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Happy Mother’s Day: To the Mom Who Taught Me How to Be a Mom

As Mother’s Day approaches, I usually find myself thinking more about my own mother and her impact on my life than I do about my role as a mother and my impact on my own children’s lives.

I immediately think, “What will I get my mother this year?” rather than “What will my kids/husband do for me this year?” 

It was on one unsuspecting day, while I was sitting at my desk at work, eating my lunch, when I saw this article and clicked on the link: ‘She Was Always Enough’: Emmy Rossum On Being Raised By A Single Mom.

There I was, mid work day, with tears rolling down my face.  Why did this article stir such emotion?  Was it the pregnancy hormones surging through my body?  Was it triggered by the article I had just read about ‘All the things I wish I had told my mom before she died?”  No, it was neither.  I realized I have always had a soft spot when it comes to the topic of my mother.  My strong, beautiful, single mother raised my sister and me with every ounce of her soul. 

In honor of Mother’s Day, here are the top 3 reasons why I celebrate my amazing mother, and why every time this year I feel my role as a mother falls short of even coming close to her awesomeness.

1.   Single Mother

Ok, so the obvious reason that my mom is a BAMF (am I even allowed to say that on here?) is that she raised my sister and myself as a single, working full time mother. I can barely take my kids to Target by myself, let alone endure 18+ years without some help. 

Not to get into too many details, but let’s just say that the separation from her husband was not a pretty one. She really did “Lifetime Movie” it, packing up both girls (ages 3 and 6), and slipping away in the middle of the night, so to speak.  I can’t even get my act together enough to pack for a weekend getaway in less than 6 hours, let alone pack an entire life into 3 suitcases while said ex-husband was at work.

As a full-time working mother of 2 young boys, there are days when I want to scream with stress.  Although, I do have the most supportive, involved husband, who splits the parenting duties 50-50.  Aforementioned supermom (now supergrandma) even plays a major role in caretaking for my own sons.  I have it so easy compared to her, yet parenting is hard no matter what your situation is. 

I think to myself, “How on Earth did this woman go through the same emotions, feelings, and stress of motherhood, and do it alone, yet make it look so easy?” 

I know she felt overwhelmed with time management. I know she felt stretched and pulled thin in every direction.  I know she questioned and doubted herself while raising us.  Yet, she was always on.  She never got a break.  It was all her, all the time.  There was no partner to share the responsibilities.  There was no person to laugh and cry about the hard times with.  There was no one to relieve her of her parenting responsibilities so she could take a shower. 

She did have an amazing family around her to help with my sister and me, but most of the weight of the job fell on her. 

To top off this seemingly impossible task, to date, I have never once heard her say anything negative about motherhood. Not even one hint that her expectations were not what she envisioned. 

I have never once been made to feel like she was sacrificing for us. I have never once heard her complain that she was missing something in life.  I have never once been made to feel like she didn’t love parenting us.  Perhaps she did privately.  I will never know.  Parenting is hard.  Parenting is so hard.  She never made it seem hard.  She never told us it was hard.  She was just always there, smiling, supporting, and loving us as hard as she could.

2.  Successful

I am not speaking of successful in terms of job or career. I am speaking of successful in terms of my mother’s impact on me.  I have learned over the years that success can be defined in many more ways than just one. 

My mom was not that super involved in PTO, didn’t volunteer to chaperone every field trip, and didn’t spend hours volunteering at my elementary school.

She was the mom who was there.

She was the mom who came to every awards ceremony I was invited to. She probably came running from work, or in between work, to attend.  She was the mom who was always at my school performances.  She was the mom who always let us sign up for whatever extracurricular activities we wanted.  She was the mom who sacrificed her own materialistic needs so that her children could have the cool Keds or the “cool” new TI-85 calculator. 

She was the mom who took us on unforgettable family trips, despite the planning, money, and hassle of doing it on her own.  She was the mom who listened to her children without judgement or fear.  She was the mom who loved us, no matter how much we messed up in life.  She was the mom who let us make our own decisions and mistakes and trusted our choices.  She had faith in our abilities, even if our abilities were mediocre.  

And as a mother myself, I see her now in a whole new light.

As a working mother, I realize how much sacrifice she must have made to make it to all those performances and practices and games.  I realize that she was working hard outside of the home to provide for my sister and me.  I realize how much I dread planning vacations because it can be so stressful traveling with children.  I look back on those days with feelings of respect and awe, not sadness or neglect.  I know some friends who had super involved parents.  There are obvious benefits to that. 

However, I feel so fortunate to have had such a strong, hard-working mother as a role model to show me that love does not always have to present itself as a room mom or PTO president. 

To me, she is the ultimate definition of success.  She taught me to keep on going.  She taught me to keep on going even when I didn’t think I could go another single step.  She taught me that we all have to do things we may not like but life is about making the best out of what we are given.  She taught me to be grateful. She taught me to be thankful.  She taught me that I could be a successful mom without having to fit into a pretty little box of what society tells me a successful mom should look like.

3.  Grandma

My mother has transitioned from mother to friend to best friend to grandma.  Apparently, she was not done with her mothering responsibilities when I turned 18.  She has probably taught me some of the greatest lessons of my life, including lessons about my own mothering goals, in the last 8 years of my life. I know I will never, ever live up to the mother or grandmother she is.  It is impossible.  I am innately selfish.  I complain out loud.  Often.  I tend to be pessimistic, while she is always the optimist. 

My life goal as a mother though, is to pass on to my children the intense, unwavering, unconditional love she has shown me my entire life. 

As a grandma (Mimi, as my children call her), she is spot on. While still working part-time, my mother volunteered to care part-time for my oldest son.  She would drive over to our house in the morning and get him off to preschool 3 days a week.  When baby #2 arrived, she continued to get my oldest son off in the morning – 5 days a week now in VPK – and care for a newborn infant.  Eventually, she retired from nursing after 30+ years, and now drives over to my house every morning, at 6:45 am, and gets both boys off to elementary and preschool 5 days a week.  I know. 

She really is some sort of saint. 

Everyone who knows her is in awe of what she does.  I am in awe of what she does.  If I was retired, I would be sleeping in until noon each day.  I would each lunch, take a nap, and end my day with a snack and another nap.  This woman continues into adulthood to show me what it means to love, what is means to feel important and valued, and what it means to be a family. 

To top off this seemingly impossible task of supergrandma, to date, I have never once heard her say anything negative about what she does for my children on a daily basis. Not even one hint that her expectations were not what she envisioned. 

My boys and her have a special relationship. She does not offer to help our family out to gain glory for herself. She does not expect the boys to love her and thank her and tell their friends what an awesome Mimi she is.  But, the boys feel it.  They just feel her love every morning.  They love her fiercely, and I don’t know if they know exactly why.  All they know is that she shows up every day to make them breakfast.  She gets them dressed and battles the elementary school rush hour to drop them off at their schools. 

She hugs and kisses them and makes them feel like they are the most important people in the world.  She lets my oldest child convince her to put a Fruit Roll-Up in his lunchbox and make him hot chocolate before school every morning.  She does all this with a smile (most days) on her face. 

My Mother’s Day Wish

My Mother’s Day wish, as it is every year, is that one day my boys will feel the same love from me as I feel from my mother. I am so very far from reaching that point.  I think about myself too much and how a situation affects me.  I have a hard time finding the silver lining in a situation.  I don’t smile nearly as much as her.  I usually don’t do things without expecting some sort of reward or praise in return.  I am human. 

However, I want my children to feel the unconditional love that she has given me.

I want them to know they are loved no matter what.  I want them to know they are important enough to me that I would do anything for them.  I want them to know that I want to spend time with them because they are amazing human beings.  I want them to know that they are not a burden but rather a precious gift that I am lucky enough to be part of.  And if I can make them feel a fraction of the selfless love she has made me feel, I have hope that their souls, too, will be filled with this eternal optimism for life and love. 

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