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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the June 11, 2003

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Teena Long Cahill, a 57-year-old psychologist,

was born nine months after the end of World War II. She is the eldest

of the baby boomers, the generation of emancipated women who pioneered

in balancing career and family.

Mia Cahill, a 36-year-old attorney, is Teena’s daughter. She

and her peers were raised to expect to juggle career and family with


They will present a joint lecture, "Mothers and Daughters: Working

Women and the New Old-Girl Network," on Friday, June 13, at 7

p.m. at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital Wellness Center in Hamilton.

They will discuss how baby boomer mothers and their daughters support

one another, and whether the realities of the mothers’ lives apply

to the realities of the daughters’ lives. The lecture is free; call


"I’m of the first generation that went into the professions en

masse," says Teena Cahill, "and our daughters are following

us. For me there weren’t that many expectations." When baby boomer

women managed to "have it all," to successfully juggle family

and career, it was an accomplishment above the norm. Now one-fourth

of today’s women make more money than their husbands and 30 percent

of the women are the head of their household. "Now we have



If expectations have changed, so have circumstances. "When we

baby boomers were young, families didn’t usually move away, and the

community and extended family were available to a large number of

our mothers," says Cahill. "Young women today work to create

communities. Many of them travel, and they band together to create

a community of support for one another."

On June 13 the daughter will tell about her peer group’s parenting

communities, and the mother will discuss intergenerational


They come from an unusual perspective, because they all live in the

same house — grandmother, grandfather, daughter, son-in-law, two

children, two dogs, and sometimes the babysitter. "Now that both

ma and grandma are still working, we need to learn how to help one

another," says Teena Cahill. "My daughter and I work very

hard to create a community that enriches everyone."

Teena Cahill grew up in a traditional community, a Midwest farming

town, where her family lived with her grandmother and three aunts.

Her grandmother was twice widowed by the time she was 34, so she


as a hotel cook and raised five daughters by herself. "My


had lots of friends, had status, and was a lot of fun. Grandma taught

me the joy of her community — the hotel, her church, her senior

citizens group — and she worked until her eighth decade. She


me never to give up, and I learned you could have a great life, no

matter what."

"I come from a family of great tough women," she says,


I was nurtured by `the village.’" Teena’s mother, the youngest

of five girls, worked for the state, and her father had a factory

job. Teena was the perennial winner of public speaking contests, and

she won a scholarship to Ohio State at the county fair. Then she


and had a daughter and two sons (both married, one living in Alberta

with two children and the other in Denver). She was divorced, went

for her doctorate in psychology at Florida Institute of Technology

in Melbourne, had various teaching jobs, and remarried. She maintains

a private practice on Spring Street.

A cognitive behavioral psychologist, she holds the theory that stress

isn’t necessarily bad. "We were made with the emotions to handle

stressful situations," she says, "and we know that the more

we tackle problems, the more self esteem goes up. We need to validate

children’s feelings and reframe how we look at world. Thoughts affect

our feelings, and feelings affect our behavior." She contributed

these ideas to a post 9/11 book published pro bono by the New Jersey

Psychologists’ Association ("Shocking Violence II," edited

by Rosemarie Moser, Charles Thomas Publishers). Her advice:

Learn new coping strategies. Some people have available

only the ultra feminine or ultra masculine styles of responding.


best style for mental health is to have an androgynous style of


because it gives you so many more strategies to take on the


says Cahill. "But a new skill set has to be learned."

New skill sets are needed in the practical arts as well. Today’s


mothers want to pass on different skill sets from the traditional

ones. "I was determined that my daughter would learn to write

a dissertation," says Cahill. "As joyful for me as it was

to help her learn to make chocolate chip cookies, it was even more

wonderful to watch her — and help her in a very small way —

to write her dissertation."

The skill set for boys has expanded too. Cahill notes that, as a


mother in graduate school, she was very busy indeed, so her sons


to cook (they are gourmet cooks now). "And as soon as they were

tall enough to reach the washing machine, I taught them how to use

it, and they all did their own laundry from the age of 10 or 11. I

believe that is a wonderful gift I gave my daughters in law. That’s

how having a working mom trickles down and helps future


Find old solutions to new problems. When Teena Cahill’s

husband became disabled, and he needed to live in a place without

stairs, the two families bought a house that can serve them both.

Cahill notes that, in 1880, 46 percent of the people over the age

of 65 were living with their children and thus able to serve as


babysitters and cooks. In 1990, it was just five percent. Though


together is helpful to both generations, she believes she and her

husband are the big beneficiaries. "Financially and emotionally

the children don’t need us. They can hire the services we can provide,

but we could never hire what they provide."

Of course not every family could do this, and Teena Cahill’s joking

is only partly in jest: "I am not sure that anyone other than

my daughter would want me. I love my daughters-in-law but I don’t

think they would want to live with me. It works best with a mother

and a daughter. We have the same ideas about child rearing, but I

have a lot of opinions, and my daughter is very strong. If we have

an argument, the men take off, and it ends up with us crying and


The blended living arrangement not only gives grandparents access

to their grandchildren, but also some exposure to their daughter’s

friends and their grandchildren’s friends. "From my perspective,

successful aging is defined as being involved and feeling part of

the whole life process," says Cahill.

"One of my husband’s jobs is to do the spelling words with our

granddaughter, and this exercise is really not about the words, it

is about developing good study habits," says Cahill. "Think

about her memories. She has this memory of Grandpa spending time with

her every week. And Grandpa, who is very bright, has the weekly


Build and/or increase your community. Young women need

to set up extended family relationships that can be tapped in times

of need. Older women need to "live wide" — adding younger

people to their pool of friends, perhaps by doing volunteer work —

in order to live long. "A study at Harvard, the longest


study of mental health ever done, very clearly shows that as you get

older, you need to increase your community. At any age, but


as we get older, we have to grow past ourselves, and find a way to

contribute to the community," she says. "Ninety percent of

the people who are getting older are living alone, and I say, you

might want to think about that."

Change your thoughts, which will change your behavior.

She tells of how, when her husband had a cerebral hemmorhage and


the hospital gave him no chance to live. She went into a panic.


I realized that 10 hours ago they said he would die, five hours ago

that he would die, and five minutes ago, but he hasn’t died yet, so

I decided not to wait for him to die but to plan on him living. And

the minute he died I would deal with it then. I went from despair

to hope, and that affected my behaviors, and I ultimately got him

to a hospital where they had some hope."

When daughter Mia takes her turn to tell how the new

network might work for the younger generation, she will emphasize

how to create community by helping each other out. Women who are


school volunteers, for instance, help each other both in traditional

ways (recommending good summer camps and pinch-hit babysitting) and

in professional ways (such as helping each other make connections

in the corporate world). Many mothers who have had professional


are looking for part-time and contract work and they network with

their friends to accomplish this.

An example of how a community can work: A school volunteer group had

a newsletter to publish. Someone they knew was looking for work in

publishing. "Women were saying, if we give it to this


she can put it on her resume, and that might help her get another

job," says Mia.

Broaden your outlook in terms of what you can do to help

people around you, and how they might help you access other


says Mia. "Think of your relationships as a source of


Raise children to think for themselves. "I had


success, sometimes, but I had the guts to try new things," says

Mia. Her family lived in West Windsor in the mid 1970s, and she


being one of the first girls to play in the West Windsor baseball

league. "I wanted to do it and was incensed that they didn’t want

girls to do it. And I was such a bad baseball player, like the worst

one in the `Bad News Bears.’ It was a miserable experience for


But other people who came after me who more accepted — and better

players than I."

Take traditional networks and use them in new ways.


living situation is just that taken to an extreme," says Mia.

"Not everyone could — or would want to — live with their

parents, but the idea of reaching out and drawing on your


is something everyone can do."

After graduating from Princeton High, Mia Cahill majored in political

science and psychology at the University of Delaware (Class of 1988),

earned both a law degree and a master’s in sociology at the University

of Denver, and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Both schools

are known for using social science research to study law. "It’s

a field of professors and economists who look at how law operates

in real life," she explains.

In Colorado she met her future husband, a Romance language major at

Colorado College. With an LLM degree in international business law

from the University of the Pacific, he is an attorney at the United

Nations. But before that, in the early 1990s, he worked for the U.N.

in Vienna, while she commuted between Wisconsin and Austria.

Needing to juggle research, the birth of two children, volunteer


and regular commutes to her teaching job in Wisconsin was what started

her on the path to serious networking. In Vienna she headed an


mothers group, was active in the American Working Women’s Association,

and volunteered at the U.S. Embassy with the Vienna Women’s


which paired Western women with those from former Eastern bloc


to teach entrepreneurial skills.

Meanwhile, for her thesis, she interviewed European and American CEOs

and surveyed their employees. "My area of research is that there’s

law and there is real life, and they are not necessarily the same

thing. I focus on how ordinary people decide what legal rules apply

to them," says Mia. "Sexual harassment law in the 1990s was

incredibly ambiguous, and I did a cross national study on how people

in corporations decide what the rules are. I argued that a lot of

what plays into it is cultural assumptions."

Upon her return to the United States, Mia Cahill taught

at New York University’s Institute for Law and Society, published

her book (The Social Construction of Sexual Harassment Law: the Role

of the National, Organizational, and Individual Context (Law, Justice

and Power, $79.95), and worked briefly at Mathematica Policy Research.

She also worked at an Alexander Road-based law firm, Maselli Warren,

before starting her own law practice in April (5 Independence Way,

Suite 300, 609-514-5120; fax, 609-452-8465).

Now she does family and employment law, mediations for the court on

civil rights and employment issues, and consults with small and


businesses, particularly on how to put fair procedures in place.

"I love to go to court because you can be on the side of

right," says Mia Cahill. "You can stand up and say `This is

right — legally, factually, and morally right.’ There aren’t many

opportunities to stand up and make a case for something you believe


Her sense of justice? "It came partly from my upbringing. I


there was something I wanted and didn’t get, and I screamed


`That’s not fair.’ And my mother said, `Life’s not fair.’ That was

a hard pill to swallow. There are many reasons why life isn’t fair

and I am willing to expect many of them, but anything based on gender

is outrageous. Telling somebody that she can’t have a job because

she has children is wrong, and in fact, illegal."

What works for one generation may not work for the next.


Cahill found that out when she tried to show her granddaughter how

the washing machine worked. This smart child had heard the legends

about how her mother and uncles were taught to do wash. "She


at me and said No," says Teena Cahill. "She knew what was


Still, says this grandmother, smarter is better. "My grandma


thought I talked too much. She thought I had a smart mouth because

I would speak up. But I hope my daughter has a smart mouth and I hope

my granddaughter has one too. Everyone should own the right to say

what they think and change the world."

— Barbara Fox

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