Becoming your mother. Effects and misconceptions of aging. A guest post by Cherry Woodburn

Posted by on Feb 4, 2011 in Inspiration, women's health | 25 comments

There are some days that the people in your circle introduce you to individuals who literally rock your world. When a colleague and friend suggested that Cherry Woodburn was a woman that I wanted to get to know better, she couldn’t have been more correct. Cherry is the founder of Borderless Thinking, a business that teaches women to ‘tame their inner shrew’ and do and become who they really want to be. What a message!

Cherry hits on some very important points in this post on becoming our mothers, on aging and on misconceptions. Denial? You bet I’m in it. Cherry’s post opened my eyes a lot wider.


About 3 or 4 months ago I lost my waist. I had it in the evening when I went to bed and when I woke up and put on a pair of my pants that are designed to be worn on a waist I discovered my waist was missing. Gone. I don’t know where it went. I searched the closets, trying on other pants thinking perhaps I’d accidentally left my waist behind, but nope, not there.

I’m sure you’ve had it happen: a set of keys, or reading glasses or a bookmark – you knew where they were the night before and since you didn’t leave the house, they still must be there yet you can’t find them in the morning. Familiar right? It’s happened to me too, but this was the first time it occurred with a body part.


Seriously, when it came to the thickening-of-the-waist that happens to women in middle age, it didn’t happen to me.  I was quite smug about it. I liked beating the system. Then, as I mentioned – without warning – several months ago I learned that not only did I not beat the matronly waist system, but I’d become my mother in the process.

“I’m going to be the exception.”

Growing up (which is happening every day of our lives so I don’t know why that expression applies only to our youth) when I spent time with “old” people I knew that some of the things they did were never going to happen to me:

  • I would never not want to drive at night. Now I understand why they preferred not to drive at night – your night vision changes as you age. I still drive at night but would prefer not to, at least when it’s rainy. But my night life also doesn’t start at 10 pm like it did in my 20s so it’s really not that big of a deal.
  • I’d never re-use aluminum foil like my mom did. You can safely place a large bet on what I’m doing these days with aluminum foil (and it’s not using it as a hat to communicate with aliens).
  • I would always make sure I understood what my kids work entailed. At some point my parents stopped asking me questions about my work, which had been teaching Statistical Process Control. Although they tried to understand it, without a frame of reference it made no sense to them. Now my younger  son is working with computers in areas that are far beyond how I use computers, with no frame of reference, no real understanding.
  • Saying things like my mother did: ” You’ll understand when you get older.” I particularly dislike this one so I rarely say it out loud but I must admit to thinking it.
  • Wearing muu-muus and flat shoes. I never, never thought I’d want to wear shapeless things and no cute high heels. But “you’ll see when you get older” that saying “never” ought to be avoided. When you lose your waist you find comfort, literally, in clothing with no binds.

Things I Had Wrong About Aging

The reason that I grapple with the fact that I’m 61 years old is because I haven’t eradicated the misconceptions I formed in my youth about what 61 meant. The misconceptions, in large part, come from a culture still obsessed with youth and perpetuated by the media and cosmetic industries.

Here are a few things I, in my youth, had wrong about the older generation(s).

  1. Older people curse. In fact I knew the word fuck long before it became the f-bomb; so when a group of kids increases the volume of their cursing when I walk by, they’re not shocking me.
  2. Old(er) people still want to have sex. [eww…] It’s extra heavenly now – no need for birth control, no kids to hear it or come into your room.
  3. Old(er) people still feel like they did in their 30s. It’s only our bodies that belie our age.
  4. Old(er) people still have active brains even if their experiences and opinions are different than younger – still menstruating – generations.
  5. Old(er) people use to be young. I know I found it hard to imagine. They/we rebelled against our parents, stayed out late, partied and more.

Stereotypes, labels and generational profiling is a trap that’s easy to fall into, but like racial profiling, it’s dangerous territory – too many mistakes can be made. “When we accept [generational/age] labels, we foster division. Each person, not generation, brings something important to the party. It’s our job to figure out what that is and grow from it.” Dawn Lennon, Business Fitness

About the author…Cherry Woodburn is a speaker, writer and facilitator on behalf of  women’s issues and the power of women sharing their stories for growth, healing, fun and community. Cherry blogs at Borderless Thinking and you can also find her on Twitter. Her mantra? Embracing the real you.


  1. 2-4-2011

    Cherry, I love this post. And, my friend, I’m right there with you – living every bit of it.

    Mwah to you. Bravo.


    • 2-4-2011

      Thanks Shelly. Glad you enjoyed it, but it is a bit weird living every bit of it, isn’t it?
      Mwah back cupcake, Cherry

  2. 2-4-2011

    Love this Cherry! OK, the lost waist and aluminum foil hat references cracked me up.

    Thank you for the reminder to continue to ask my son about his work. I would never have imagined that to go.

    Re: swearing, I’m way ahead of the game on that one. I guess I hit menopause in the 4th grade…hehe!

    I’ll have to pass this on to my ‘real’ mom.


    • 2-4-2011

      Thanks Linda, glad I could make you laugh. Let me know what your mom says about it. I’m curious to hear. Cherry

  3. 2-4-2011

    Cherry – this is wonderful – I have just begun to start having these conversations with myself 🙂 And I frequently look in the mirror (and at my hands) and actually SEE my mother. And though I’m nearing 40, I often forget – since my mind still believes I’m in my 20s (though slightly wiser)

    Well done!

    • 2-4-2011

      Thanks Danielle. I remember turning 40 and looking down at my legs and thinking – “Oh no, my knees look like my mother’s.” It hit me because I remember being a teenager and thinking how wrinkly my mom’s knees had looked. It’s a funny phenomenon. Cherry

  4. 2-4-2011

    OMG, your post made me laugh with a tear in my eye! My biggest fear is to turn into a caricature of a “old” person along with a label of irrelevance. If anything as we age, our crusade should be to not play into the hands of old stereotypes, rebelling against labels to then end. Then who’ll have the last laugh.

    Many thanks for quoting my post here and adding the link. That was really generous. ~Dawn

    • 2-4-2011

      You and I have talked about our fears about being labeled irrelevant in the work arena. That’s 1 of the reasons I’m driven to write about this and mentioning my age. I’m 61 and I’m relevant, don’t write me off as a doddering fool.
      You’re welcome for use of the quote – it’s a good one and a great ending for the post. Cherry

      • 2-6-2011

        OMG! (That’s young person speak for Oh My God! Hehehe)

        OMG! I finished a book last summer that my 62 year old dear friend gave me by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue is struggling with aging and her real fears of becoming irrelevant and Ann is struggling with forming an identity. One chapter by mother. The next by daughter. It’s really quite beautiful and I found myself relating to both. (I’m 38) The name of the book is “Traveling with Pomegranates” – a must read!

  5. 2-4-2011

    Cherry, this is a powerfully written, hard-hitting post… in fact, it hit me right between the eyes. I caught myself nodding along in agreement until you got to the part where we say, “That won’t happen to me.” I realized I’ve been judging my poor mom, 82, as she struggles with dignity-stripping infirmities daily. I think: When I am her age, I am never gonna whine like that. This post made me realize, I already do – every time I get a headache or hangnail. I can’t IMAGINE how whiny I will be at her age. I just hope my daughter reads this post!

    • 2-4-2011


      Since I have a high opinion of your writing, compliments from you about mine mean a lot. Thanks. I’m glad I was able to give you an “Aha” moment; as we both know they’re important to our growth. Cherry

  6. 2-4-2011

    Cherry, Thanks for this powerful and important post. I think when you’re young you have no compassion or understanding for aging. My mom just turned 90 and the loving person is still there, but her quality of life is bad and she becomes dependent on nurses etc for care. I think we underestimate the vulnerability of getting old.

    • 2-4-2011

      Unless you’re around old people on a consistent basis (and even then not sure) I don’t see how it’s possible to understand someone getting fragile or slowing down etc. It’s out of your realm of experience and understanding. Cherry

  7. 2-4-2011

    Love it! I’m still part of that menstruating generation, but I can already see the harbinger of things to come.

    “Because I said so.” has left my mouth more times than I can count…That was my, I will not say that item.

    There are others too, but I loved this post Cherry. Great job making a post about aging funny and entertaining as well as making good points.

    • 2-4-2011

      Thanks Daria. Although the extra estrogen I had pre-menopause was a nice boost to my skin I do NOT miss having a monthly period. BTW, when I was growing up, the expression used by some for menstruating was “fell off the roof”. Imagine some of the conversations:
      Why weren’t you at swimming yesterday?” “I fell off the roof.” Cherry

  8. 2-4-2011

    Love this! I think I’m skipping turning into my mom and going right to my grandma – I wear my flats proudly and don’t like to drive at night (although I still do, it’s just scary). Plus, I knit and crochet (the horror!!!)

    • 2-4-2011

      Oh Katie, now I’m concerned. 🙂
      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for stopping by to comment. Cherry

  9. 2-4-2011

    I love that one with skipping my mom and going right to my grandma(s), but then again, I don’t really identify with any of them. We could be from different planets, but I know it is just years/culture/education between us. I love(d) them dearly, but I insist on being myself and I laugh with joy when people say: ” You don’t look like a 54 year old!” Well, I don’t feel like that at all. But that fact (I hope) has less and less importance as we invent ourselves and our possibilities.

  10. 2-5-2011

    New to your site and loving it! Thanks for shining this particular light into the world 😉

    • 2-5-2011

      Thank you Aimee! I am thrilled to have had Cherry shine her light here. Hope to see you around these parts again!

  11. 2-5-2011

    Cherry, this post made me laugh and think at the same time. Several times a week I find myself doing and saying things that my mother would have done or said. That used to be a horrible thought, but now that she’s gone, it’s a way of remembering her and sharing a laugh. A few years ago I thought I wanted to keep on working at full speed until I dropped over in my 90’s. I’m now 62 and that concept is no longer appealing. Keep writing these wonderful posts!

  12. 2-6-2011

    AHHH! I LOVE this post! I am, ahem, of the non-menstruating group. I cannot BELIEVE that I can’t get those extra pounds off anymore (and I exercise and do Pliates, etc!). My bone scan showed bone loss! Even tho I exercise, take calcium, visualize all that stuff! AND IT STILL HAPPENED! Harumph!
    I have started to leave pots & pans in the sink at night (god I would NEVER do taht before!). But you it really doesnt matter!
    I work late as a therapist and even when I’m not working late we just leave the stuff there and clean up in the AM when there is more energy available.
    Anyway- can u tell this struck a personal cord in me??? LOLOL! Well, off to lay around and be HAPPY!

  13. 2-6-2011

    Cherry! This is a great post! I completely agree with the commenter that said “I hope my daughter reads this post.” I have a LONG time before I would have an adult daughter, but after working in the hospital setting a bit, the lack of compassion for the aging is disheartening. Thanks for the chuckle this morning- and a good reminder.

  14. 12-7-2011

    Cherry ~ Fabulous post! Every morning when I look in the mirror, as see more of my mother. And I hear her voice coming from my mouth more often than I’d like. In short, everything you say here resonates with me.
    Fabulous post. Fabulous you. 🙂

  15. 12-8-2011

    I may be late to this party (blog post), but I’m loving it non-the-less. When I was “young” I swore I’d never become my mother. Now I realize that I have started to become my mother and no matter how hard I slam on those brakes I just keep skidding into the next phase of my life…but you know what? It really ain’t that bad. It’s brought experience, wisdom, understanding at a level I wasn’t capable of when I was younger and new meaning to the statement…”We’re not getting Older, we’re just getting better”…and that’s a total truth.

Leave a Reply to Cherry Woodburn Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *