Are You Closer to Being Glenn Close or Glenn Close’s Mother?
By Jacey Eckhart
One of the dangers of having kids and a career is someday they will look upon ye works and judge ye harshly. I forgot that part was coming. When Glenn Close won the 2019 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture for The Wife, she got a standing ovation when she reflected on the life of her mother.
“I’m thinking of my mom who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. And in her 80s she said to me, ‘I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything,’” she told the audience.
Close went on to say even though women are expected to be nurturers, we are still supposed to find personal fulfillment. “We have to follow our dreams,” Close said. “We have to say, ‘I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.’”
The audience got to their feet, tearful over the assertion of deserved independence.
I, of course, was still stuck on the whole mom thing.
For one, I’m pretty sure if you give birth to a child who grows up to win three Tony Awards, three Emmys, and three Golden Globes and is nominated six times for an Oscar, whatever you did is going to seem kind of insignificant in comparison. It is paralyzing to compare our own accomplishments to those of other people. Which is why I do it every day.
For two, I’m worried it still seems like we are all going to be judged as either a Glenn Close or Glenn Close’s mother, (whose name, BTW, was Bettine, an animal lover who has a gorilla named after her at the Bronx Zoo). Either you had a stunning, glorious, award-winning career, or you are a cautionary tale in a housecoat forever fetching Archie a beer.
Which is damn silly. For every Glenn Close in the world, there are eight billion people who are not Glenn Close. Or Glenn Close’s mother. Public accomplishments are lovely things. Please, bring on the Oscar. But being a superlative, being able to point to some giant mound of accomplishments, is not really what life is made of for most people.
The real accomplishment turns out to be the bazillion negotiations women and men go through to make a marriage and a family work. It ain’t easy. We each are who we are and we need what we need. Expect this to be in conflict with what everyone else needs. Getting everyone in a family what they need at the same time is the ultimate Sudoku.
Bettine Close’s generation, the Greatest Generation, took the societal shortcut of making whatever the mom wanted always less important. That did not work out so well and led to a lot of bra burning.
Our way has its own problems. Glenn Close is so right when she says to women, “We have to say, ‘I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.”’
Because, yes, we women have to say that to make this work. We must say it out loud. To our families. We own our ambitions or we are owned by them. When I was writing my first book, my husband, my teenage daughter, and I all had to work together to figure out where the time would come from to write. There were tears. Brad was not the only one who cried. But my family could see I needed my turn, too. And I ran with it.
We get so distracted every day by stories of people accomplishing much more than we do. We forget the goal is not to become a Glenn Close or Glenn Close’s mother. The goal is to get Close and then to get Closer. To look at the members of our family as if each of their ambitions were necessary to our own survival and to figure out how we can all move forward with it together.
In the end, the successful life is not usually met with a standing ovation from strangers. The successful life ends with a family circling close and then closer, clinging to each other for dear life for years and years and years to come.