What’s your mother’s story?
Once a week my mother comes over to watch my son. When she arrives I’m usually in a hurry. I give her the lowdown — he’s been fed. He needs to go potty. Watch out, he’s hitting again. And here’s what I have prepped for lunch. And then I’m off. But last week was different. Last week, as I prepared to head out to speak at a business conference, I noticed she was wearing a heart monitor. Her heart is skipping beats, and the doctors are trying to figure out why.
My mom has had medical issues before, but this time things felt different. As I was driving I started thinking. What if she doesn’t make it? How would I manage? What would I tell my 3-year-old? And that’s when I realized there is so much that I don’t know about my mom. I don't know what high school she went to. The name of her first love or what she wanted to be before she became “my mom.” I don’t know her favorite singer, flower or ice cream.
Some of the things I know about her I’ve caught in passing, but never dug deep. For example, I know that, like 1 in 6 women in America, she’s a rape survivor and that is how she began her motherhood journey. I know she lost her own mother when she was 28 years old on leap day, which is why every four years I’d find her crying in the closet. I know she was a gifted kid, but gave up on school/a professional career so she could stay home with my brother, sister and me. And I know when she made the decision to leave my father that it was hard because she loved him — but she loved us more.
When I think about it, what I want to pass on to my son is my mother’s story, which is like a heroic novel. And to do that I’d need to start filling in some of these blanks.
Mothers bring with them so many lessons in their stories. Lessons that are beautiful and magical. And lessons that derive from struggle, loss and emptiness. But there’s something powerful in a person’s story. And regardless of society’s expectations of my mother that she did not fulfill, I am so proud of the woman she turned out to be.
This Mother’s Day, I’m moving past the flowers, and the candies, and the brunches so that I can make time for what matters. I want more stories. More experiences. More talks. And I’d like to challenge you to do the same. Try something different. Instead of going through the motions, try setting aside some quality time to focus on your mother. If she’s alive, call her, hug her, take pictures with her, tell her that you love her. If she is not alive, call someone who loved her, and ask them questions about her, look at pictures, take time to reflect. Learn her story. And do the same with your kids. Share with them your story.
I started this process last week by asking my mother to join me on The New MORE podcast. You can listen in on our first “real” conversation right here.
To all of the mothers out there, embrace your story and the stories of the women who came before you. Your story is magical, empowering, enlightening and special because it’s all about you. And your kids deserve to hear your story.
Happy Mother’s Day!