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A friend asked me what it was like having a mother who was so supportive. I have thought about that question a lot since then, and here is my answer: My mom filled my tank with a reserve of strength that I now draw from whenever life gets hard, no matter how old I get. I know I am fortunate to still have my mom around after some recent scares, so I appreciate when she attends my speeches and events, as if I am still a kid and these are my soccer games. Her pride is always evident.
Last year when I told her I was thinking of leaving my day job to write books and start a business, she held back from giving advice at first. Then she decided to share her true feelings, “I suspect that if you do not try, you will always regret it.” My mom knew firsthand the risks of being an entrepreneur, working alongside my dad in a family business that brought adventure, but never security. She juggled business with seven children, baked whole wheat bread, grew sprouts in the windowsill and canned an enormous garden each summer. She was exhausted and never felt they could get ahead, but I thought she was pretty great. My parents had a 55-year love affair and my mom was a beautiful, classy woman. Still is.
So imagine how I squinted when she confessed to me a few years ago that she dreaded Mother’s Day. I was taken aback and asked why. “Because I felt inadequate hearing about the perfect women around me. I couldn’t sew or craft. My house was a wreck. I lost my cool. I worked outside the home when that was a no-no. Your dad loved me, but I felt fat. I would never measure up.”
Looking back, I felt she had accomplished much in both family and professional life, so her insecurities touched me. When I shared these thoughts on Facebook with her permission, one of my girlfriends said, “I thought I was the only one!” Another one added, “On Mother’s Day I stress about how the kids look and act because it feels like you are being scrutinized. If Mother’s Day were not on Sunday you could sleep in and wouldn’t have to do so many heads of hair, iron dresses/shirts, find shoes, and pack the bottomless church bag. I feel like I am competing with perfection.”
My mom may never have opened up on this subject if the two of us had not embarked on writing her life story (Every Essential Element) together, and I guess that was the most unexpected gift from the process. I got to know her on an entirely new and deeper level. I got to see her as the heroine in an epic love story, as well understanding her struggles. Now she is not only “the mom” in my life, but she is a complex protagonist who faces her weaknesses and challenges with faith. All of this makes her so much more interesting and relatable.
When publication time came, she opened up about something else, “I feel kind of shy now.” I reassured her that people would love hearing about her life, but she elaborated, “It’s not that. I don’t want anyone to think we were perfect, or that we thought we were. We always made a lot of mistakes.” She would hate for people to compare themselves as she had done through so many Mother’s Day programs. I thought that was very mindful.
Her confession made me think about my own life: How much energy do I spend comparing my weaknesses to someone else’s strengths? I diminish my own talents because they are different than what I admire in others.
Now in her 80s, my mom tells me to let my worries go, to enjoy today, and to run with my talents. She is proud of me, and she wants me to own my strengths instead of holding myself back.
Why is all of this so hard to do?
It occurs to me now that she and I, we want the exact same gifts for each other. I want to tell her this, “Mom, your best was enough. Your sacrifices gave me opportunities. Your belief instilled in me a sense of inner worth that I draw upon when life gets hard.” I want to repay her somehow, and make all her dreams come true this Mother’s Day. And then it hits me: her dreams are for her children. That is why she would say the exact same words to me.
She wants me to believe that I am enough. Now I am a mother, I understand this. I see that the most meaningful gift I could ever give my mom would be to absorb the lessons she has learned in 83 years of living. It would be to honor her belief in me. I get it now, because this is what I want for my own daughter.
So on this Mother’s Day, I want to give her three commitments. Mom, these are dedicated to you:
- I will catch myself when I start comparing my own weaknesses to other people’s talents. Instead, I will do my best to embrace the strengths that you see in me.
- I will take your advice live more joyfully and to appreciate these moments. Someday if I live to be your age this busy time will be a memory, so pay attention to making good ones.
- I will live the kind of empowered life you’ve wanted for your daughter, acting in faith as you have shown me to do.
And to women everywhere I wish to say this: none of us are perfect so let’s ease up on ourselves this Mother’s Day, okay? We are enough.
Rhonda Lauritzen is the founder and an author at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire. (Let us help you tell yours!) Rhonda lives to hear and tell about people’s lives, especially the uncanny moments. She and her husband Milan restored an old Victorian in Ogden and work together in Evalogue.Life, weaving family and business together.
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