My son recently started saying “you’re my hero” when his father or I do something to help him. Zip his coat… help push his bike… make him pancakes… “Mommy, you’re my hero.” It warms my heart, and I hope he always feels that way. While there are still many people I admire, my parents are my true heroes. They swoop in when I need them, and on several occasions have truly saved the day. Mother’s Day is approaching, and now that I am a mom of two little ones, I have a greater understanding and respect for all that my mother did (and still does!) for me. Mothers and daughters have an interesting relationship (cue the groans and eye rolls!), but I can say with resounding conviction that when it comes to parenting — I want to be just like my mother.
When I look back on my childhood, adolescence, young adult (and adult) years, my mother has always been there for me. Field trips, track and cross country meets, school plays, graduations, moves, the births of my children… she was there. And she didn’t just show up to those track meets for my events. No, she was there all day—cheering for everyone. She brought sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and the video camera. She was involved. She didn’t just come to my school play—she made the costumes! And somehow (even in high school) I recognized how lucky I was to have supportive parents.
Her help and support didn’t end after my college graduation either. When I moved from Nashville to Dallas for my first job, she made the road trip with me and helped me set up my first apartment. When I was 36 weeks pregnant and my husband and I were moving from New York to Kansas, she and my father drove one of our vehicles. After my son was born, I had an incredibly difficult time breastfeeding. My mother was scheduled to arrive two days after we came home from the hospital, and that was so reassuring to me because I thought, “she will fix this!” Shortly before my daughter was born, she came up to take care of my son while we were in the hospital—and all the rest of us after my daughter was born. My mother gives what is most valuable—her time.
She Had a Career
My mother is a dental hygienist and has been working or volunteering part-time in some capacity for as long as I have been alive. She set the example that a woman could work and have a career of which she can be proud. Even more admirable is that my father was Active Duty Navy until I was 12. She made career sacrifices for her family but also made accommodations to allow herself to have a career. I remember that a family friend helped us get ready and off to school on mornings when she had to be at work when my dad was out to sea. It wasn’t easy, but she made it work. As I struggle to have my own career as a military spouse, she is a role model—and a cheerleader.
She Supported Me and My Friends
Growing up in small-town New Hampshire, I was a big fish in a small athletic pond. Through hard work and great coaching, I had a very successful racing career. My parents could have easily pushed me harder, but I think they recognized that I put enough pressure on myself to win. They may have also recognized that sports were important but not as important as my physical and mental health. I was nervous before every meet—sometimes to the point of dry heaving. My mother used to look at me before each race and say “Good luck, honey. Do the best you can—and no matter what, I’ll still feed you dinner.” The knowledge that my mother believed in me, was physically there supporting me, and would love me even if I failed was integral to my success as a student, as an athlete, and a young professional—and helped to instill a sense of confidence. If there is one thing I hope to provide to my children, it is that.
As a “cross-country/track & field mom,” my mother was also a presence in the lives of my friends and teammates. By my sophomore year in high school, enough girls were getting their prom hair and makeup done at “Mrs. Theriault’s” that people thought a new salon had opened in town. She supported them as she supported me but was also a non-mom source of motherly advice. To her credit, she never shared what my friends confided, but I know she helped them through some difficult times. Recently, while she was visiting to help me take care of my new daughter, we discussed this. I told her I admired the way she took my friends and others under her wing. She told me she had been fortunate to have great, strong, supportive women in her life, and that she believed women should help other women and be mentors. I hope my daughter will feel able to come to me to discuss anything. I hope that she has other women in her life that she can trust who will give her sound advice. And I hope that I can be that woman for someone else’s daughter.
She Taught Me Skills For Life
My husband and I regularly discuss our lack of survival skills. Neither of us is preparing for the apocalypse, but when it comes to growing, catching/hunting, making, and fixing? Our knowledge pales in comparison to that of our grandparents. My mother grew up on a dairy farm, and honestly? She has got mad skills. She can sew (like, really sew—she made my wedding dress), cook, clean, decorate cakes, knock down walls, refinish furniture, and she has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. Forget Martha Stewart. My mom is the woman. She took the time to (attempt to) teach me these important life skills. I got my sewing machine when I was 10. Washing dishes became my job at 11, and I was cooking dinner for the family by 13. Martha Stewart I am not, but I refinished a dresser and reupholstered my dining room chairs. I have a chocolate cake recipe in my back pocket, and I make dinner, from scratch, 95% of the time. I still can’t manage to keep plants alive into the next season—but that’s something I’m working on.
My mother knew it was important for me to know how to take care of myself, and she knew that education starts in childhood. Chores may seem a drudgery, but I learned how to properly vacuum (you have to move the furniture a little), do laundry, and clean a bathroom. I hope to teach my children the same life skills so they too are prepared to go out into the world as adults.
She Taught Me the Value of Money
My mother had a very realistic view of money and taught me valuable lessons regarding its management. Money is earned and should be spent wisely. We work hard, so we should enjoy life’s pleasures, but we should not go into debt for frivolity. We must save for emergencies, college, and retirement. There are certain things you might have to finance: a house, an education, a car—but in general? You shouldn’t spend what you don’t have. That’s still our house rule. We don’t spend what we don’t have.
Growing up, I had everything I needed. There was a roof over my head, nutritious food on the table, and appropriate clothing on my back. I was given an allowance (for performing the aforementioned chores), and encouraged to babysit. I could spend that money on the stuff I wanted. My son is 3 and has FAR too many toys. Despite this, anytime we are out I hear “I want” or “I sure wish I had.” My mother was spot on, and I hope to emulate her. It is my job to provide my children with what they need, but expectations must be managed for the things they want.
She Raised Me with Religion
While I believe it is possible to be a good, spiritual person and not be “religious,” I think organized religion is important. Religion teaches that there is a power greater than ourselves, that there are some things that cannot be explained. My religion teaches that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. We sin, but when we ask for forgiveness, we can be forgiven. My religion tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, that we should be charitable and take care of others, and that we should also love ourselves. My religion teaches compassion. We are all God’s children. Jesus taught, helped, and healed those who were in need—regardless of their background. These are lessons I want my children to learn.
My parents raised me in the church and made attendance and participation a priority. As a child and as a teenager, there was surely some stalling, misbehaving, groaning, and eye-rolling—but I’m grateful that my parents fought the battles and encouraged our involvement. Now that I am a mother, I want my children to be part of, and contribute to, their faith community. I prayed for these children, and God answered my prayers. I want my children to understand the importance and power of prayer and that God provides. I’m sure there will be some groaning and eye-rolling because there is already plenty of stalling and misbehaving.
I am grateful to my mother for so many reasons. I can only hope that someday, my children have as much love, admiration, and respect for me as I do for my mother. I hope I’m one of the first people they call when they have good news, think of something funny, want advice, or just need to vent a grievance. Basically, when it comes to being a mom – I want to be just like my mom.