This is my ninth Mother’s Day. Over the years I have blogged about being a mom as well as about my own mom, my mother in law, grandma and other special women in my family who mothered me.
What I have learned from them, and from my years as a mother is that the old saying rings true: It does take a village to raise a child.
At least in my world it does. I believe my children need and benefit from more people than just Jeff and I when it comes to influencing and guiding them through life. There will only ever be one woman who gave birth to them, they will only ever have one biological mother, but when it comes to raising them, and trying to ensure they become the type of adults I hope they will be, they are learning from a community of people. Ultimately, my children are my responsibility. But I cannot take full credit for who they are – I have a lot of help.
Today, I want to pay tribute to my “motherhood”. The village of (for the purposes of today’s blog) women who are helping me, teaching me and inspiring me as I journey my way through motherhood every day.
Jeff and I come from families of strong women. Those who became mothers when they were still teenagers, and those who waited until they were married and had careers. Looking at their kids then, and now, you can’t tell the difference. You can’t tell which path which mother took to become a mother. And you shouldn’t. Because motherhood isn’t defined by that. Whether or not you love your child, how you show it and what you do with your life after giving birth, is not pre – determined by your age or your circumstances.
What I learned from the women in my family is that love is love. It's that simple. It may look different in each circumstance, but it’s still love. The sacrifices made are different, but each mother knows about making sacrifices. The paths taken to get their kids through highschool and through post secondary school were different, but every child got through, and every child that wanted to go to College, University or trade school, had the opportunity to go. Each mother believed in each child and found ways that worked for their families. I learned that mothers will do anything, sacrifice anything and wait years for their turn, if it is for the betterment of their children.
I learned that being a mother is a lifelong commitment. I learned that when I moved to University and still needed my mother. I learned that when I was learning to cook and bake and still needed my mother, grandma and aunts. I learned that when I wanted to quit University (and almost did). I learned through some tough times as an adult that even though I was an adult, I still needed my mother to be my mother.And then, one day, I learned I was going to be a mother. And I learned just how much I still needed my family of mothers.
The mothers in my family gave me a strong base from which to learn how to be a mother. And now history repeats as they all play hands on, vital roles in the lives of my children. They are not just pictures in an album or far away voices on the other end of the phone, they are present and involved. They are still caregivers and providers and listeners and readers and bakers and gardeners and trip takers and bingo players – with my kids now.It goes without saying that the women in my family play an important role in my village.
But they aren’t the only ones.My sister in law Cherie has been my big sister and mommy mentor for the last 13 years. In her I have found a friend, a confidant, and an ally. I look up to her in many many ways and count on her to guide me through whatever is coming my way with my daughter, as she is 2 years ahead of me with her own daughter. She gives good advice and assures me I am not alone. She walks beside me in my village and promises me that as long as we have wine, we’ll make it. Because she is so smart about so many things, I believe her.
Since becoming a mother I have met many others. Professionally and personally. Colleagues and participants. Friends and neighbours. Online and in town. From school and from play. Almost every friend I have made in the last 9 years has been through either one of my children or one of theirs. And I have learned something from every one of them. I have learned how I want to parent and how I don’t. What is important to me and what isn’t. That years from now, what seems impassible will be forgotten. I have learned how to nurse a baby and nurse a broken heart. Tips on how to pottytrain and how to have “the talk”. I have learned how and where to shop second-hand and how and when to ask for help and take time for myself. I have learned that every tactic I learned to parent my firstborn is useless for my second. A fellow participant at a playgroup I attended as a mother with a colicky baby, not one I was leading a professional, once told me that with each new child you have to learn how to be a mother all over again. It has been 5 years since she told me that and I have never forgotten that conversation. I have barely spoken to her since, but she is part of my village because she helped me.I have learned that I need my fellow moms. These moms who love my children even though they aren’t theirs. These moms who cared for my children for years when I was at work. Who provided them with safety, security, food, and literally a roof over their heads when I couldn’t. Who teach my children and inspire them in ways I can't. Who coach them and push them to do their very best. Who recognize the same personality traits in my children that I have myself and remind me that I turned out okay and they will too.
The moms in my village have stood beside me on the most important days of my life. Have been the first phone call. Have answered texts at all hours of the day and night. Have opened their arms, taken me into their homes and helped me repair and rebuild mine. Have understood me, taught me and inspired me. To be myself. To be happy. To be grateful.
I need my forever friend mommies, my thrift store friend mommies, my firefighter friend mommies and my sangria drinking, crazy bicycle riding through Central Park friend mommies. I need the mommies I have known since long before we were mommies, the moms I know through Smoyc and Sorority, and the ones who convinced me to run a 5k race on Mother’s Day, for fun, in the cold. Because these mommies give me what I need to be a better mother myself. They see me for me, not just as someone’s mommy. But they also know what it is to be a mother; it’s something that unites all of us. I need the ones who are there to let me cry and who are there to help me figure out what to do when my daughter cries. I need the mommies who have my kids over to play and who let their kids come to my house to play. I need the mommies who are timezones away but there at the click of a mouse, and those who are minutes away and are on my porch, in my backyard or on the school playground to chat.I need a village.
When I was growing up, I always knew I could talk to my grandparents and aunts and uncles about anything – even stuff I didn’t want to or couldn’t talk to my parents about. The same can be said for my mom’s friends. I never doubted their love for me, most of them there since the day my mom learned I was on the way were also there when I got married, and later learned Makenna was on the way. I have always known my mom’s friends were part of my village growing up and as I became a young woman I cherished my relationships with them. Over the years and through some tough times I did confide in them as well as with my grandma and aunts and they were all there for me. They listened, provided perspective and gave subtle advice. I have never doubted the love and genuity of the village my mom created for me growing up. When I became a teenager I was fortunate enough to meet some fantastic motthers of my friends. Women who came to care for me, watch out for me and guide me in their own ways. I hold my relationships and memories of Lois Ballagh, Kim Wright, Debbie Ireland and Tracey deBoer in particular, very close to my heart. Those moms of my friends were mothers to me too.
And that’s what I want for my children. A community of women they can go to and count on when they can’t come to me, for whatever reason. I want to know my sisters in law and friends and mothers of my kids’ friends have my back and my kids’ backs. That they are looking out for my kids and will be there to help if and when they need it. I want them to be at my kids’ weddings and cry right along with me because they love my kids too and feel invested in who they are and what they are doing.
Because we are all in this together. We are all moms and we all will do anything, anywhere, anytime for our children. We celebrate together and we grieve together. We bring the wine, or the martinis or the sangria and we build eachother back up.
I am grateful that in the last 8 ½ years, I have been able to find a village. One that I know will grow and change over time. Today I pay tribute to you, my fellow mothers, and say thank you, for being there for me and with me. In both fair weather and foul. Literally and figuratively.Happy Mother’s Day to all of you