My mom died four years ago. No day has been the same since her departure, but Mother’s Day is particularly challenging. I’ll be frank: losing any mom is hard. Watching a great mom wither away in front of your eyes is the worst. My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her late 40s and died two years later. While I miss her daily, I appreciate the lessons she taught me about a mother’s love.
Though I don’t have any children, I have a village of sister/friends and acquaintances who speak to me regularly about the hardships of motherhood. Like a significant portion of African-American women, many of these ladies grew up in single-parent households and dreamed of living like The Cosbys — you know, reliable husbands, great careers and camera-ready kids… the basics. Sadly, several have what some would consider “all” and still aren’t happy. I think I know the reason: They’re obsessed with being the perfect mom.
The perfect mom is an ideal many of us have in our heads about “what life should be like” for our kids. Perfect mothers cook and bake, hold down jobs, own businesses, never look tired, always look fly, chauffeur their kids around 24-7, and still have time to give to their a partners. Most important, they are happy and fulfilled despite rarely tending to their own needs. Ladies, please. You’re killing yourselves and driving observant loved ones mad trying to be and do it all. The truth is: you can’t.
Even more important, the kid that you’re often appeasing is your inner child (you know, the one still healing from your parents’ dysfunctional relationship), not the live one caressing your face with little stubby, sticky fingers in the early a.m. asking for freshly flipped pancakes on a weekday (because if you are truly a good mom they haven’t experienced the emotional trauma you suffered sans counseling).
I have many fond memories of my mother. None of them involve going to Chucky E. Cheese, a hot new whip or even her sacrificing sleep and sanity to slave over a stove baking cookies — ironically, all of these things did occur. Still, my fondest memories are of special moments we shared, such as her remembering the dance moves of my high school senior play and performing them in the auditorium before the big show… in front of all of my friends. Or of her demanding that I go away to college because I “deserved it” — even though she needed a new car. Oh yeah, or of the Sunday afternoons we spent driving around Five Towns, New York looking at single-family houses, eating Taco Bell and picking up last season’s designer garb at Burlington Coat Factory.
My mother was not flawless. She was devoted and loving. She was silly and funny. She was thoughtful and giving. Most important, she encouraged me to be fearless, and supported me. My mom taught me that a mother’s love isn’t about doing it all, buying up the mall or being perfect. It is about understanding and nurturing your child, being in-tune with who they are and their dreams, and getting over your hangups so you don’t give them the gift that keeps giving (your issues).
As Mother’s Day approaches, I encourage all moms to make time for themselves. Kids don’t need everything, just the right things. A good mom takes the time to figure out the right mix needed for each child. Last, I encourage all moms to remember that there’s nothing wrong with a little me time. You’re raising your kids to leave the nest. They can’t be your whole world. Modeling a healthy balance between nurturing yourself and loved ones is the best way to ensure your kids grow up to be the phenomenal adults you’ve dreamed of rearing.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the fabulous African-American women raising our next generation.
And hats off to a great mom who’s definitely missed by many, Diane K. Brown.