By Womaness Editors 4-Minute Read
Now through Mother's Day, we're celebrating the power of real talk and open conversations between mothers and their daughters. The hope? To inspire more women to embrace candid communication about what it is to be a woman—because when we do, we challenge stigmas…and ensure every phase of the experience gets better with each generation.
The series continues today with Monica Corcoran Harel, writer and founder of PRETTY RIPE, one of our favorite midlife platforms (Monica's motto: "Women over 40 are smart, sexy, and take no shit")—and her tween daughter Tess. We speak to them about the importance of openness in their discussions and what it's like for a mother and daughter to battle changing hormones at the same time (spoiler alert: a "hormonal hellscape" is involved).
AN OPEN CONVERSATION WITH
Monica Corcoran Harel, 55, Mother to Tess
Please share a memory of being truly open about something with your daughter. What was it about and what did you learn from the experience?
“When my father passed away, my daughter Tess was only five years old. I was very straightforward with her about what it means to die and talked a lot about grief. She didn’t ask a lot of questions. But I knew she was processing the loss and watching how I mourned. She saw my messy side. My older brother died a month after my father. I was devastated. Tess came to me and repeated what I had told her about death. She would say to me, 'You can be sad. You have to grieve, Mom.'”
What’s the most important thing you’ve tried to teach Tess about a life well lived? What have you learned from her?
“I tell my daughter all the time that it’s okay to say, no.' Those two letters hold so much power. I recall feeling pressured to be polite and agree to almost everything—whether it was a stupid idea or a plan that didn’t suit me—when I was a younger woman. We were encouraged to please others and be flexible. Now, in midlife, I exercise my right to say 'no'—and sometimes even, 'no way.'”
What is the most important thing your daughter has taught you about self-care?
“My daughter understands the beauty of silence. After school or a particularly hectic day with sports and activities, she will tell me, 'I love you, but I don’t want to talk right now.' I used to be offended. I took it personally that she didn’t want to chat and tell me everything. Now, I know that she’s recharging and needs to be in her own head without interference.”
What’s some advice you received as a girl that you tried to not pass along to your daughter?
“Growing up in the 80s, I just recall this emphasis around looking 'hot' at all times. If you were going to a party or the supermarket or even the DMV, you were supposed to put on some makeup and do your hair. Oh and I was told to diet, too—especially when I got chubby as a teen. (Don’t get me started on that…) Luckily, my tween daughter doesn’t feel like she has to focus on her appearance at all times.”
“Our house is a 'hormonal hellscape' and we laugh about it.” - Monica
What have you tried to teach Tess about skincare…and what have you learned from her?
“I am constantly urging my 12-year-old daughter to wash her face before bed. She doesn’t always do it, but I think it happens about 5 out of 7 nights. (That feels like enough of a win.) She’s blessed with clear skin and doesn’t wear makeup. When I look at her, I’m reminded of the beauty of natural skin. I put aside my concealer and go commando. But I still wash my face every night and use my Womaness eye cream.”
What have you taught your daughter about your menopause experience? How did sharing it feel for you?
“My daughter knows about middle age and menopause because I write about it for my platform, PRETTY RIPE. Tess got her period at the age of 10, while I was deep in night sweats and brain fog. It was puberty vs. perimenopause! I explained to her that her onslaught of hormones is happening just as my hormones are retreating. We are kind of in synch? Tess and I are both pretty moody and just accept it now. Sometimes, we slam doors at the same time. Our house is a 'hormonal hellscape' and we laugh about it.”
What are your hopes for Tess in the future?
“I hope my daughter always feels empowered as a woman. Empowered to speak her mind, to know her worth, to shut down her adversaries, and to take lots and lots of risks.”
AN OPEN CONVERSATION WITH
Tess, 12, Daughter of Monica
Please share a memory of being truly open about something with your mom. How did it feel for you? What did you learn from the experience?
“My mother is definitely not my best friend, but she is one of the only people I share everything with. I don’t need one memory to know that she is always the person I am going to confide in—and I know she will never get mad at me when I tell her something.”
What’s the most important life advice you’ve learned from your mom?
“My mother always tells me that if I ever feel uncomfortable, I should listen to my emotions and get myself out of the situation. She says that I don’t need to do something just 'to be nice.'”
What have you learned from your mom about being a woman? What do you think you have taught her?
“One thing my mother always talks about is to never be ashamed of your age as a woman, and while I’m only 12, I strongly believe this, too. I once told my mom to smile when she says her age, which is 55. She does that now, too. I don’t ever want to feel weird about getting older. That’s crazy!”
What is the most important thing your mom has taught you about self-care?
“The biggest thing my mom has taught me about self-care is self-appreciation and to never hate my body. She reminds me that I’m lucky to have a healthy body.”
“I once told my mom to smile when she says her age, which is 55. She does that now, too. I don’t ever want to feel weird about getting older. That’s crazy!” - Tess
What have you learned from your mom about skincare? What have you taught her?
“My mom makes sure I always do my skincare routine and while it’s really annoying, it does strongly benefit me. I use a cleanser and special micellar water with cotton pads. If I forget to do it, I don’t tell her.”
Has your mom been open with you about her menopause experience? What have you learned?
“My mom and I haven’t talked a lot about menopause, but not because she is uncomfortable about talking about it. Trust me, she’s not. It’s because we have talked more about puberty. But I do know a lot about hormones. And I know that she doesn’t always finish her sentences because of menopause.”
What are your hopes for your mom in the future?
“I am so proud of my mom for selling her TV show called My Mother Has No Friends and my hope is that this show is a slamming hit. I know she has a character based on me and my life. I’m glad she will tell stories about girls and women.”