I never wanted to be like my mother. When I was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, women were fighting for equal rights with men. They were protesting for equal work and equal pay. The word “feminist” still sounded fresh and exhilarating. My mother was not part of that picture. Mom did not have a career outside the home. She was not a protestor or a hippie. She was not rebellious, provocative, or exciting. She was just Mom.
Mom stayed at home, raising five children. She made dinner, cleaned the house, attended PTA meetings, organized bake sales, planned dinner parties, and occasionally took a class in decoupage or painting. She made sure we had clean clothes to wear and took us to the dentist. She bandaged our cuts and bruises, taught us how to make our beds, read us stories when we were little, and asked if we had done all our homework when we got older. She never did our homework for us or with us; she just made sure we were doing it. Mom planted flowers and made spaghetti sauce.
When all of her kids were school age and the oldest were old enough to look after the youngest for a while after school, Mom went back to work. This was foreign to us for a time, since she never had a “job” before. But we got used to it and (mostly) got along for a few hours after school before she got home. Well, let’s just say no one was seriously injured.
After our father died, I was very worried about what Mom’s life would be like. They had been married for over 40 years, and had raised a family. Most of her big life decisions had been made jointly with Dad. But here’s what happened: after living her entire life with other people (first her own parents and siblings, and later with Dad), Mom was suddenly free to make her own life. And what she made has been beautiful. She has traveled, made close friends, found creative pursuits, served her community, and formed a closer connection with her church.
I always thought I would be something more or better than my mother. As a girl, I thought Mom was dull, and that being a mother would be boring. I wanted to have a career. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to change the world. I did not want to be just a mom.
Many years later, I realized just how wrong I had been. Even before my own daughters were born, I grew to understand that being a mother might just be one of the hardest and most important jobs ever. While it’s true that I am not a naturally nurturing person, it is also true that I love my children more than life itself. And only in becoming a mom have I discovered all that my mother was to her children.
Mom was and is smart. She can, and does, run her own business as well as board and committee meetings. Mom was and is creative, finding unique and artistic ways to make routine things special including meals, her home, and her sewing projects. Mom was and is an encourager. She has always been our own private cheerleader, standing on the sidelines as her fledglings navigated their own way through sometimes murky water.
Mom has become a role model, which has nothing to do with her growth as a person, and everything to do with mine. Now, I can only hope that someday I will grow more like my mother: more resilient, more cultured, more caring, and healthy into my mid 80’s. Maybe she didn’t change the world, but she created our world.
Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks Mom!