The grandmothering clause

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in aging, menopause | 0 comments


Researchers have long attempted to unravel the reason that menopause exists and the role that the loss of reproduction plays in our evolution. Among the various theories that have been tossed around, grandmothering, first proposed in an article that appeared in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 1998, continues to maintain traction. This theory proposes that the lifespan of aging women is prolonged beyond reproduction to allow them to help provide for their daughter’s offspring and enhance the next generation’s fertility. This theory is further supported by a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2008 that suggested that women rapidly stop producing reproductive hormones around mid-life to reduce competition with younger females in the same family unit…in other words, a majority of women cease to have the ability to breed so that the next generation can step in. Evolutionary-wise, this hard-wiring was established to reduce the likelihood of reproductive conflict with younger females who might marry their sons.

Grandmothering, albeit not a legitimate term, is understood by just about every woman that I know. And it’s not surprising that grandmothers apparently play as much a role in our later years as perhaps they did in when we were children.

The photo accompanying this post is one that was taken of my grandmother, Doris Baum Scherer when she was about six or seven years old. Her resolute expression is striking, and she carried this resolution with her to her death. I think about my grandmother every single day.

What I remember most about her is her ability to overcome obstacles; she was never given the opportunity to attend college and yet her intelligence and smarts eventually led to numerous opportunities. During WWII she led the local Ladies Auxiliary to support the veterans and long before then, she taught herself to drive. And like her sister and mother, she was a sharp businesswoman. She provided substance and sustenance to my life, in particular, reminding me when I ventured out of the corporate world to become self employed, that I could do anything and be anything that I set my mind to. And while my path provided neither my mother nor her an opportunity to provide for my offspring, she embodied the tenets of the Grandmothering Clause; my grandmother was an expert at grandmothering.

Ironically, I have reached an age where many of my contemporaries have become or are becoming grandmothers; I bide them well in the grandmothering journey, a journey whose reach and influence are immeasurable. and, to my grandma? Thank you for your gift.





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