My sister Saydi wrote this beautiful tribute to my mom on her blog. My mom is so amazingly selfless and helpful and wonderful and it's her tradition to come stay with each of us when we've had a baby and shower us with love and help. Saydi just had her fourth child and described the experience of having Mom with her so well. Her words made me cry.
I think my sisters and I thought that the beautiful selflessness and competence our mom has just sort of popped out along with the baby when you became a mom. But now we realize, as we watch our dear mom, that truly great motherhood grows out of many, many years of practice and toughness and devotion and selflessness. And that, while we can strive to be more like our mom in many ways, some things that work for her might not fully work for us.
I grew up in a family where my mom was always busy - always. I'm the oldest of nine children so it's hardly surprising that my mom was busy. I seriously can hardly ever remember her sitting down - even for dinner - she'd be cleaning up the spilled milk and getting stuff for people all the time while my dad kept saying "Linda, just sit down and have dinner with us!" (rather than helping with the issues at hand...but he sure was great at engaging us in quality conversation at the dinner table!) Even while nursing a baby, my mom was cleaning the kitchen or helping someone with homework. She went to bed late. She got up early. She never took time to herself - I never saw her taking the time to do anything that was mostly just for her. She could do her hair in 1 minute and did minimal make-up in her rearview mirror at stop lights. She talked about how much she loved reading and slogged through many books with many of her kids to help them get book reports done - but I never saw her reading a book just for fun (until everyone got a little older, anyway). She certainly seemed to enjoy doing lots of things with us kids - she got excited about our history homework, loved helping us with our music and seeing us progress, truly enjoyed my brothers' basketball games. But overall, I grew up with a mom who never expressed any need for personal space or personal time and who somehow rolled with the crazy pace of 9 kids (while writing books and doing lots of speaking engagements with my dad) and seemed to be doing just fine for the most part.
When I became a mom, what I knew of motherhood came from watching my mom. I thought good moms never sat down and never took time to themselves and somehow were able to accomplish tons of stuff in their community and in their career while being excellent mothers. But I quickly learned that what worked for my mom wasn't going to work for me. I was quite shocked when I heard that other mothers took time out during the day to just watch TV while sorting socks or put their feet up to read a good book while their baby was napping. What? Moms can take breaks? Seriously? And that doesn't make them a lazy person or a bad mom?
So I've learned a ton about what works and what doesn't work for ME in the past 11 years since I became a mother. And while I may never be quite as amazing as my mom in many ways, I've learned so much from her example and continue to be inspired by her. Then hopefully someday, my children will be able to take pieces of the mother that I am and pieces of who they are and become the parents that they are truly meant to be.