I always thought I was tough. I was raised to think I could do anything my older brothers could, be anything I wanted to be. I was decent enough at sports and held my own with the boys just fine. I was also pretty sure of who I was in my early twenties. At least I thought I was. Ok, I was. But that person ceased to exist when I was 22, and my mom passed away. You can’t front like got you this when your mom dies. You lose that swagger, and it was pretty central to my persona at the time. I had to reinvent myself, try to understand life without her counsel. It was at this time that I began to understand and appreciate the strength of mothers.
I had a strange path to this epiphany. It did not begin with the birth of my first child, as it does for many women. At a time when my friends were partying and traveling and dating like mad, I needed to figure out how to get through. So, after a few false starts (smoking, because you know, no one was there to tell me not to), drinking too much (same thing, watch this mom! ), and dating a string of losers (yeah, yeah, ok everyone who remembers these specimens, you were right after all), I started to mother myself. I didn’t see any choice in the matter, and I learned early about being accountable for myself and my well being. I screwed up all the time (still do) but recognized that my observation was accurate; no one was going to notice my daily messes and mistakes except for me so why not grow up about it all and be the woman she raised me to be. She had, after all, given me every lesson I needed in the short time I had with her. Most importantly, lived in such a way that I could not help but be inspired by her strength and grace. And smile. That smile.
This is for the moms. The ones we have inside ourselves. For ourselves. Because that’s the real strength. Taking care of yourself to the point that you are healthy and strong enough to be a wonderful mother, friend, sister, wife, daughter. Knowing that it is not only ok but critical to step up and mother yourself. It is pivotal to being the woman I think most women want to be. It is centering. It is what our moms want/ed for us.
I can only imagine the strength it took my mom to let go, knowing that she would miss all those milestones we all wait patiently for as we diaper and wipe up and drive home yet again. I know the strength it took me to mother myself through Axel’s birth, to decide that I wanted to labor, that I needed to for me and for him. For me, it was the right way through the fire, and the only way I could come out at least a little bit intact. I certainly see the strength my friends show me everyday as they mother their broods through thick and thin. And I sincerely, deeply appreciate the mothering my friends do for me, when they stand in for Eva and remind me that it’s ok to say no, that I am doing the best I can, or that my heart is in the right place even though I had to make the tough decision.
Tack Mamma, for those lessons in mothering. When everyone thought you were so soft and sweet I saw your strength and I took notes.
Those notes, they have served me well.