Author Archives: Sandra Butler

The Odd Couple: Co-Authoring a Book with a Friend

Is it crazy for two close friends to think they can write a book together—and maintain their friendship?

Five years ago, at our usual Monday breakfast in a café, we asked ourselves this question. We’d been toying with the idea of co-authoring a book about the experience of mothering middle-aged daughters and imagined it would be a challenging and provocative way to spend the next few years. We would develop our ideas and questions, interview a range of women, and write a book that would open a long, overdue conversation among older mothers about these relationships. While we were used to being together often, we understood this would mean that we would have much more contact, and we’d need to create a balance of work and non-book time so that we’d continue to share other parts of our lives. There would be differences of opinion that would have to be navigated, and we hoped we’d do this skillfully, but the question that was paramount for both of us was: Could we make it through the predictable ups and downs during this period and keep our friendship in one piece?

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AARP Interview: The Mother-Daughter Bond

A new book explores a unique relationship that ‘never ends’

There are countless books about mothers and daughters, but not so many (if any) about what motherhood is like when your daughters are in their 40s and 50s. Now there’s one, It Never Ends: Mothering Middle-Aged Daughters by Sandra Butler, 79, and Nan Fink Gefen, 76.

The authors, each with two daughters in their 50s, interviewed nearly 80 mothers in their 70s and 80s about their relationships with their daughters (a dynamic different than that between mothers and sons, which deserves its own book, they say).

“There’s an assumption that mothering stops when your kids are in their 40s and 50s,” says Butler from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nope.

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A Silent Rebuke

Whenever my mother came to visit during the early years of my own mothering, I allowed my two young daughters to make messes. I encouraged them to express both their disagreements and their often disagreeable thoughts. Raising daughters who knew how they felt and had the confidence to speak up for what they thought was right and fair was a value I held, one emerging from my own longing and inability as a child to express my feelings and, as my grandmother would have put it, “stick up for myself.” My mother’s intention was to raise children who were well behaved and successful. Perhaps that was her way of communicating to her immigrant mother that she was living the American dream of white upwardly mobile motherhood of the l940’s and 50’s. She had a well scrubbed carefully furnished house. Obedient children. Her own car. All markers of American success.

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Kirkus Review


Mothering Middle-Aged Daughters
by Nan Fink Gefen, Sandra Butler

An insightful look at the relationships between senior mothers and their middle-aged daughters….

Though Butler and Gefen often search for patterns, they recognize that “no two mother-daughter relationships are alike,” nor should they be. Most older mothers of daughters will connect to at least one narrative in this book, which also includes discussion questions.

An important personal and sociological perspective on women’s lives.

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What Midlife Women Should Remember to Ask Their Mothers

I place the phone in its cradle (yes, I still use that kind of phone) and allow the sound of my daughter’s enthusiastic voice to fade. We have just finished what used to be our weekly, Sunday morning phone visit and now is our in-the-car-on-the-way-home from-work call. I know when she’s pulling into her driveway because she always chirps,

“I’m glad everything is good with you, Mom. I love you.” That signals the tender end to our conversation. I have received my allotted time.

This is not a complaint.  My daughter and I love one another deeply and our relationship is sustaining and satisfying to both of us.  Yet there is always a moment, in the quiet after I hang up the phone, that I hear the questions that remain unasked. She doesn’t yet know enough about what it is to be an old woman to know what they are.

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