It might be just another Hallmark holiday, but Mother’s Day has never seemed contrived to me. It seems right and fitting that we should have a day that celebrates our mothers and all they do for us. I am not of the opinion that being a mother is the hardest, most important job in the world above all others, but I do think that it’s pretty damn important – and I also think that it takes a very special person to be a good mother. There are many people who are biological mothers that don’t have the patience and strength to raise good children, and I’m lucky in that my mother does not fall into that category. In fact, my mother is someone who seems born to the role she plays as caregiver, advisor, and nurse – which she also is, in her professional life.
When I was a teenager, I was troubled in many respects. I bordered on having a full-blown eating disorder. I was a cutter. I was depressed, angry, and anxious. And in those years, my mother seemed like an enemy to me. I was so angry at her, though I couldn’t tell you why. I felt she was patronizing and she didn’t get it. But the worst part was that I felt she didn’t understand anything I was going through at all – the pain I felt, partly because I had gone through a traumatizing experience at age 13, partly because I was mentally ill without treatment, partly because I was a hormonal, confused teen. While I have always loved my mother, I went through a period where I didn’t like her very much. That is something I carry with me to this day. I’m guilty that I wasn’t able to and didn’t accept the many things she tried to give me during that time in my life. Because she understood, more than I knew. She understood all along.
Motherhood is more than fighting about breastfeeding long enough and where your baby sleeps. It’s more than feeding kids organic food, more than where they go to school. It’s so much more than what kind of clothes they wear or how long you keep their hair. All of those things, all of those inconsequential things . . . they just don’t matter. Because I was someone who was going down a bad road. I never did take drugs, but I could have, because I just didn’t care enough about myself to care where I ended up in life. I didn’t end up failing school, but I could have. I didn’t end up doing any of those things, because in the end, it didn’t matter that my mother breastfed me for 8 months and sent me to public school. It mattered that even when I pushed her away with both hands, she was there.
Motherhood is about sacrificing and loving your child no matter what they do. I once asked my mother if there was anything I could do that would make her stop loving me, and cut me off for good. And she honestly answered that she didn’t think there was. Even if I was a murderer, a part of her would still love me. And that is what a good mother is.
My mother has raised me to be a person with values and with passion. She has raised me to never stop striving for what I want, and to work hard, even when I don’t want to, because hard work is the way to success. She taught me that nothing comes on a silver platter, and that your circumstances can change in a heartbeat. She taught me that self-care is important, that everyone deserves a second chance, that even if you lose your temper, a sincere apology can go a long way to helping heal wounds, and that having people you can trust is important.
I may never be a mother. I may never hold my own child in my arms. But I am able to pour my life and love into the children I nanny – and I hope they understand that these are the lessons I want to teach them, too. You are not judged by the material things you leave behind. You are judged by your strength of character, how easily you can apologize for your mistakes, and how understanding you are in situations where it would be easier to judge or to walk away. Most of all, you are judged by the amount of love you have to give, and how easily you give it. My mother has never once withheld love from those around her. She has never once let a bad situation between us carve the rest of our relationship. And I hope to be that sort of person, too, both to the children I nanny, and those I touch, every day.
And for that, I’m glad that I know now – my mother understood me, all along. And that understanding pulled me out of a bad place into a place where I could really grow.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.