This month, we're shining the spotlight on our own mothers as part of our Everyday Icons series - women that survived (and thrived) in the great challenge of motherhood. And today, I'd love for you to meet my own mother, Mary. A retired teacher turned local librarian, my mother can always be found with a book in her purse, a spring in her step and a smile on her face. It was such a pleasure to sit down and soak in her wisdom and perspective for a few moments this week. Learn what Mary has to say about raising three girls while balancing a full-time career in a small Midwestern town - all with grace, perseverance and a healthy dose of organization!:
Happy Mother's Day, Mom! Do you have any specific parenting strategies that you found worked well while raising your three daughters?
I really don't see myself as having all of the answers by any means, but I must say that it is a compliment to try to answer these questions for you. My parenting strategy was pretty simple: "Do unto others as you would want done unto you." I felt (and still do) this was as important at home as it was out in public. I wanted each of our girls to feel loved and special. I did not necessarily treat you all the same, but tried to be consistent. We tried our best to support whatever interests you were developing whether it be softball, gymnastics, dance, drama basketball, soccer, swimming, music, art etc. Of course academics were always very important and I tried to encourage a love of reading by taking each of you to story times, library programs, and providing books for enjoyment, as well as modeling it by reading a lot myself. I remember our bedtime stories where we would each take on a character and read the dialogue in the story in our own way. We made some pretty cute cassette tapes of early readings, which we made for gifts for others. We felt it was important to spend time together as a family on Sundays by going to church and visiting extended family. We tried to give you lots of freedom during the week for your own friends and activities.
How did you cope with the stress of balancing your teaching career and your family?
I'm not sure that I was always able to handle the stress of family and a teaching career that well. On good days, I enjoyed my job and the people I worked with, but there were always some bad days sprinkled in as well. I relied on Sesame Street to give me the time to get supper on the table. Your dad was supportive of my working outside the home for the good of the family and my own satisfaction. He pitched in and helped with medical appointments and all kinds of jobs around the house. I know how lucky I am to have a husband who knows how to run a vacuum cleaner and do the laundry! I was blessed to have two especially wonderful baby sitters, who offered support and advice, and gave of themselves totally for the care of our 3 beautiful daughters, "in sickness and in health!" I tried to teach each of you to be responsible for your own belongings and rooms and help around the house, knowing there were not enough hours in the day for me to do it all. I did take time for myself to take fun community education classes (think doll house and guitar and french cooking) and get some exercise (think jazzercize, swimming, and walking and biking), which was a stress reliever for me. We took some pretty terrific trips and vacations, which always provided good memories for me. We have some wonderful friends and family who were always there to share the load when needed.
How have you seen the role of mothers change over the years, generally speaking?
Today it seems that you find mothers in more of a variety of careers than when I was working and moms were likely to be teachers, nurses and social workers. There are more single moms and children being raised by grandparents than when I was young. I am thankful to be a grandma, instead of doing the whole parenting thing again. I don't think I would have the energy for that! Nuclear families with dads present seem to have very involved dads who are 100% in partnership with mom when it comes to raising the children, and helping with household chores, rather than mom taking all or most of the responsibility (unless there was some kind of discipline to be doled out).
What do you remember as your greatest parenting milestone?
My greatest parenting milestone is really not my milestone, but that of each of our daughters. For me to see each one graduate from high school, graduate from college, and then marry the wonderful young men that have become a part of our family, has been a milestone for me as well as for each of them. It is such a joy to watch how each daughter has their own parenting style that works for them and their family's circumstances.
I like to think that I have learned to be supportive of the decisions they make, whether I may agree or disagree with those decisions. Actually, it is probably a milestone that I do agree with their decisions for the most part and on the important things. It was not always easy to let go of my little girls, but as I learned to trust their judgements, it became easier for me to allow each to live her own life without my interference.
What are the most valuable lessons you hope you instilled in your daughters?
I sometimes wonder about the most valuable lesson(s) I have instilled in our daughters. It is kind of like writing your epitaph a little sooner than necessary. I hope they each find the joy that I found in being a mom, though there are days that you might do anything to get away for awhile... just give yourself that time, if possible. I hope they remain close as sisters, knowing what an important relationship a sister is throughout life, facing whatever good and also those obstacles that invariably will be part of life. I hope that they will each value their husband and family above all the other distractions that life can offer. It is family who sticks by us and loves us through the roller coaster of life, while the distractions are temporary and ever changing. I hope that I have instilled a good work ethic in each of my children, but not so much that they do not find the time to enjoy the moment, just as our favorite song "We Have This Moment" describes. I hope that my daughters know that even when I made mistakes, I loved each of them, wanted to protect them, and hoped that they would forgive and forget. I hope that my daughters know that I live my life serving God and loving others.
And what are some lessons your daughters have taught you?
I continue to learn from being part of the lives of each of my daughters and their own families. I have learned the value of vision and hard work, which awards both flexibility of time and resources. I have learned not to take good health for granted. I have learned to love those who are important to us, as they will not be with us forever. I have learned to have a sense of humor and accept my shortcomings as part of my being. I have learned that all things can be made more beautiful. I have learned that one can be a risk-taking creative, even when her own parents are just the opposite. I have learned that to have a friend, you must be there to help others. I have learned to be accepting and less critical of others and their situations. I have learned that hard work and planning, along with a dose of faith does pay off. I have learned that a good mom is loving and accepting of each of her children, no matter how different each one might be, and that perseverance is so necessary in raising children. I have always considered myself blessed to have had such "easy" girls to raise, and am now enjoying the pleasure of watching each of them raise your own children.
Thanks for joining us, Mom - I couldn't love you more!
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Erin Loechner has juggled an active Internet career with writing, speaking, styling and consulting since 2001. Author of two award-winning websites DesignForMiniKind.com and DesignForMankind.com (the latter of which was recently honored as one of the London Time’s top 50 design blogs in the world), Erin’s work has been featured in Glamour, Lucky, Dwell, Readymade, Nylon, Print Magazine, Apartment Therapy and The Huffington Post. Her unofficial title? The Nicest Girl Online.
p.s. Want to hear from another staff mama? Meet sweet Stella's mother, acclaimed photographer: Julie Blackmon!