.
I’m so happy that you found the article inspiring enough to make a change in how you see you role with your boys. I’m glad the article was helpful!
I can’t imagine that this part of life can be an easy transition. Even as a young mom I sometimes think about how life and relationships will evolve as the kids grow older and I think you have really outlined this role beautifully and thoughtfully. It is almost like reinventing yourself after dedicating your world to your children and you have modeled it well!
Thanks for your comments Jeanette. I appreciate that you read and comment. I love that the article attracted a few younger women.
I so enjoyed your post! I love that you said a woman becomes a matriarch when her first grandchild is born – for me, that is my eight year old grandson who was followed by two more grandsons and a granddaughter. I love being a grandmother and matriarch. You articulated some of the things I have learned and continue to learn including that the world is now teaching my adult children and that I need to trust that the lessons will be perfect for them. Thank you for the inspiration and validation.
Thank you for reading the article and responding. Your comments are valuable to me.
Thoroughly enjoyed your article Jamie. You’ve given me things to think about and I appreciate your perspective and information. I look forward to putting it into practice when duty calls. Thanks for taking the time to gather your thoughts and sharing them!
Sandy, I glad you found value in this. Thank you for taking the time to respond.