I’m sure it must have been hard, being thrown into motherhood at such a young age. I can’t imagine the confusion and fear that must have collapsed down on you like the weight of 1000 boulders. Being a mother is hard enough, in fact the hardest thing I’ve ever done, without a doubt. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been, having to learn to do it at such a young age. Today I want you to know how much I love you, and thank you, for persevering through it all, and always doing the best you could for us. For making the hardest job at many times, look easy, even though now I know, it’s anything but.
Thank you Mom for teaching me to stand up for myself, to be honest and true, and to be a fighter. Sure, sometimes it has got me, and still gets me into trouble, but more often than not it has served me well in my career, in life, in mothering. Because of you I’m not afraid to speak my mind, to be honest and open with those I care about, and to have the courage to tell others when they’ve hurt me. As I like to say, “you’ll always know where you stand with me,” and it has proved to be especially positive in parenting. My love for my children is fierce and without bounds, and with you as my model, I’ve learned to be real with them, to not be afraid to show emotions when they’re around, to express myself and what I’m thinking and feeling, so that they too can learn to express themselves. I want my children to be able to show me everything they have to show, every bit of happiness, joy, hurt and frustration they feel, I want them to be able to come to me with those feelings and trust me with them. I learned at a very young age to trust you with it all, and I only hope I can be such a safe haven for my 3 kids.
Alternately, I want to show them the same respect, as you showed me, when they’re just not ready or willing to open up and share it all. To know when to pry, and not to pry. In all, you were just there for me, in any capacity I needed you to be. When I needed to run to you because I’d been hurt or disappointed, or I was beyond excited and proud, you were there. But when I needed to just be, to not share it all, you understood, and gave me the space I needed. I can only hope to have that same level of wisdom and understanding.
Both you and Dad modeled the fiercest work ethic for me, and I thank you both for that. But I especially thank you for working, cooking, cleaning, doing the wash, and attending every single track meet I ever had (there were at least a hundred!), with a smile on your face and never a complaint or bit of stress. I feel like I’m always so frazzled, rushing around from here to there, and when I think back to all you managed, you did it all with so much calmness and a matter-of-fact attitude, I am in awe. How did you do that? At any rate, it was noticed and appreciated. Something to strive for indeed.
The most valuable thing you ever taught me, and I certainly have never given you the credit for this, is to give my marriage the most respect and energy I can gather, because it is the most important thing worth fighting for. It goes without saying that you and Dad have been through a lot in the course of your marriage. But you guys never, ever gave up. You especially, fought to hold our family together, to know the importance of us staying together even through the bad times. And 40 years later, here you guys are, still together through it all. What a testament to dedication, hard work, love and family. I am so proud to have you both together all these years later, and to be able to watch you both grandparent together is such a gift.
Thank you Mom. For it all. The lessons you taught me, both outright and silently, will stay with me forever and live on with me, and with your grandkids. To shape, guide and teach a child is the greatest gift you can give, and to learn from a loving and caring mother, is the greatest gift you can receive.
We’re celebrating Mother’s Day by celebrating leaning in to motherhood, and by recognizing the extraordinary women that are our own mothers. We hope that it will inspire you to thank your own mother, or the mother who most inspires you. Find more letters and stories about leaning into motherhood here. And, of course, find your own Lean In inspiration at LeanIn.org.