We love our moms. Especially as adults, and especially as parents ourselves. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I ‘got’ what my mom must have gone through with me. We’re so narcissistic as children and young adults it’s difficult to get perspective, or to understand the courage it takes to raise children.
But now, as parents ourselves, we know about the all night croop watches, and the chicken pox itching prevention techniques, and the homework oversight, and the bad friends/good friends/stay out til 3:00 a.m. teenage issues; we know that our moms had our backs. They did without, scrimped, overcame fear and disgust (I’m sorry, but cleaning up vomit and poo are disgusting), and held the space for us while we evolved into who we are now. They nudged, cajoled, yelled, modeled, and silently hoped/prayed for our safe return to sanity, all the while deeply understanding that we were who we were, and their job was just to love us and keep us safe. And whether their judgment calls were to be proven right or wrong over time, there was always a fierce devotion and determination at the heart of each decision.
My motherhood time was fraught with difficulties. I got divorced when my son George was 17 months old, and his dad fought me tooth and nail, every day, to get sole custody (and given the reasons I divorced him, that would be the last choice among few). His fights included ensuring we had little money to buy food (He gave us $180/month, and we lived on $6/week for food for 2 years. I can tell you how to design a nutrious diet with no money.) saying that if I loved my son and wanted him to eat, I would give him to his father. It was a daily struggle, sometimes including him popping up in the bushes (literally) to see if I were home in time to be there when the school bus dropped George off.
When my son became disabled (he has a rare neurological disorder), I had to fight the whole world (including his dad who thought it was my fault) to get him treatment because at that time, the disease wasn’t known. Luckily I got George onto a meds trial that not only saved his life, but enabled him, after a few years, to be able to walk again (although he still remains disabled, at least he can get around on his own). I cried nightly for one year after his diagnosis (lost a job on Wall Street because I couldn’t function), drying my tears in time to be next to his bed when he awoke, asking me, “Mom. Do you think I’ll be able to walk today? I prayed all night.”
Weeks of sleeping upright in uncomfortable rooms in hospitals (there were no places for moms to sleep in pediatric hospital rooms 30 years ago) and more years of treatment and studies. That was in addition to the normal hell of raising a child alone with an actively abusive ex, trying to earn enough money for rent and pediatrician bills and private schools. I struggled with child care issues because those days there were very few places to leave a child after school so I could work: in those days women were supposed to be supported by their husbands. Obviously no need for child care for the June Cleavers of the world.
When my son got older, there were other of issues to manage with his disability and professional life. I had to steal my son (he was 23) away from his Dad’s house to get him to Colorado into the US Disabled Ski Team where he was a successful skier and Paralympian for 14 years. Raising a disabled child needs a village. I only had myself, with no family, but amazing friends. And sometimes I was tired, and resentful, and longed for a personal life, or a day without worry and fear. And sometimes, I just wanted the time and money to be able to buy myself a new pair of shoes.
It was a very very long 20 years, during which I couldn’t really have a career. But you know what? I wasn’t special or different. I did what all moms throughout history have always done. I took care of my child. I made sure he got the medical support and schooling that he needed. I made sure he became a happy, healthy, functioning adult who will hopefully give me grandchildren. That’s all a mom every asks for.
Indeed, that’s what mom’s do. Was is fun? Sometimes. Was it heartwarming? Occasionally – certainly not like those pictures of the Brady Bunch I watched on TV. But independent of time, place, situation, species, age, race, or gender, Moms are an amazing breed. Our jobs are to love. That’s all. We hover, protect, nourish, create boundaries, watch, admonish, and offer perspective. We’re fierce, and wise. We’re resilient. It takes everything to be a Mom. Everything that we didn’t know we’d need or have when we first learned we were pregnant.
Moms are heroines. Let’s give them some extra loving on Sunday. I wish my Mom were still around to love. My son is lucky that I am.
Sharon Drew Morgen writes books and articles about decision facilitation and decision making for the fields of sales, OD, change management, negotiation, and coaching. Read her newest book on how systems change and how buyers decide: www.DirtyLittleSecretsBook.com