It’s Mother’s Day here in the US this weekend, and for me, a time to reflect not only what a privilege it is to be a Mum, but also how lucky I am to have a great Mum.
As the years pass, I recognize more and more how hard she (and of course my Dad) worked to give my brothers and I the best possible start in life, and to send us out into the world as well-rounded individuals.
This has especially been the case since since becoming a parent myself.
Now that I’m raising my own children, I get just how tough being a parent can be. We constantly wonder if we’re doing it right. How do the short-term decisions me make impact our children in the long run? Are they happy? Are they healthy? And are they growing up to be good people?!
With these thoughts whizzing around my head on a daily basis, I can’t help but think back to my own childhood and the things that I think my Mum did exceptionally well as a parent. There are things that I see in a whole new light, as I’m now experiencing motherhood too.
When it comes to raising my girls, I turn to her for advice, support and reassurance that I’m doing ok.
And increasingly there are those times when I open my mouth and hear my Mum’s voice coming out!
She’s been a great inspiration when it comes to facing some of the challenges related to being a parent. These are just a few of the things I appreciate about her so much more now that I’m a Mum myself.
Her no-nonsense approach to balancing work and parenting… and everything else
Like many of us, my parents had an awful lot their plate… in their case, with raising three children and also both working. Much like my own situation, there was no family close by to help share the load.
It must have been really stressful at times. However, I don’t remember my Mum ever being particularly fazed or flustered by it. While I’m sure that she vented to my Dad, and probably friends too, mostly, she just got on with it.
She dealt with sick days. I don’t recall her ever doing the school drop-off in yoga pants (or whatever was the 80s equivalent!) and crazy hair because she was too busy or too tired. She didn’t get a break. She didn’t have all of the conveniences like smartphones and roomy cars that many of us Mums have today. But she just got on with it.
I’ve definitely been guilty of crazy hair and my fair share of complaining. So when it comes to the trials and tribulations of parenting, my Mum definitely had the kind of resilience that I can only hope to possess too.
Her unassuming strength
I’ll never forget the time I was walking in town with my Mum and younger brother when we were still very little. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a couple of teenage boys cam flying round the corner on their bikes, and only narrowly avoided running us down. My Mum immediately jumped into action mode as they laughed and tried to race off. She took off in hot pursuit, swinging at them with her handbag (when I replay it in my mind something akin to a scene from “The Matrix”). The look on those boys’ faces was priceless. The smirks soon disappeared.
It was totally unlike the calm and collected Mum we typically saw. And it was amazing.
At that moment I understood my Mum’s quiet strength. She’s one of the nicest, kindest people you could meet… but would do anything to protect her family. Moral of the story – don’t mess with my Mum!
I’ve not really been tested yet, but I know that if I ever need to stand up for my girls, I’ll want to be prepared just like she was (handbag at the ready!).
The way she encouraged us to get out and experience the world
Weekends were rarely dull for us growing up. We were never over-scheduled with extra-curricular activities, so there was plenty of time to relax, but we also spent a lot of time getting out and seeing new places.
There were parks, museums, old stately homes, botanical gardens… most of the time we loved it, occasionally we complained about the stuffy old historical houses (which I now LOVE by the way!).
But my parents put a huge amount of effort into finding new and interesting places for us to visit. And they weren’t always your average ‘kid friendly’ places. One summer, while on a family holiday to a picturesque little harbor town in the South West of England, my Mum and Dad actually took us on an excursion to tour the local nuclear power plant. I kid you not!
One reason that I appreciate the work my Mum put into this even more now, is simply that I understand the Herculean effort involved just in getting multiple kids out of the house!
But more than that, it instilled a deep sense of curiosity about the world around us. From a young age we were encouraged to take an interest in society, culture and history, which can only be a good thing in my opinion.
Her ability to give “the look”
I often wonder if this is a universal trait… something inherent in all us Mums. Or whether it’s a skill that’s reserved for just some of us. Either way, anyone that’s experienced “the look” as a child will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the quick, sharp glare that can stop you in your tracks. The subtle glance that has the power to silence you.
My Mum was an expert at delivering the look. She was like a Jedi master.
And honestly, I think that it might just be one of the most effective parenting techniques out there. Just think about it… to be able to put a stop to unruly behavior without uttering a single word. No need for any actual discipline or punishment. Just a look. Why hasn’t someone coined the technique and written a parenting manual about it?!
I’m yet to perfect the look myself. I probably have about a 50/50 success rate and it’s not always taken seriously. My sassy 3 year old sometimes just gives the look straight back at me (you can read here about my experience with the “threenage” years). But I’m determined to master it eventually.
The way that she always led by example
This is probably the most important one of all.
I think that kindness, compassion and tolerance are among the most difficult things to teach children. They aren’t really concepts that you can learn from a book or at school. Rather, they’re the kind of characteristics that you see in others, and hopefully emulate.
These are qualities that I’ve always seen in my Mum. As a child, you don’t necessarily think about it in those terms, but there she was, always just being a good person. I picked up on that and wanted to be like that too. As an adult, I admire her all the more for it and strive to be that way too.
This quote by Maria Shriver sums up just what a challenge it all is:
Having kids—the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings—is the biggest job anyone can embark on.
I think that my Mum did a wonderful job and if I can be anywhere close to the kind of parent to my daughters that she was to me, then I’ll feel as though I’ve probably done right by my girls.
So thank you Mum, from the bottom of my heart.
And Happy Mother’s Day everyone!