Mother’s Day is a national holiday in May but as a mother of three grown children, a grandmother to one adorable baby girl, I consider every day Mother’s Day. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back – the trials have been many, the rewards monumental and the surprises never ending. Being a mother opens up pathways that no other role can provide for women. It’s our own creation, derived by characteristics and experiences with our own mothers, our grandmothers and the other women who showed us the way.
Women are the stronger gender so we’re taught at an early age. When I gave birth to our youngest daughter we were told by her neonatologist that delivering her eight weeks prematurely is indeed scary, but because she was female, she stood a stronger chance at survival. Today she is a thriving, driven, college freshman who has brought us years of joy, moments of trepidation and a sense of “awe” only rivaled by her other two siblings.
Being a mother was always something I knew I wanted to be in my life, the career was second to motherhood. Looking back I can’t imagine my life without my children, and have few regrets. When I think about my own mom and how I will honor her this day in May I find myself pulled towards the strongest women in my life. I was raised by a strong woman who was raised by a loving caring mother, my grandmother Mabel, who was the icon of our maternal family for 97 years. My grandmother is remembered with kindness – she never had a negative comment for her grandchildren. She was the bosom of warmth in our family. Her smile and Irish eyes could light up a room long before we were within arm’s length of one of her mighty hugs. My mother was the baby of her family and shares many of my grandmothers traits…she epitomizes strength in the face of adversity and although she may be 85 years young she always finds a way to grace us with her humor, her stories of yesteryear and appreciates a good turn on the dance floor. My “mom” survived my father’s young death from lung cancer, continued to work long after and found new love. They say the testament to a good marriage is the “want” to find companionship after the first love has passed. I don’t think my mom knows how much of an impact her strength has had on her daughters. She courageously visits my stepfather in a nursing home for the last six years. She keeps faithful watch over their marriage even if he doesn’t remember her on a bad day and continues to grow her life learning new skills, sharing her passion for writing children’s stories and helping her own daughters thrive in their lives. I am proud of her fortitude, her loyalty and her ability to keep life moving even when her first inclination may be to throw in the towel on any given day. She is a good mother, much like the woman who raised her and for that I’m ever grateful.
I’ve been lucky to have such strong women to emulate in my life. Perhaps that’s why I find Mother’s Day to be a day not for me but for my children, my family and my circle of extended family. I am blessed to have a generous, kind, mother- in- law who never hesitated to lend support to my children during the younger years, held my hand when her son, my husband was deployed and always lends an ear and shoulder of support when it’s needed. She too was raised by a loving, caring, woman who is missed and remembered often. I think the best tribute to mothers is the version of “pay it forward” in mother-in-law-hood. I know I try to be the same type of mother-in-law to my son’s wife that I’ve had in my own mother-in-law. The old cliché you can’t pick your family isn’t true of mother in laws. It’s good advice to keep in mind for the future of all young women.
As “mom’s” we are always checking ourselves. Did I do right by each of my children or did I fail? Is there something I could’ve done differently? Did I give too much or not enough? Was my need to work full-time in their younger years the wrong move or trusting them too early too much for them to handle? Did I push too hard, or not enough? Did I forget to let them be “kids” first or did I plan their lives around what I wanted but didn’t achieve? Does it even matter anymore?
My grandmother held fast to one rule and that she referred to as “sibling math.” Sibling math is simple (lucky for me since I don’t do math)…it can’t be more; it can’t be less…it just needs to be equal. People say it’s natural to favor one child over another. I find this unacceptable rationale for a preference that isn’t necessary in motherhood. I’m not saying we don’t have a child that needs more care, doesn’t test our patience more, or make us laugh more over another. That’s human nature. But in the end, it’s hard to not say I love them equally, but differently. It could be as simple as knowing what your child needs to survive, to be nurtured, to grow that differentiates the type of “sibling math” my grandmother referred to.
As I pose my thoughts on my own mother, I find myself wondering “how will I be remembered” as a mother? We joke sometimes, “us” moms, on the joys of motherhood, mostly said with tongue in cheek. However, at the end of every day we go to bed wondering how our children handled the day, and if we gave them the tools necessary to make it through this life. Did they share their successes as well as their shattered dreams? As the mother of three children, I tried not to let them go to bed sad or upset, feeling they didn’t do their best. Life isn’t a picnic and it’s okay to not win all of the battles, all of the contests and make straight As…that’s the stuff that helps us carry on and work to make tomorrow a better day. When it’s time to remember how I was as their mother, will they remember the good, or focus on the mistakes?
They say there is a heaven, and I hope so. But if there isn’t perhaps it’s as easy as “heaven is all the good things remembered” about me, not finding the faults I held against myself in this lifetime but knowing that at the end of my life, my own children remember me as a loving Mother first, and all the other stuff “those misses I regret” they’ve long been forgotten.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the children, young and old, who inspired the women in their lives!