When I was a little girl, there were three things I wanted to be when I grew up: a teacher, a writer, and a mother. My choices hardly changed throughout my life. Those were always the choices I juggled. I chose a career that allowed me to write. I married a man who wanted kids. I have never taught in a classroom, but being a mom certainly qualifies one as being a teacher.
Hardly a day passes that I don’t think of at least one of the women in my life who has made a lasting impression on me and given me the skills I’ve needed to become the one thing I’m most proud of being: mom.
Here are the women who showed me how to do it.
My mom. When I was young and my sister was in school, I played dress-up in my mom’s closet, donning her wedge heels. I pretend-shopped in our kitchen and hid in the cabinets. My mom would take me out for lunch to a Chinese restaurant where I loved the fried rice. It was our thing. When I was sick, she stayed up with me and rocked me to sleep even though I was too big to fit on her lap. She nursed my weekly migraines. Even though I wasn’t the most gracious of teens, she still has bouts of empty nest syndrome. She has always loved me, a lot. She is the reason I stayed home with my kids.
My sister. It’s not that I doubted my sister would ever have kids or that she’d be a good mom. It’s just that when we were kids, she used to line up all of her dolls on her bed. Facedown. And she’d stand back with a belt and run up and whip them. We certainly weren’t punished this way. But I had to wonder if she’d be a bit of a disciplinarian when she had a family. Good news. She turned out OK. When my niece was born two years before I had kids, my sister filled me so full of knowledge about those early years. I laughed. I cried. If it weren’t for her, motherhood would have been a rude shock because she is the only person who gave me the truth about what would happen to my body after birth, clued me in that kids don’t really sleep through the night at three months, and made me realize that most of the time you want to pull your hair out but you love your kids anyway. She gave it to me straight.
My mother-in-law. I am lucky to have married a man with a wonderful, loving mother. She must be one of the most generous women I know. When her own mother became ill, she put her life on hold and moved several states away to cook meals, clean, and care for her aging parents. When it became clear they needed more care and they moved into a nursing home near her, she visited them almost every day. Knowing the tricky relationships mothers and daughters can have, this has always moved me. She showed me that mothers care for their loved ones no matter what went on in the past. Love has no bounds.
My friends. My husband and I have no family nearby. When I had my son, it was one of the loneliest times of my life. Having a baby who wants to be held all day and no friends to talk to was rough. I joined a moms’ group at a local hospital where I met moms with newborns who cried and screamed, moms who were tired and who wanted to talk. We formed a playgroup of 18 moms and we met every week. We went on field trips. We formed friendships. Now, nine years later, I still keep in touch with nearly half of them. All of my friends have helped me survive motherhood. They have become my second family. We moms take the kids and bike together, teach our kids to cook, hold crazy science experiments in our back yards, play in the creek or the lake, camp, or just hang out. Us moms talk about the challenges each new age brings. We laugh. We cry. We advise. In spite of our different parenting styles, we embrace one another and learn from each other. They inspire me.
I can honestly say I am a better mom because of all of these people. I think it really takes a village to raise a mom.
Happy Mother’s Day.