“I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is.” — Oprah
Early in my coaching career, decades ago, I taught classes for new mothers. My goal was to help these moms absorb the enormity of their transition into a new parenting role and life-changing identity, and hopefully bond with each other.
Now, some of those moms have stayed my friends throughout the years of childrearing and beyond. I’ve also picked up many other mother friends along the way.
With Mother’s Day approaching, it occurred to me that, together, these moms have such a beautiful depth of collective wisdom to offer. Many have approached the sacred role of mothering wearing many different roles.
One friend was widowed five months before her son was born. Others lost children along the way, and had to endure the tough challenge of becoming a “bereaved parent.” Two of my friends adopted children, one as a single mother, and another when she was in her mid-forties still married. A couple of my friends raised their stepchildren or grandchildren as their own.
So, wanting to share their unique insights, I polled my diverse group of mother friends and asked them ONE question:
What’s the one lesson of mothering that you would like to share?
Here, in the order they were received, are their responses (and keep in mind, being multi-tasking and multi-dimensional as many women are, some, including me, couldn’t come up with just one gem of wisdom):
- “Encourage, insist, and support your child in finding his or her passion and pursuing it, no matter what.”
–Kim Harty, mother, West Palm Beach, FL
* * *
- “No daughter wants to turn out like her mother. Sons are more forgiving. It’s the greatest job in the world. No qualifications are required, and the benefits are incalculable!”
–Carol (who chose to keep her last name anonymous), Hingham, MA
* * *
- “Remember to keep motherhood a judgment-free zone. You never know what’s going on beyond closed doors and just because it’s not the way YOU would mother, it doesn’t make it wrong. We all need to support each other, especially these days…P.S.: I wish I had followed my own advice when my boys were younger! I guess it comes with maturity, but tolerance is a beautiful thing!”
–Sally Sherman, mother of 3 boys 24, 22 and 17, Topsfield, MA
* * *
- “The most important lesson I have learned in being a mother, is though I will always be THE MOTHER, I helped them shape their ‘wings.’ I’ve had to let them ‘fly’ on their own to be the person each needed and wanted to be, not what I want or expect them to be. Aside from the pain of labor, letting go is probably the hardest part, however the most rewarding, in my experience.”
- — Joyce McDonough, mother, Phoenix, AZ
* * *
- “Don’t blink — These childhood days will go by faster than you can imagine. Try to live in the moment even if it is hard. Keep a journal and take pictures — you will want to remember these times. Don’t tolerate whining and tell them you love them everyday!”
–Meg Moran, mother, Georgetown, MA
* * *
- “When my children were 12, 8, and 4 our family went through a divorce. Their father moved back East and sold our house in Scottsdale, AZ before I had an opportunity to purchase it. I brought the kids back before the closing so they might have an opportunity to say good-bye to their rooms and home. I held their small hands out front, and with a few tears, I shared that our family motto would now be, ‘Nothing is permanent except change’ which is my revision of Heraclitus wisdom of the ages. I feel that I’ve modeled that to them as much as possible. My oldest daughter wrote to me on my last birthday and thanked me for teaching them all ‘better ways to live.’ Motherhood is a great blessing. “
–Tracy McCormick, mother, Carefree, AZ
* * *
From a grandmother-to-be:
- “Now that I’m about to become a grandmother, I’ve been thinking about this to share with my daughter-in-law as she becomes a mom. There are so many lessons that I wish my 30-year-old self knew. Perhaps most important is remembering to nurture myself. There were so many days when I felt depleted and knew that not only was I suffering as a result, but my whole family was as well. ‘Filling my tank’ with things like exercise, a walk with a friend, quiet time to ‘just be’, made me a better Mom. And it is NOT selfish to take that time. It’s a MUST!”
–Lisa Kramer, mother and grandmother-to-be, Philadelphia, PA
From mothers /grandmothers:
- “Always be fair, humble and real! Never set your kids up for perfection by living double standards! Admit when you’re wrong and ask for forgiveness of them! Treat them with respect! Model what you want to see in them! Have fun and laugh with them! Really listen!”
–Barbara Jean Gordon, mother and grandmother, Scottsdale, AZ
* * *
- “Know, in your heart, that each child is unique and nurture that uniqueness. Encourage them to follow their own paths, free to explore the many faceted layers of their personalities. Try not to judge or give too much advice but rather sit back and watch them become just who they were meant to be. I’ve always called our house a ‘RHAT’ house, which stands for a house of respect, honesty, accountability and trust. Instill these traits in your children by example and they will do you proud as they grow.”
— Diane Polley, mother and grandmother, Essex, MA
* * *
- “Too often we hear the words unconditional love in parenting. Yet, sometimes that word is misunderstood. As a mother of two adult children in their 40s, I’ve learned through the years that it takes a great deal of discernment when to be engaged, honest and diplomatic with your children, and when you need to let them go and let them be responsible for their own lives and consequences. A mother’s love can be unconditional while she can also question or disagree with them. Authenticity and requiring respect is vital to a healthy relationship.”
— Flo Gaia, mother and grandmother, Durango, CO
* * *
- “My children and grandchildren are among God’s greatest gifts to me. My greatest gift to them is ‘binding’ (i.e. speaking or declaring) God’s perfect will and purposes to them (in prayer). No greater joy for a mother/grandmother than this!”
–Emily Gardner Foppe, Scottsdale, AZ
* * *
- “One of the most helpful things I learned from my “Real Love” studies was to not expect anything from my children. My job is to love them unconditionally, and that is the greatest gift I can give them, and me! I am so much happier when I have minimal expectations.”
— Karla Birkholz, mother and grandmother, Phoenix, AZ
* * *
“‘SHOOT FOR THE MOON AND YOU ARE SURE TO LAND AMONGST THE STARS’! Like so many parents, my husband and I had sons with polar opposite personalities yet we applied the same common theme to both: Dream, Believe and Achieve what you set out to do. With our basic foundation of teaching self-respect, self-esteem, confidence and courage, the possibilities were endless! The Stars were right there at their fingertips! Now, as Grammy, I learned to gently pass along hints of advice and we hope and pray that with their own precious ‘miracle’ just maybe some lessons and traditions will be carried on. Most of all, in our fast-paced society, I encourage them to slow down, listen and be present…because Everything Else Can Wait!”
–-Lisa Franklin, mother and grandmother, Topsfield, MA
* * *
- “Mothers: We wear our hearts on our sleeves when we have children and are reminded of God’s unwavering love for all of us. Through every joy and sorrow, how deep is that Love! Being a mother is both rewarding and challenging! Remember that each child is an individual, and the way you parent one may not be the same as your second child. They say that the child dictates the way you parent them, and in some sense that is true. Always be consistent and remind your child that you, more than anyone, has their best interest at heart.”
–Gloria Hawk, mother and grandmother, Atlanta, GA
* * *
- “Ahhhh…the journey of being a mother…and mothering! Part of me wishes I knew then what I know now and another part of me deeply appreciates the ups and downs as a purposeful learning experience for me and for my children. As a mother and now a grandmother, my advice would be to appreciate, integrate and consciously express the full beauty of who we are and to encourage our children to do the same. Do the inner work to reveal and heal the parts and pieces that got lost or disowned through life’s challenges and welcome them home. From this place, love the children and help them find the way to love themselves.”
–Beth Scanzani, mother and grandmother, Rockport, MA
From a great grandmother:
- “MOTHERHOOD is miraculous…GRAND MOTHERHOOD is magical. This is where you CAN have your cake and eat it, too! They call me ‘Grandie”…and I give them cake by the ocean for breakfast. You have fun without the responsibility. When I have had three of them at the same time and they started to ‘act up’ I would say, ‘We need to regroup, three OMs with three deep breaths.’ It was funny but it relieved the tension. Now as teenagers, they roll their eyes but they still do it! Great grandchildren: It’s difficult to believe when you become a great grandparent but even more difficult to believe when your CHILD then becomes a GRANDPARENT! And, life continues to give you babies to smell and love. The gift that keeps giving!”
–Ann Marie Salmon, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, Salisbury, MA
From a bereaved mother:
- “Remember not to sweat the small stuff… pick your battles. Kids have to win some too… and you don’t want regrets over silly things, if something ever happens — though I hope you never find out. Cherish and be grateful for every day with your children, no matter the age or the challenge.”
–Barbara J Hopkinson, Newburyport, MA (Founder, A Butterfly’s Journey To A New Normal)
From an adoptive mother:
- “I adopted a five-week-old son at the age of 45. The most profound lesson I learned was how much I could love him even though he did not grow inside of me. He was always told he was adopted, and I would share with him that he grew inside my heart, not my womb. Telling him ‘I loved him’ was a routine expression. At the age of three, he would respond, ‘Mom I love you very so much!” He is now 19-years-old and never hesitates to tell others he was adopted and to say, I LOVE YOU! Proud to be an Adoptive Mother!”
–Sharon Saba Hildebrandt, Scottsdale, AZ
From a stepmother:
- “Be available to listen, advise and support your adult children as they raise their own children. Remember how hard it is to be a parent. Then enjoy being a grandparent!”
–Susan Young, stepmother and grandmother, Beverly, MA
I wish I had all the wisdom of my friends above when I was a younger mother. The one lesson I learned in motherhood is to build community, particularly if you don’t have extended family nearby. Raising young children can feel so isolating.
Also, children need your presence more than your presents! Pause, a lot! Turn off the cell phones. Watch your kids play. Or better yet, play with them. You cannot go back and give your kids your missing time. With two young adult children of my own now, and my first grandchild on the way, I never believed my kids’ childhoods would go by so fast!
Happy Mother’s Day! Now, moms, let someone pamper YOU this week for all the years of care and sacrifice.
Thanks for your help collectively spreading the hard-earned and loving wisdom of your parenting years!
Hugs and blessings,
And I offer a special Mother’s Day thanks to my photographer friend Margaret Armstrong, who took the above photo of the zebras in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Here are her own thoughts on motherhood: “Being a mother is a special bond, a heart string from mother to child to grandchild and now to my new great grandchild who I am so looking forward to meeting in October.”Originally published at www.supportmatters.com.
Originally published at medium.com