05/08/2014 03:14 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2014

Menthol, Misgivings and Other Lessons I've Learned from Mom

Jennifer Jay Palumbo

Mother's Day is an opportunity to recognize our mom's hard work, unconditional love and the life lessons she has taught us. I consider myself lucky to have been raised by a mom who could win awards for her consistent pessimism and worrying. It was her "worst case scenario" thinking that saved both my sister and me from ever breaking any bones. While other children recklessly rode their bikes down steep hills laughing, we instead remained indoors on softly-carpeted floors, amusing ourselves with bubble wrap. Sure, when we were kids, we thought this was a little overprotective, but now that we're moms, it makes all the sense in world. Here are a few other parenting lessons I've gained from my mom:

1. When in doubt, use Vapor Rub. My mom has this one endless tub of vapor rub covered in dust at her house that I think may even be the same one she used on us when we were children. It really doesn't matter specifically what the ailment is. As long as you have a combination of petroleum jelly and menthol, it can cure almost anything.

2. A happy mom is a good mom. When I was around 9 years old, my mother went back to school and started a whole new career for herself. She was never happier. Well, as happy as a pessimist can get. The bottom line is if working makes you happy, then be a working mom. If staying home is your passion, then stay home. Whatever keeps you and your family smiling and sane is the way to go.


3. Your child can never wear too many layers. One time, when my son was just a baby, I went to take him for a walk in the stroller. My mother put him in a onesie, then another onesie over that with sleeves, then a sweater, a jacket, two pairs of pants, socks, a blanket to swaddle him in and then a blanket to put over him. Did I mention it was June? Regardless, it's better to have layers on that you can take off rather than nothing to put on should he get cold. And of course, if there's a sudden blizzard in the dead of summer, you'll be the only one prepared.

4. Worrying counts as cardio exercise. As a mom, it's sometimes difficult to find time to get to the gym. When you worry though, you not only can prepare and plan to avoid certain disasters, but you can also burn calories in the process. My mother hasn't worked out a day in her life, but thanks to worrying, she remains in great shape and in a ready like state to pounce on the next possible disaster.

5. Just because you have a son, doesn't mean he shouldn't learn how to dress. My mom has said on several occasions that when she was dating my dad, she was going to break up with him for being such a bad dresser. On the date she planned to dump him, he luckily showed up in a sharp new outfit, thus changing her mind. If he instead wore an argyle suit with crocs, I wouldn't be here writing this piece today. A well-dressed man creates lives.


6. Go on the occasional vacation with just you and your spouse. My mother always said that one of the best gifts you can give to your kids is a healthy, happy marriage. She typically said this with a suitcase in her hand while boarding a cruise ship with my dad, so I didn't always take it very seriously. Now that I'm a parent though, I completely see her point. It also provides grandparents some quality time with their grandchildren!

7. Always have a sense of humor. Whether you've just been peed on, your child has discovered your adult toys or your son pointed at a random woman's chest and said, "Boobies!" (These examples may or may not have actually happened in my own experience), don't take it too seriously. No one does anything perfectly, rarely do things go as planned and if you're going to stay married as long as my parents have been, laughing is key.

8. Be Grateful. I'm convinced that my son thinks his name is, "Michael God Bless Him," because that's what my mother calls him every time she refers to him. I had a difficult time getting pregnant and really, all of us are just so grateful to have this special little guy in our lives. Being a mom is hard work and often exhausting but I'm deeply humbled and appreciative to have my son... and to have my mother to help me be the best mom I can be.