I’m in the Middle of a Mother-Daughter Sandwich

Martha Manning, Ph.D.
6 min readFeb 2, 2022

I Never Knew it Would Be Like This

Photo by Wilfred Wong on Unsplash


My daughter is the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter, and so on, generations way back. We can even trace our lineage of grandmothers to the first woman hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts.

It’s a proud legacy, especially since we found out that instead of witchcraft, they were “just” women guilty of annoying people, refusing to take crap from anyone, particularly men, and rugged independent examples of “Biddy-Uncongeniality.” I’ve started wondering if they were just old.

The sandwich

I find myself between two generations now, and although some of our history is predictable, I mull over our differences and the sorrow that shadows me when I think of them.

My mother’s mothers

My mother was smart. Really smart. She loved her six children with order and affection. In response to our inevitable transgressions, from an elbow in someone’s neck, to the dreaded trips to the police station for our petty crimes, she always had the same reaction. With great conviction, she pronounced, “I love you and I like you. I will always love you, but I don’t like you very much right now.”

More than once I shouted, “Oh, God, just hit me! “ Instead, I wished I could just take a nose dive under my bed for a month. Guilt works wonders. Some of us still saw the inside of a police station more than once, a problem for my G-man father.

Of great concern to my mother was my full blown academic under-achievement. I don’t really think I understood for a long time that school was anything more that a setting for a social life.

Mom vs. Sr. Armbrose

When I was about 15, I was fumbling around in her closet and found a shoeobx with my name on it. In it were memorabilia, but also some of my early report cards. My very first report card was at the top.

It was jawdropping because it contained my mother’s and my nun’s alternating discourse. Just to be clear — in the 50’s your parents didn’t question nuns.They could smack you into a nosebleed and your parents would shrug and say, “Well, If…

Martha Manning, Ph.D.

Dr. Martha Manning is a writer and clinical psychologist, author of Undercurrents and Chasing Grace. Depression sufferer. Mother. Growing older under protest.