Author Guest Post: Phyllis Schieber

Today I am delighted to invite author Phyllis Schieber to Caribousmom with a guest post about grown children – a subject she also explores in her two novels The Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Confession.

To join the Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits virtual tour and learn more about the tour, visit this promotional site.


In The Sinners Guide to Confession Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends who are now in their fifties. Ellen, several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others. Learn more about the book here.

In Willing Spirits two teachers in their forties – Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker – nurture a friendship that helps them endure. Years after Gwen is abandoned and left to raise two sons alone, she finds herself in love with a married man. After Jane is humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and Gwen must face her own uncertain path, the two women turn to each other. Now, as each is tested by personal crisis; Jane and Gwen face new challenges—as mothers, as daughters, as lovers. And in the process, they will learn unexpected truths about their friendship and themselves. Learn more about the book here.


Phyllis Schieber writes:

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants and in the mid-fifties. My mother was apparently so nervous she barely slept the entire time she was in the hospital, fearing her fair-skinned, blue-eyed newborn would be switched with another baby. When my paternal grandfather, an observant Jew, came to see his newest granddaughter in the hospital, he was so uncertain of how to behave around the kindly nuns that he tipped his yarmulke to them each time one passed. It was in this haze of paranoia and neuroses, as well as black humor, that the makings of a writer were initiated.

Schieber’s  first novel, Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow and in March 2008, Berkley Putnam issued the first paperback publication of this novel. Learn more about Schieber and her work by visiting the author’s website.


Guest Post by author Phyllis Schieber

There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “Little children disturb your sleep, big ones your life.” I always find great wisdom in proverbs, and this one is no different. My son suffered from colic and chronic ear infections the first year of his life. I dreamed about sleeping. My husband and I quickly learned that the only way we would sleep was if we brought our baby into our bed. And so began our covert journey to a family bed which, in retrospect, resulted in some of the sweetest moments of early parenthood. Aside from all of this, Isaac was a delicious baby, and I mostly treasured my time with him.

As he got older, the demands on my time increased proportionately, but I continued to take my role into stride, writing while he napped, first with him strapped to my chest and later in furtive spurts between drop offs and pick-ups, preparing meals, teaching, and everything else that mothering entails. I was consistently happy in my
position. Motherhood suited me, and I was blessed with an easy child. He was a serious student, an enthusiastic learner, a creative thinker and always curious. He challenged me daily, but he was never combative or difficult. We sailed through his teen years with none of the scars so many families must endure. When Isaac left for college, I was initially overwhelmed with loss. I wept inconsolably, peered longingly into his empty bedroom, and felt adrift for the first time in eighteen years. He was on the road to adulthood, and I felt abandoned. I wanted my baby back. I wanted to feel the weight of his sturdy little body against my chest as he slept. I wanted to put my lips against his downy curls and inhale the scent that was uniquely his. I was bereft. Nothing had prepared me for how it would feel to let him go and to reconfigure the spaces in my life. I cried in the grocery store, when I did the laundry, and after I opened the door to an empty house. The adjustment was daunting, but I succeeded in embracing my new life with considerable pleasure. I contribute a large part of that transition to accepting that my
son no longer needed me the way he had and to welcoming that change for both of us.

My son is almost twenty-six, an age that both delights and mystifies me. Sometimes I can see the traces of the little boy in the way he laughs or in his expression when something delights him. But he is no longer a little boy. There are boundaries now (as well there should be), and even if I occasionally step too far over or indulge
an impulse to stroke his bearded cheek or plant a stray kiss on his forehead, he has moved well into another phase of his life. I am privileged that he continues to ask for my opinion, that he comes home often, brings his friends, and now his girlfriend (a choice that confirms my sense that I did, indeed, do a very good job of raising him). I feel a sense of calm in his presence because he is a man I know I will continue to be proud of no matter what he does. Parenting a grown child can be delicate. I offer advice when I am asked though I have also been known to provide an unsolicited opinion here and there in spite of often deserved objections. I know that what I think matters to my son, but I also know that he is often right where I am wrong, and I do not hesitate to acknowledge this. Our relationship continues to evolve, and I continue to know that there is nothing that could wedge itself between us, mostly because I would never allow it to happen. He is my son, albeit my adult son, and I grow with him, ever mindful of how lucky I am for that journey.

The subject of grown children is one that I have explored in Willing Spirits, as well as in The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. It is a subject I revisit because motherhood, in all its dimensions, is a subject very dear to me. I know motherhood. I remember each of its stages, and so I can convey this in ways that other women, other mothers, can relate to. Just as we mothered our infants, then our toddlers, and then each successive stage, we now mother our grown children. The women in my novels are all mothers. These are the women I understand best. I explored what it was like to be the mother of a grown child in my writing before I was ever in that position. I allowed my characters to make mistakes, just as I continue to do. And I allowed them to grow, just as I have. Parenting
a grown child may not be as filled with the wonders of getting to know a newborn, but parenting a grown up is equally rewarding, and often more interesting.


Many thanks to Phyllis for visiting today and writing such an insightful post!

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  1. “Little children disturb your sleep, big ones your life.”

    Isn’t that the truth! As a mother of a twenty-six-year-old daughter, I can really related to this proverb! I enjoyed reading Phyllis’ guest post and am anxious to add her books to my toppling stacks. Thanks (I think!), Wendy!

  2. … another proverb: “One can never have too many books!” Well, not really a proverb, but it’s the truth, isn’t it? Lovely to hear from you. I hope you enjoy my work!

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