Sounds like you’re doing a good job of that with your children. Is your mom your model for your parenting style?
MS: I’m a huge fan of my mother’s, but I’m a different kind of mother. My mother didn’t touch me, but you can’t give what you didn’t get. I’m sure my daughters will be different mothers than me. I said to them last night: “You will be imperfect. We all are. And you will do your best. Stay open. Keep learning.”
Do you fear having an empty nest?
MS: I think that if you’re awake in your life, you fear being alone. But if you face that fear, realizing that ultimately we all come in alone and will end up alone, you enjoy your alone company.
Do I prefer a house with 20 kids in it? Yes. Do I feel that I can’t wait until they’re gone? No. But do I think I’ll be OK when they’re all gone? Yes. And I’ve worked to make sure they know that.
Are you looking forward to grandchildren one day?
MS: Christina says that when she has kids, she’s going to give them to me! I’m counting on that! If not, I’ll probably take someone else’s kids! I might start a day care center! Who knows?
Coming from a large family, you probably feel very comfortable in a home full of people.
MS: I’m not a big fan of living alone. I share a house in the summer with two of my brothers, and I love it. Maybe someday I’ll join a commune! I’m looking for people all the time who want to live with me!
Are you happy?
MS: Yeah, I’m happy. I’m happy sitting here, talking to you. But I don’t think happy is like, “Happy, happy, happy!” I think that you can only know happy if you know sad, and if you don’t lie to yourself. The other day a mother at my son’s water polo tournament said, “Contentment is so underrated.” I said, “Wow, that’s true. I’m content. I have it good.” Look, a huge part of the world is starving. We’re OK.
Do you want to find love again?
MS: I’ve been blessed by my parents’ love, by the love I had with Arnold, by the love of my children and my friends. I think that carries you through. We’re so consumed as a society with “Do you have a boyfriend?” or “Are you married?” We miss the love that is staring you right in the face. I feel surrounded by love. I feel blessed now here in my life. Yeah. I feel blessed.
Meg Grant is West Coast Editor of AARP The Magazine.