Happy Monday! As we prepare for Mother’s Day this weekend, I’m bringing several stories of motherhood to this space, broadening our perspectives of what other motherhood journeys look like and expanding our definition of what it means to love a mother, be a mother and honor women in our lives who have nurtured us. Whether you love your own children, someone else’s children, four-legged loves or have decided that having children isn’t something you want to pursue, we are all greatly affected by the role of motherhood with our own moms–by the pain of their loss or the impact of their presence.
Today, I bring you my own mama. While so many childhood memories are faded, what remains vivid is that my mom loved raising babies, and we felt it. It came naturally for her, and even though we were little and preoccupied with things little people think about, I can look back now with such clear awareness that my mom was loving that window in her life. There were messes and stresses, I’m sure, but what I remember most of those early days is my mom’s nurturing heart–she loved pushing strollers and baking cupcakes and planning the perfect handmade Christmas presents. She once told me that now, as an adult, every once in a while she’ll dream that we’re little again, and (warning, this next part is going to kill you) that when she wakes up and the realization comes to her that it was just a dream, she can barely breathe for a second because the clarity of how much she misses it hurts. She’s still nurturing today, never missing a birthday or a Hallmark holiday with a package full of handmade gifts.
If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from my mom, it is to take what you’ve been given and make it beautiful. I’ve seen her practice this is in the kitchen, magically transforming my shoddy we-need-to-go-grocery-shopping refrigerator leftovers into impressive 4-course meals (I’m convinced the woman can make a homemade chicken pot pie from a few rubber bands and scrap paper), and I’ve seen her do it in our home. There were times we didn’t have much money growing up, but you’d never know it from how cozy and inviting she made her spaces–sewing clearance bed sheets into curtains, lighting candles, playing classical music. She’s faced heartache in her life with such acceptance and contentment for her blessings, and that, perhaps, is her greatest gift.
I’m honored to have my mama’s words in this space today. I asked her a few questions about raising kids, and reading her answers made me not only love her more but appreciate the fact that I get to repeat her favorite treasure–raising two girls and a boy just like she did.
What has been the hardest period of motherhood for you and how did you deal with it?
The hardest thing for me was letting my kids go. When they were little it seemed like they would be under my roof forever, safe and sound, needing my care. As they became older, they began to develop friends and interests apart from family life and then ultimately they entered adulthood, leaving home and needing me less. I’ll never forget Kelle, my youngest, leaving me a message on my answering machine: “Mom, just letting you know I had a phone interview for a teaching job in Florida, I got the job and I’ll be leaving in 4 days.” After a good cry, I gathered myself and began the process of letting go. I decided it would be better for me and for my kids to let them “leave the nest” with my blessing.
What is your favorite go-to mom recipe that’s easy for a busy mom with a big family?
What comes to my mind is a simple chocolate cake I used to make frequently called a “wacky” cake. I think it was popular in the depression era because it can be made with limited ingredients, no eggs or milk! Here is the recipe:
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 c. white sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 c. water
Mix all dry ingredients. Add oil, vinegar, and water and mix thoroughly. Pour into greased and floured 8 x 8 pan. (Recipe can be doubled for a 9 x x 13 pan). Bake 30 min. at 375.
What is your best advice to moms of little kids?
Love more, worry less! When kids are little, it seems there are so many demands! Some of my most vivid memories of my kids are when they were little. It is such a precious time, cherish every minute!
What is your best advice for moms during the tough teenage years?
Give them space, listen, and encourage them.
I think all three of us kids would say one of your most amazing motherhood qualities is that you love so unconditionally. You pour love without any expectation back. I know that we might all do stuff that maybe you don’t agree with, but we never feel judged, you don’t bring it up and you love no matter what. Is that hard to do and do you want to elaborate on this at all?
I think it boils down to what I mentioned earlier regarding letting them go. It’s not always easy, but I believe children respond more to praise and encouragement rather than voicing your opinions and advice about what they should do. On occasion, I think it is necessary to let your kids know of certain expectations you do have, but always in a positive way!
What was the most important thing in your home when we were little?
Balancing parenthood and other responsibilities is a challenge. When my children were young, it was a busy household with frequent guests and entertaining. It was easy to miss my children’s needs in favor of meeting other’s needs. But the most important thing was meeting my family’s needs, tending to my children and nurturing them.
What was your favorite thing about having little kids?
My favorite thing was making their birthdays special! I still like to do this!
What was the hardest thing about having little kids?
I guess I would have to say it was being interrupted often, not having much time for myself! But it was totally worth it!
What is your favorite thing about having adult kids?
My favorite thing is the anticipation of seeing my kids, especially after not seeing them for awhile, as I no longer live close to any of them. Interacting with them as adults is just as special now as it was when they were little!
What is the hardest thing about having adult kids?
When my kids were young and conflicts arose, they seemed easier to resolve, with solutions usually around the corner. But as my children have become adults it has been more of a challenge to navigate through disagreements and misunderstandings.
If you had to choose one parenting mantra for yourself, what would it be?
Love and support your kids with all you’ve got!
Looking back, if you could do anything differently in motherhood, what would you do differently?
I would have listened more and given advice less.
What are you most proud of in your motherhood journey?
I am most proud of who my children have become. They are each so special and unique and it has been my highest honor to be their mother!
I love my mama so much. Come back tomorrow for more stories of motherhood from some of my favorite writers and online friends sharing diverse journeys of motherhood. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, on my Instagram stories this week, I’m sharing readers’ submissions of the definition of motherhood. I’ve laughed and cried and had my heart expanded to so many beautiful interpretations of this journey. You can find all of them collected in the “Motherhood Is” button in my Instagram Highlights.