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MarleneAndEstherHug Closeup mother daughter articleMother-Daughter Relationships May Evolve, Yet Love Always Remains

The satirical author Erma Bombeck once said, “When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?’ it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.”

It’s true that mother-daughter relationships can be multi-layered and often complex, especially as they evolve and both mother and child get older. But, the bits of wisdom that moms can impart and their cherished memories are always worth preserving.

“What tends to happen to a lot of women is that they become part of the ‘sandwich generation,’” says Susan Harris, CEO at The Oscar & Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset.

“While dealing with their children and tending to their needs, a daughter finds herself doing the exact same thing at the same time for an aging mother.”a

With experience in the field of aging for about 30 years, Harris says she has seen many different kinds of mother-daughter relationships.

“Some are very harmonious and some are very rocky. To those experiencing rocky relationships, take a step back and remember that as your mother is aging, she is also desperately fighting to hold on to everything that is hers. Her aging doesn’t mean that as a daughter you have to become superwoman.”

Marlene Smith, who has an especially close relationship with her 81-year-old mother, Esther Rochman, can relate to how the mother-daughter relationship evolves over time.

Esther has been a resident at Martin & Edith Stein Assisted Living in Somerset, which is part of the Wilf Campus for Senior Living, for nearly three years.

“She feels so close to me that she can’t speak with me enough through the day,” says Marlene, adding that mom checks in with her in the morning, around dinnertime and later just to say ‘goodnight’.

“We grew up in an apartment building in Brooklyn and we were both emotionally and physically close. Mom guided me through all of my drama growing up, during my life as I am part of a married couple, and as she has grandchildren. She was fortunate to have spent 50 years with her husband,” she shares.

After her father died in 2010, Marlene’s mother was alone in her Brooklyn apartment coping with lifelong mobility problems that were worsening and making life harder to cope with. Employed in the senior healthcare industry, Marlene knew it was time to discuss the idea of moving her mom into a senior living community.

“Since mom has been at Stein, it’s given us all peace of mind. She is one of the most prominent members of the Yiddish Club and appreciates the cultural and traditional Jewish activities there and has adjusted well. She looks forward to participating in all of the activities that go on through the course of the day,” relates Marlene.

Besides their daily phone calls, Marlene and her mom share special Sunday visits when entertainment programs are held at Stein.

“She loves having me there to share that time with her and to be by her side. And, I am happy to return all of the favors she has done for me through my life. I make her doctors’ appointments and go to them with her.”

All of her mother’s pearls of wisdom have impacted Marlene, but preserving her mother’s memories is especially important as her mother inherited her father’s gift of writing and is an accomplished poet whose works touch on important political events and family celebrations. Those writings will be kept and passed on through the generations.

“Mom has taught us that it is important to take care of your family and to always come together for life’s milestones. Her devotion to her children is something special and that is something she has taught us by example.”

There are plenty of ways that daughters can preserve their mothers’ memories and stories for the enjoyment and pride of generations to come:

  • Encourage your mother to keep a small journal to jot down the memories that mean the most to her. If she is not able to do so, maintain your own journal that you can pull out to write down her favorite anecdotes or pieces of advice;
  • Spend an afternoon with your mother, sorting through cherished photographs and mementos. Use those items to design a collage or scrapbook that you can both reflect on and add to as the days go by;
  • Turn your mom into a celebrity worthy of being interviewed on video or audio tape. Just the sound of your mom’s voice telling a story from the past or the expressions she uses can make a special keepsake that can be played over and over again;
  • Pick up a copy of “A Mother’s Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words,” which asks poignant questions of your mother about key events and memories that have shaped her through the years. Re-reading it together will take you on an unforgettable journey.

Harris notes that storytelling is an important way for mothers to keep their memories alive and pass them on to future generations.

“It’s the little things that they share, like what it was like for them during the holidays, on vacations, sending you off to school,” she says. “My daughter still likes to hear stories that I tell her and I know she will pass them along to her children too.”

“While preparing recipes, a mother might recall, ‘This was my mother’s recipe’ or ‘This was my grandmother’s recipe’ and they can talk about where it came from,” says Harris. “That makes it a living history.”

She concludes, “Take the time to have conversations and take the time to listen. Your mother will want to share with you.”

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living which is comprised of The Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence which includes Jaffa Gate Memory care neighborhood, The Martin and Edith Stein Hospice, The Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, Wilf At Home, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information contact us at 732-568-1155, [email protected] or visit us at

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