Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lessons Sandwiched Boomers Can Learn from Senator Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy was the last of the Kennedy brothers whose power, challenges and triumphs dominated a generation of politics. He was eulogized as an inspiration to his family and to those in public service. His body of work toward progressive causes in the U.S. Senate was proof that he understood how policies affected people. And he cared passionately about the people he served and worked tirelessly on their behalf.

Yet his life was marred by tragedy and scandal - from the assassination of brothers John and Robert and the earlier death of his brother Joseph in World War II, to the deadly Chappaquiddick crash. Despite his personal losses and failings, Teddy Kennedy persevered. He served alongside 10 United States presidents and was well known for his political insight. One of his greatest family contributions was as the patriarch to his brothers' children and grandchildren.

It was an emotional weekend for mourners as this legendary politician was put to rest. In his eulogy, Ted Kennedy Jr. shared what his father told him when he lost his leg to cancer as a young boy: "There's nothing you can't do." And, sandwiched boomers, the same applies to you. Log on all week for practical tips that may help you with the challenges you are facing. Clicking on the title of this post will take you to and an article about another icon, Tim Russert.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Mothers-in-Law Step Back

Our focus on the complex role of mother-in-law draws to a close today. We want to leave you with some more suggestions to keep in mind as you work on taking a step back - and taking lots of deep breaths as you do. Change is never easy but it may be especially difficult in this relationship given the complicated emotions and tensions that are percolating just below the surface. As issues boil up, everyone is affected - you, your grown children, their partners, your own spouse. While you can't control others' reactions, here are some tips to help you nourish yourself as a MIL as well as your family in flux.

There are some things you can't change, you just have to accept them. The relationship with your married children and their spouses may grow and develop as you all settle into your new roles, but you can only work on your behavior. Theirs may change but they may not. You can't make them act differently, even though you give it your best shot.

Remember, it's their life. It really is. Remember how it was with your own mother-in-law? You wanted to be your own person, make your own decisions and have her respect your choices. Why did you think it would be different with your daughter-in-law?

Be supportive of their partnership. Your children and their spouses have chosen to form bonds that, hopefully, will stand the test of time. Support them as they strengthen their connections. You may be tempted to turn to your child in your complaint about his or her spouse, but resist and don't do anything to come between them.

Don't rush things. Stay calm. Keep working on the relationship and it is likely that things will begin to change, even if ever so slightly. You have the wisdom and long-term perspective that you have cultivated over the years - draw on both as you patiently take one step at a time.

So, MILs, hang in there and don't give up. The challenge of creating a good relationship is well worth your efforts. And many mothers-in-law have found that as their children become confident parents themselves, the relationship changes for the better all around. Click on the post title to take you to an article on our website,, about how to get started making the changes you want, Sandwiched Boomers: 7 Tips on Fighting Inertia.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mothers-in-Law Change

Another reader of Nourishing Relationships has commented about how difficult the role of mother-in-law is: "As the mother of sons who adored bringing them up, I never realized until they married what difficult issues I'd face. I foolishly thought we would just widen our wonderful circle and they, my daughters-in-law, would join in the dance. I forgot, they had mothers and did not want another one! There's also the cultural piece, which takes a great deal of work and understanding when two cultures are involved. It is a real challenge, but we are working on it!"

Just as you have learned how to get along with your significant other over the years, you can try out new ways of responding to your son- and daughter-in-law. Some of the tools that have worked for you in other settings are similar to those that will help improve your relationship with your children-in-law. Here are some tips adapted to your role as a mother-in-law.

Learn more about your son- and daughter-in-law. Spend time with them hearing about, and even doing, what they like. This is even more important when they come from a different culture. When you are genuinely interested in them and their activities, you'll see them more as complete people rather than just in relation to you. And they'll be more likely to think about you positively.

Look at the issues from their perspective. This may help soothe your emotions when they don't see things as you do. Consider that there generally is more than one way of handling a situation and that your method isn't necessarily the only right one.

Focus on what you do like about your children-in-law rather than what you don't. What drew your child to fall in love and marry this person? Think about what he or she does to bring happiness to your child. What traits do you have in common with your son- or daughter-in-law? There are likely to be qualities you sincerely admire and respect in your DIL and SIL, if you allow yourself to brainstorm about them.

Choose your battles. When some difference of opinion is particularly important to you, you may decide to bring up your feelings and viewpoint for discussion. But don't feel you need to address every disagreement you have with your children and their spouses.

To review how you can be fair in communicating about your disputes, click on the title of this post to take you to our website, and our article, Boomer Couples: 5 Tips for Fighting Fair. And tune in tomorrow for more tips on enriching your relationship with your son- and daughter-in-law.

The oil paintings of women pictured on our blog this week were done by dear friend, Leslie Roth. To see more of her work, visit

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mother-in-Law's Tongue

Mother-in-Law's Tongue, with its sharp, blade-like leaves, has been described as "toxic." That is, when it's not being called by its other name, the Snake Plant. Wow, looks the plant world doesn't have a very good view of us mothers-in-law!

But we MILs know that most of the time we don't use our words to cut - we work hard to "hold our tongues" and defuse the situation. That's not always easy to do. We often hear from women who want to improve their relationships with daughters-in-law, but don't know how to do it. As Sally commented, "This sounds like a really helpful book for a relationship that is sometimes fraught with minefields. We all need help in negotiating paths like this!"

One of our readers asked for help in resolving some of the conflicts that come up with her son and daughter-in-law: "I hear what Susan is saying and I agree it would be good if I could act that way, but it's HARD to do. Any suggestions about how to put these ideas into play?"

Another reader described her situation: "When my son and his wife first stated dating and then married, we got along pretty well and I expected to have a close relationship with my daughter-in-law, but it has never materialized. I keep trying but it feels like there's a brick wall between us. What can I do?"

So how can we keep our words soft and steer the relationship toward a more positive outcome with our married children and their spouses? Here are a few tips to get you started in neutralizing the tension:

Recognize that you need to give up part of your former identity, particularly in relation to your son. Let go of your expectations about the relationship and that he’ll turn to you for the things he used to - consultation, validation, advice.

Acknowledge your feelings about these role changes. Accept that there is normal sadness about not being needed in the same ways you had been. Consider other feelings that may be in store - relief and a sense of freedom, excitement about new relationships.

Seek out other MILs and use them as a sounding board. These women can provide information, opinions and support. These three and a positive attitude are some of the coping strengths you will need as you redefine yourself as mother-in-law.

Tomorrow we'll be looking at some tools for you to use as you establish a fresh perspective and a new relationship with your children-in-law. Until then, you can click on the post title above to read our article, "What You Can Learn from President Obama's Mother-in-Law." It gives you useful tips about how to nourish your relationships with your son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mothers-in-Law Speak Up

We continue our series on your emerging role as a mother-in-law and questions you have about how to nourish your relationships with your children-in-law. Our readers commenting on the virtual book tour we hosted last week with Dr. Susan Lieberman found her words empowering as they set new directions in their relationships with their sons- and daughters-in-law.

Janet had been struggling with her in-law relationships for years and now had some new ideas about how to work on them; Sandy recognized that she could only change her behavior, not that of her children and children-in-law.

Susan's response to Janet and Sandy: THANK YOU! I did not come to this book as an "expert" but rather as a woman standing in a difficult place. I wrote the book I needed to read. I'm so grateful when others find it helpful. I can tell you that writing the book has helped me handle my own mother-in-law issues more skillfully. I can also, more abashedly, tell you that when you write the book and then find you are not following your own advice, you really feel like an idiot...but we all do the best we can -- including our daughters-in-law. I've been trying to sneak into my DIL's head to figure out why I trigger her as I do. Of course, I have no way of knowing if my thoughts are accurate, but my hunch is that my voice brings up something about her own parents' voices and her feelings about bending to their will. Maybe I'm making up nonsense, but since it helps me be more tolerant of behavior I find hurtful, I'm sticking to it.

A grandmother wrote that she was concerned about the way her grandchildren were being raised and didn't how whether to bring the subject up with her daughter and son-in-law.

Susan's response: Concerned Grandma presents a pickle...I'm pretty sure whatever you say is not going to be appreciated. That said, I know it is next to impossible to stay quiet if you think the children are being harmed. So, I have been thinking about this and have a couple thoughts:

1) Talk to other women, not only the ones who are most like you, and describe as neutrally as possible, the behavior that concerns you. Find out if others are as alarmed as you. If they are not, you might have to rethink your position.

2) Look for data, articles, books, etc that address the issue(s) that most concern you and present it as something to consider.

3) Make a date with your daughter. Tell her you are struggling and really don't know how to go forward. On the one hand, everything in you says, "Don't meddle," and on the other, everything in you says, "There is something we need to discuss." Ask her is she would be willing to have a discussion with you in which you both try to hear each other and not follow into a defensive posture. If she rebuffs this effort, you are going to have to back off.

4) Is there someone else in the family...a sibling or favorite aunt who could take up the cause on your behalf. My observation is that the more insecure our kids feel about their parenting skills...and the less skillful they are...the less able we are to speak. If you think this is serious enough, you may just have to speak out, but know that they may be a cost. Good luck on this one.

Once more, we thank Dr. Susan Lieberman for her reflections and personal insight into the role of mothers-in-law. Let us know how you enjoy her book, The Mother-in-Law's Manual.

For more tips on getting along with a daughter-in-law, click on the post title above to take you to our article, From Baby Boomer to Mother-in-Law: How to Play Your New Role. You can then explore our website,, for more of our articles with helpful pointers on how to improve your relationships with your family in flux.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

More Questions and Answers for Mothers-in-Law

Our readers have more probing questions for Susan Lieberman - and her answers have given us all a lot to think about. What feedback would you give to some of the mothers-in-law who have written in? How do you relate to your own daughters-in-law and sons-in-law? What seems to work for you? What doesn't?

Here are a few more issues that concern MILs:

One reader said she felt invisible and wanted to have more of a relationship with her married kids and their spouses. Another, Whitfield, wrote in that she'd been a MIL for over 20 years and still walked on eggs with her DIL, who didn't reach out to her.

Susan's response to "invisible" and Whitfield: Oh my, I so wish I had a magic wand that would give those of use who want more closeness with our children a simple way to find it. Of course, I don't. What to say to a question that so many women hold?

First, it may be that your children love you deeply but are simply lost in their own lives and that's the way it is for now. It may also be that while we think we are, well, terrific, our children see our behavior differently.

Is it possible to ask you son or daughter if there is something you are doing that pushes them away because sometimes you do feel there is a big distance. Could you ask what YOU can do that would be good for them...a terrific dinner sometimes with no help expected before or after, some errands, some gardening?

I don't know if you children have children but as someone noted earlier, grandchildren can open the door to more interaction. When my younger son had his first son, he called to say, "Mom, oh my god, I get it. You love me like I love him!"

Worst case, you have to find surrogate young friends who want what you can offer that your own child cannot appreciate.

Don't give up. Keep holding the possibility of a better relationship. Keep sending them loving thoughts and doing loving deeds, even if it seems like you are wasting energy.

Another reader asked if it was typical that her relationship was more with her grandkids than her children-in-law.

Susan's response: Is it typical that relationships change and even improve when there are grandchildren? YES. My observation is that our children see our loving their kids as an expression of our love for them -- and, often, love as well that we can help them out. Grandchildren also deflect attention away from the adults and soften potential conflicts.

You are lucky that your children value your contributions, and, in part, might it have something to do with your own tactfulness and willingness to let the parents set the rules?

I watch young people and their lives are so busy. If we lived at a faster pace than our parents, don't you think our kids are living still faster than we did? You are right that they do not always have so much time for us. My sons assure me that how much time they have for me is NO indication of how much they love me. I choose to believe them.

Again, our thanks to Susan Lieberman for sharing her wisdom about mothers-in-law. Do you have any mother-in-law stories you'd like to contribute here? We'll keep the lines open for MIL tales, good and bad. Just click on the comment link below or write us at and we'll bring your voice to the table. Remember, we're all in this together - working to nourish our relationships.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Mothers-In-Law: Your Questions and Answers

Yesterday and the day before, we hosted Susan Lieberman on our blog for a wide-ranging set of questions and answers. Susan invites women everywhere to join in the conversation about how mothers-in-law can foster healthy relationships with their married children and their spouses. In her book, The Mother-in-Law's Manual, she covers the full scope - from women’s expectations before their children marry to hopes about how their children will behave when their mothers are really old.

We had so many interesting questions and answers come in about this complex and emotional relationship. Here are some of the questions our readers raised and Susan's thoughtful answers. We will highlight more of them next week so stay tuned!

Vicki talked about getting along better with a DIL when she didn't have high expectations about the relationship. She wondered if that was the problem with her other DIL.

Susan's response: Yes, Vicki, that IS what I mean. We don't do this consciously, but we have filters that affect what we hear. When we expect, for example, to hear affection and enthusiasm and we don't, we feel a loss. When we expect nothing, what we hear is what we hear. I want to add something that has helped me in my relationships with my daughters-in-law. I decided that the expectations I needed to set were for me. I expect myself to be a certain kind of parent, to be loving and generous and forgiving...and I keep working on it regardless of what I get back. This helps me feel okay about me.

Another woman asked whether or not to talk to her son and DIL about her expectations.

Susan's response: What you say, I think, depends on what you feel. If you share your expectations, is it with the subterranean belief that they will then have some responsibility for addressing those expectations? There is, I believe, a question behind this question behind this question...which is why we imagine our children will share our expectations and why, almost all the time, we think they have some obligation to address them. This is a guess, but is it true that you are feeling some anger with your son and his wife? As long as that is there, my own advice would be to stay quiet until you can work your way through it. My own experience is that the anger always leaks through and discolors the conversation. If you are able to subdue the anger...and by the way, disappointment is different than anger...then there might be a time when you could address one expectation by acknowledging that you three see the world differently, noting what makes sense for you and asking for their help in figuring out how to make things work for all of you. If that goes well, down the line you might bring up something else, but, sad to say, we are no longer driving the ship.

Carolyn asked about calling her DIL on the phone when she didn't get any calls back from her.

Susan's response: Carolyn, I would love to chat with my daughter-in-laws more, but I, like you, do not have the sense it is a pleasure for them. When I know their husbands are traveling, I might call to see how it is going but otherwise, I seldom call. Instead, I send my gourmet cook DIL NYTimes food articles and recipes I think she will like and comment to my other DIL online about some of the great kids' pictures she posts. I make sure when I email my sons about family business that I copy their wives. I wish they were chattier and that my being chatty with them didn't make me feel inappropriate...but that isn't how it is.

Brenda wanted to know how to have fun with her DIL the same way she could with her son-in-law.

Susan's response: Brenda, the research shows that the MIL/DIL relationship is, in general, a tenser dyanamic than with sons-in-law. Add to that personality differences. And then add our own expectations of men and women...and there you have your situation...not so unusual.

Some thoughts about what you can do to make the situation with your daughter-in-law better: First, worry less. Can you get more comfortable in yourself when you are around her? Don't look for things that prove your negative thoughts about her.

Of course, we don't want to do or say things that hurt or harm, but how much time can we spend trying to suck up? Stick with that humor, even if no one else is easy. It is so hard, I know, not to feel comfortable with the people our children love. For me, I just keep telling myself that the game is not over.

Our thanks to Susan Lieberman for her input this week. Join us again next week here at Nourishing Relationships as we continue to chat about our complex role as mother-in-law. The discussion is always open here. What other issues that have been troubling you in your role as a mother-in-law? What do you think about Susan's answers?

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mother-In-Law Strategies for Healthy Relationships

We are happy to welcome Dr. Susan Lieberman back for more questions and answers about her book. In The Mother-In-Law’s Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships with Married Children, Susan uses the same strategy she found so helpful when her children were growing up - talking to other women going through the same experiences. She deals with all facets of the in-law relationship, including how to handle difficult family members, how to discuss what seems like impending disaster and how to approach our babies having babies.

We've posed some questions you might want to ask her if you came to one of her book signings. And feel free to send us in your own through the comment link below.

Nourishing Relationships: Some mothers-in-law have confided, "My child’s spouse shuts me out. How do I handle this?"

Susan: I wish we could stand on the balcony together and watch what is happening…whether there is something you are unintentionally doing that pushes a button, whether his or her behavior doesn’t seem so cold to others or whether, in fact, you are, indeed, getting the cold shoulder.

There isn’t one best response. In many cases, you might find some quiet moments with your own child and ask for advice – which is different than criticizing the partner. "You know, I don’t seem to be getting it just right with X, and I so want us to have an easy relationship. Could you give me some advice about how to do this better?"

Now, if you get the advice, all you can do is LISTEN. You can't get defensive, counter, or argue. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Maybe you can talk directly to your in-law, but you have to have enough comfort to feel centered and relaxed to this. If you are angry, hurt or in any other way off balance, these conversations are more difficult. The best approach is to ask questions, ask advice, not make statements.

It is possible that others in the family can offer advice – but then you have to take it…have to consider what you are being told and try out the suggestions and see how they work.

And, in some cases, we may have to make do with a relationship that is less than we wish. Here is what I discovered for myself. When I have judgments about my daughters-in-law, they pick up the vibrations. What I have to change is my own attitude, not theirs. I have to be the person I want them to be, treating others with the same respect and affection I want for myself and hope for the best. How things are in the beginning does not mean that is how they will always be.

One last comment: no matter what you think or feel, do NOT discuss this with your married child. This is the person he or she chose to marry. NEVER expect your child to chose between you and a spouse because if you raised the child well, the choice will be the spouse. Keep believing the relationship will get better, keep being a good, kind, uncritical person and there is a chance, in time, things will thaw.

Nourishing Relationships: Other MIL's have said, "I like the person my son married but she is so messy. Her house is always chaotic. My son works so hard and she doesn’t even tend to his laundry."

Susan: This is NOT your problem. Your son (or it could just as easily be a daughter) is now a grown up. If he doesn't like the way the house or laundry is managed, it is his job to discuss it and work something out. Being neat is easy for some of us, and we are likely to think it should be easy for everyone. And what is important to us is not necessarily so important to others.

More than one daughter-in-law told me that when her mother-in-law – or her mother – comes and starts picking things up and making neat, it doesn't feel like help, it feels like a rebuke. So we get to keep our houses however we want and our children and their partners get to keep theirs as they wish. And, no, you may not say, "But my child didn't grow up that way…" That was then and this is now.

Instead of focusing on what isn't right by your values, think about what really works for this couple and look for the good. If you can't find any, again, I am so sorry to say but the problem is yours.

Nourishing Relationships: Your book is called The Mother-in-Law's Manual. Is it just for mothers-in-law?

Susan: I like this question because my answer has happily been changed a lot since the book came out in May. When I wrote it, I thought my audience was just mothers-in-law. However, to my surprise, I am being told it works well for a broader audience. A woman emailed and said, "If you substitute 'step-parent' every place you have 'mother-in-law,' this book works perfectly."

Many young people have said the book helped them understand their parents and gave them a much healthier perspective. And an acquaintance who is neither a mother or mother-in-law, called to say the book was really useful in sorting through her own family dynamics.

My favorite bit of praise – and I know this might sound like boasting but it so delighted me -- came from a man I have worked with in Missouri on things completely unrelated to this book, the father of four teens, who must have bought the book out of some kindness. "Susan, I read the whole darn book. You have no idea how unusual that is for me. And, I learned stuff." That, for me, was really delicious.

Another great comment was the woman who said, "This is the only time I found a how- to book that reads like a novel."

I'm not sure, in fact, that this is a how-to book. It's a rumination on my own experiences abetted by the best advice of scores of women I interviewed. It isn't me saying, "Do this." Rather it's me saying, "Here's the corner I found myself in and here's what I have discovered about how I might get out."

Nourishing Relationships: Can you suggest any additional reading for MILs?

Susan: When I started to write this book, I couldn't find the books I needed but I now can recommend two other books that might be good collateral reading. I loved Deborah Tannen's You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. Her insights about mothers and daughters are, I think, very helpful in understanding the tensions between women and between women and men. And a new book by Terri Apter, a British psychologist, What Do You Want from Me? Learning to Get Along with In-Laws also looks at the mother-in-law relationship. It is more oriented towards human dynamics, less personal than The Mother-in-Law's Manual, less informal, but I think the two books complement one another well.

Nourishing Relationships: Thanks, Susan Lieberman for joining us. We have gained so much from your wisdom. Readers, this is just some of the helpful information Susan has compiled for you in her book. Click on the post title above if you want to get a copy for yourself. And keep your questions coming - we'll highlight Susan's answers tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Mother-in-Law's Manual

Today we welcome Susan Lieberman, Ph.D. for a Virtual Book. We found her book, The Mother-in-Law's Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships with Married Children, to be so chock full of good information that we have asked her to stay on with us for two days, so send in your comments and questions. We'll highlight them again on Friday with her answers.

When her boys married, Susan had no idea that there was an entire new learning curve waiting just around the corner. She had expected parenting to be demanding, but it never occurred to her to think becoming a mother-in-law would bring its own challenges. Where was Dr. Spock on this stage of development?

Nourishing Relationships: Welcome, Susan. Being mothers-in-law ourselves, we know it can be a complex relationship. How did you come to write a book about mothers-in-law?

Susan: I always assumed that when our terrific sons met women they loved, we would love them as well. And beyond that, I also assumed those women would consider me a bonus. Honestly…I was quite surprised when it didn't happen that way. At first, I wanted to blame the wife, and then I came to my senses and realized that making this work was my work to do.

I thought I was done with parenting when the kids grew up. Now I see this mother-in-law gig as the last act of parenting…but Spock and Brazelton and those other parenting gurus stopped too soon. I wrote this book to figure out what I needed to learn to get the good relationships I want.

Nourishing Relationships: What is the most important thing you learned?

Susan: The most important thing, I came to see, is that the fewer expectations we have, the fewer disappointments we will have. And if we think we have no expectations, look again. Odds are they are there, hidden just below the surface.

Nourishing Relationships: Why is this mother-in-law stuff so difficult? MILs didn't expect tensions and yet they are there.

Susan: There isn't one reason, of course, but here is a cause that I think affects many of us. If we have a job at work and our employer decides to shift us to another role, he or she calls us in, and, perhaps, says something like this: "Thanks for doing X all these years. You have done a great job. But now we want you to do Y."

You might say, "But I really like doing X and would love to continue."

Your boss says, "I am glad you have been happy, but from now we really need you to do Y and we know you will do that successfully as well. Such and Such will be taking over X."

So you leave the office and it quite clear that you have been reassigned. But nobody calls us mothers in and says, 'You have been a great leading lady for a couple of decades but you are no longer going to play the role of leading lady. You have been downsized and now you have a character actor part.'

Maybe it took us quite a while to get that leading lady role down. But now we are good at it. We like it. And the replacement…it's possible she or he is young and green and not nearly as adept as we. Nonetheless, we have a new script, a new place to stand on the stage. This is tough, and many mothers don’t get the message. They keep reading from the old script and the new lead doesn't like it.

Another reason has to do with type and temperament. It's natural to enjoy people who are like us, make meaning the way we do, respond similarly. New people in the family can be different. Sometimes, we think that's "wrong" or hurtful when it's just different.

For example, I'm an extrovert. I like to talk over what is on my mind. Both of my daughters-in-law are introverts. It is not in their nature to pick up the phone and call to chat. This is painful for me…but it is about ME not about THEM and expecting it is one of those expectations that will lead to disappointment.

Nourishing Relationships: We presume you interviewed women who had good relationship with their married children and their partners. Is there something about these people you can tell us?

Susan: Such a good question. These women said things like,
"I got to lead my life and now they get to lead theirs."
"I don’t always agree with their choices but know I didn't want interference and I'm sure they don't either."
"I want them to be happy and have good lives, but I've done my part. Now it is up to them."

Nourishing Relationships: Thanks for your candor and insight, Susan. We look forward to carrying on this discussion tomorrow. If you'd like more information about her book, click on the title of the post. And, readers, send in your questions and comments for Susan.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You as a Mother-in-Law

Tomorrow we welcome Dr. Susan Lieberman to our blog for a Virtual Book Tour highlighting her book, The Mother-in-Law's Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships with Married Children. Please come with your questions and comments for her. She has graciously and generously agreed to be available both Thursday and Friday of this week to give you some answers. So think about what concerns you in your relationships as a MIL and prepare to pick Susan's brain this week.

In the meantime, you can find some articles about improving the relationships with your children-in-law on our website, Click on the post title above to take you to our article about getting along better with a daughter-in-law, From Baby Boomer to Mother-in-Law: How to Play Your New Role. And, once you are on our website, feel free to explore other sections of our Nourishing Relationships article archives. An article you will find in the Expanding Family article archives, What You Can Learn from President Obama's Mother-in-Law, focuses on relationships with sons-in-law.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Are You Sandwiched Between Two Generations?

We've received some interesting comments from other Sandwiched Boomers out there and want to share them with you. Please let us all know how the issues raised by these women resonate with you.

One website reader is coping with her family in flux as well as her career - and just can't seem to find the time to nourish herself. She told us:

"I'm trying to figure out how to take care of myself while I'm juggling the responsibilities of elder care and saving the family business. I am at my best when I have a positive attitude."

Mom2Peach wrote in to tell her own unusual story on our blog:

"I often feel like I'm adrift in a small boat on rough seas because so much of the "sandwich generation" support resources don't really feel like they're targeted to me. I recently turned 41 (although I feel every minute of those 41 years some days, I still consider myself to be pretty youthful), and my first child just turned 2. I know there are a lot of women out there in a similar demographic group, but my parents were 41 when I was born. My father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had to give up his driver's license (and my mother never had one), and I'm trying to help out best I can while working full time and raising my son. And occasionally be a wife to my husband, who is struggling to keep his business afloat in a bad economy. And occasionally be there for my friends. And, more rarely, take care of myself.

"Many days, I feel like I've got nothing left. I do appreciate that many people coping with caring for older parents are frustrated because they thought they were finally going to get their lives back after their children went away to school, but I don't have an empty nest. I'm still at the point where I'm trying to enjoy all of my little boy's firsts. He doesn't understand when Daddy tells him that Mommy won't be home to read him bedtime stories because she's off taking care of Grammy and Grampy; all he knows is that Mommy is MIA.

"I recently started blogging as a way of connecting with other men and women in similar shoes. I know I'm not alone in my situation, so I keep hoping someone will stumble upon my blog and see themselves in some of my posts."

If you're also having a hard time finding the energy to take care of yourself, click on the title above to read our article, How to Nourish the Sandwich that is You. It gives you tips about setting aside time to nurture yourself.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Your Thoughts About Divorce

Visitors to our website,, know that we offer a free monthly newsletter, Stepping Stones. It's easy to subscribe - click on this post title to take you to the "Free Newsletter" section of our website where you can enter your email address. Earlier this week we sent out this month's Stepping Stones newsletter. The August issue, #69, highlights some steps you can take to avoid a slide toward divorce. If you didn't receive it, let us know and we'll email one to you.

We focused this issue of Stepping Stones on divorce since we have heard from so many women who are dealing with separation and divorce. Here's just a sampling of their concerns:

"I'm about to venture into a divorce and I'm very scared of the idea of being alone and maybe starting over again. I'm going to a therapist to talk out my feelings."

"My husband left me after 17 years of marriage, alone, confused and afflicted with herpes type 1 for almost 20 years, which I contracted from him. I'm trying not to think too much or too hard, keeping myself busy at work and home so I don't have time to dwell on my separation, grateful for family and good friends who care and a job I truly love doing but still missing him every day." 

"After 18 yrs of marriage that is ending due to infidelity, I am concerned for my future relationships and my children's future relationships."

"After 26 years of marriage, my husband requested a separation. Shortly after this I was laid off from my job of 18 years. (I am 60 years old). It has been two years and I have not been able to find another position and my divorce case has become very difficult and very expensive. In addition I have to travel a long distance for the court appearances. My belongings are still in the house also. I am living with my elderly mother. Divorce has never taken place in my family before and does not take place in the community where I live very often. I really have no one to talk to. It is my faith that carries me through."

"I'm a survivor of marital abuse and have now found myself in divorce. This year I start the process. I'm concerned about staying strong emotionally."

"I caught my cheating husband and now need to move on with the separation. I'm trying to cope by being positive, but still find it difficult to move past the hurt by my husband."

Do you have any thoughts you want to share about divorce - or any other issue? Let us hear from you. It's easy to express yourself: go to "Comments" below and leave a note or just email us at We're waiting to hear from you!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Your Voices

We hear from women facing difference kinds of challenges every day - personal, family, career. Here's a sample of some of the kinds of issues they are confronting. How about you? What are your concerns? What helps you cope?

One reader is surprised by how fast time has changed her from the young woman she once was:

"I don't like to look in the mirror. Though I feel the same inside, I am shocked by how old and frumpy I appear in pictures with my children and grandchildren. How do I begin to face these inevitable physical changes? I'm only in my 50's. I never thought I'd be facing these issues at this age. I am just beginning this transition and am fighting all the way. When did my face change so much while I wasn't looking? I have older friends who think I'm being foolish. Their attitude is, "that's the way it goes, accept it!" But I'm not ready to yet. I have considered counseling to find a way to accept aging. I'm looking for a good book on the subject of adjusting to the physical changes of the 50's and beyond."

Another reader has been dealing with her grief at the loss of her husband and has discovered a few ways to help lift some of her pain:

"I am grieving the death of my husband and soul-mate of 32 years who passed away last year after being diagnosed with cancer just 3 months earlier. We were also partners in our business for the past 20 years, and I am now having trouble maintaining enthusiasm for it. My view of the future right now is primarily focused on my 4-year-old grandson, plus continuing to help others in any way I can. I am a strong survivor, but at 63, I am having trouble re-establishing my sense of identity and perspective as a single person. My best therapy is spending quality time with my 4-year-old grandson! I have attended grief classes and continue to have meaningful communication with understanding friends. I begin and end each day by cultivating a spirit of gratitude, and I release a great deal of grief through journaling. I devote much of my time assisting a blind elderly aunt, and enjoy writing to friends and family who need moral support. I have planned to begin a fitness program as a way to maintain both my physical and emotional health, but haven't followed through as yet." 

Another is focused on her career and how she is coping with menopause:

"I wonder if my thoughts of a career change are driven by my perimenopause. I tell myself I shouldn't fear going through financial changes because of changes I've planned in my career direction. I'm consulting with career counselor and connecting with colleagues and friends to get support, job information, and relaxation. I think about how I can take care of perimenopause and provide support to other women going through the same journey. I use yoga and meditation to start my day right and have regular massages." 

What kinds of issues are challenging you? Do you have any words of support for your sisters out there? Let us hear from you. You can express your thoughts to us several ways: go to "Comments" below and leave a note, anonymously if you prefer; or click on the post title above to take you to the "About You" section of our website,, where you can write as much as you want; or just email us at We're waiting to hear from you!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meryl Streep Tapped into her Creativity - how can you?

The Oscar buzz for Meryl Streep began a few weeks before her latest film, Julie and Julia, opened. And when I saw it, I knew why. Streep, 60, who has been nominated for an Oscar 15 times since 1979 and won it twice, plays the legendary chef and cookbook writer Julia Child. The movie, co-starring Amy Adams and directed by Nora Ephron, is based on a best-selling memoir by Julie Powell that began as a blog and became an international bestseller.

The tagline for the film is 'Passion. Ambition. Butter. Do You Have What It Takes?' Ask yourself that question. If your answer is 'yes,' this blog is a safe place to start. And you can begin by sharing your passion for photography or writing.

What follows is what appeared in the July edition of Stepping Stones, our monthly newsletter:

"Been to our blog lately? It's more colorful now that we've added pictures and videos to our posts. Look back over the past few weeks and you'll see what we mean. We want to include you, so we're opening up blogging at to our readers.

Please share a favorite picture from your staycation or vacation and tell us why it is important to you. Email your picture, as a jpg file, no larger than 4 MB, to The photos and comments we select will be posted on the blog in September."

Meryl Streep has been tapping into her creativity for years now. And look where it's taken her. Give it a try. Scroll to the bottom of this post, click on comments and tell your story. Or email your pictures to We can't wait to see what you send in.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Susan Boyle Found her Voice, Literally - how can you?

Susan Boyle, the T.V. sensation from Britain has Talent, was shy, portly, middle-aged, nonthreatening - the classic underdog. It happens to lots of people all the time. Who hasn't been influenced by early memories of feeling misrepresented or misunderstood? Perhaps you can personally relate to that.

Boyle performed well in the final competition - but didn't win. And afterwards she was hospitalized with emotional exhaustion. But she came out the other end with her sense of humor intact and even more confident.

Take a lesson from Susan Boyle.

Focus on your values and strengths that can lead to personal success.
Look for a role model whose character inspires you to follow your dreams.
Let your creativity run wild and see yourself from a different perspective.
Begin the process of change and your positive experiences will provide the incentive to continue.

You may find there's stumbling blocks along the way, but keep going. Focus inward and don't be swayed by the attitude of others. Pay attention only to what you're trying to accomplish. And continue to access the internal strength and confidence to move forward on your own steam.

Want more information to help you get started? Clicking on the title of this post will take you to and an article about Tim Russert as a role model for positive character traits.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Judge Sonia Sotomayor Stepped out of the Box - how can you?

Federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor rose to the top of the legal profession. And she made history when the Senate confirmed her as the nation's third female and first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. She was sworn in over the weekend.

This capped an extraordinary rise from humble beginnings. She was born in the Bronx and grew up in a public housing project. Her father died when she was 9 and her mother, whom Sotomayor described as her biggest inspiration, worked six days a week to care for the family. Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to attend Yale Law School.

Sotomayor stepped out of the box, and so can you.

Think of something you've always wanted to do.
Let go of your fear as you evaluate your strengths and resources.
Set a goal, make a plan and begin to take small steps toward it.
Work at your own pace, have realistic expectations and never give up.
Stay motivated to grow your skills and turn your dreams into reality.

Granted, deciding to initiate change is not always easy. Don't make it harder on yourself by trying to create the perfect situation - this video is a good example of that! Want more support to get you going? Click on the title of this post to read an article about the politics of change.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Your Personal Health Plan: 10 Tips for Self-fullness

The proposed national healthcare bill is sparking discussion across the country. Members of Congress are finding vocal constituents at town hall meetings in their districts. Is it a real grass roots protest or astroturf? When AARP representatives prematurely end a meeting because senior citizen members there challenge AARP support of the bill, frustrations grow on both sides. And when the White House posts a blog encouraging citizens to report "fishy" information about the proposed health plan, the controversy widens.

What can you do? Learn more about the House health bill yourself, ask questions and come to your own conclusions. In the meantime, decide on a personal health plan to improve your wellness every day. Our video for today includes the final two of our ten tips for increasing self-fullness. Feel free to begin with any of the tips you like - there's no deductible or co-pay involved.

Click on the post title to take you to our website, and the full article, Top Ten Self-fullness Tips for Sandwiched Women in our Nourishing Relationships archives. We invite you to browse around our site and blog, where you will find articles and information to help you care for your family and still nourish yourself at the same time.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Your Personal Health Plan Sets Reasonable Standards

No matter what age women have attained, many still act the part of the 'good girl,' responding to the needs of others first. It's fitting that these multitasking women are called the Sandwich Generation - since a sandwich often means a quick bite to eat on the run for those who don't have the time for a sit-down meal.

Why not begin to take more time nourishing youself? Instead of trying to live up to unrealistic expectations - yours or others - draft a set of realistic, reasonable, achievable standards. You'll feel less stressed when you do. Today's video will help you set up attainable goals as part of your personal health and wellness plan.

Are you feeling like a Sandwiched Boomer, with demands being made by your children and parents simultaneously? For some help in taking better care of yourself, click on the title of the post. It takes you to our article, How to Nourish the Sandwich That is You on our website, And use the comment link below to let us know how you are doing.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Your Personal Health Plan Relies on Your Social Network

Women traditionally turn to friends when they need help coping - both with daily hassles and with more serious hardships. Study after study has confirmed what most women already know - friendships are good for your health. The Nurses Health Study indicated that the greater the number of friends in your network, the more healthful and joyful a life you lead. The MacArthur Foundation found that social support helps women cope with difficult times. Shelley Taylor and her colleagues at UCLA determined that befriending other women helps women live longer and more satisfying lives.

When you're setting up your personal health plan, be sure to set aside time to spend with your friends. Consider nurturing your friendships like a form of preventative medicine - and you don't even need a prescription. Isn't an afternoon with friends more fun than a trip to the doctors, easier to swallow than pills and not hurtful like a shot? So set a date and put it on your appointment calendar - you'll feel better when you do.

To read more about the importance of friendships, click on the title of this post. You will be connected with our website, and an article in our Nourishing Relationships archive, Boomer Women and Friendship: The Gift You Give Yourself.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Your Personal Health Plan Reduces Your Stress

The proposed national healthcare bill remains in the news as more town meetings are set up to discuss the details. The latest poll by the Pew Research Center indicates Americans are interested in the issue but currently more of them oppose the legislation than support it, 44% to 38%.

Whatever your stance on the bill being drafted by Congress, you can develop your own personal health plan that will ensure a healthier lifestyle for you. With the economy continuing to stall and family responsibilities growing, your stress levels may be climbing, especially if you are a sandwiched boomer. Today's video segment gives you some tips on how to reduce the stress by increasing your self-fullness.

If you would like more information about transforming roadblocks in your life into building blocks for a healthier lifestyle, click on the title of this post. It links you to our archives at our website,, and the article, How to Turn a Crisis into a Challenge.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Your Personal Health Plan Begins with a Change

With members of the House on their August recess and Senators soon to follow, politicians are returning home to hear the opinions of the American people on the proposed national health care plan.

Because one-half of the funding for the trillion-dollar plan is set to come from reductions in the Medicare program, senior citizens are worried about losing their physicians, their benefits and their medical autonomy. Employees are worried about losing their private insurance as employers consider dropping private plans and moving to the public option. Small business owners are worried about how to pay for insurance for part-time workers or let them go. On the other hand, the unemployed and uninsured are worried about how they will pay their medical bills if they don't have a government plan. And we're all worried about the increasing national debt and the likelihood of higher taxes.

What to do with all this worry? Educate yourself about the plan - learn what it will mean to you and your family. Then you can express your opinions to your representatives. Let them know your thoughts, be they pro or con.

And, in the meantime, develop your own personal health plan to help deal with the challenges you face everyday in nourishing yourself and your family-in-flux. All this week you'll find video tips on our blog giving you suggestions for improving your coping skills and your health - mental and physical. Try them out and let us know what works for you.

It's always hard to get started in making a change, even one that will help you take better care of yourself. If you want to give yourself a jump-start, click on the post title. It links you to our website, and our article there, Sandwiched Boomers: 7 Tips on Fighting Inertia.

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