05/13/2012 11:57 am ET Updated Jul 13, 2012

Mother's Day Momily

This morning, as my daughter sets up her dollies and teaches her "class" and her grandmother spends the holiday with our troops in Afghanistan I'm reflecting on the Mother's Day momily. Growing up, in church we had the homily; at home it's what I call the "momily" -- the inspirational and instructive mom-isms that every family has. 

In addition to the pigtails she braided, uniforms she pressed, meals she prepared and carpools she drove, my mother Nancy Pelosi's momilies were memorable and still echo through the years from my childhood to my motherhood.  

On playing nice: "Keep the friendship in your voice." 

On homework: "Proper preparation prevents poor performance."

On criticism of others: "Worry about your own self. Don't be a 'Miss/Mr. Make-Matters-Worse.'"

On tears: "You play rough, you get hurt."

On motivation: "You can do it -- it's just a decision."

On what she wanted for Mother's Day (and her birthday, and Christmas...): "Good behavior."
I think every mother's momily includes "good behavior" -- for our large spirited family it was a must. My parents had five children in six years and one week, meaning that my mom was pregnant for most of the '60s and driving carpools for most of the '70s. When we were young, she dressed us alike so she could pick us out in crowds: identical skirts for the four girls with the color-coordinated pants for my brother. I'm sure it was all those matching outfits - plus years of Catholic school uniforms -- that led us to develop distinctly individual styles as soon as we were able to dress independently.

My earliest memories of my mom were of her multi-tasking -- preparing dinner while checking on homework and housework; clearing the dinner plates while setting out bowls for breakfast; making sure we ate our breakfast while lining up bread, lunch meats, apples, and snacks assembly-line style so we could make our lunches. To this day, we rarely finish eating one meal without planning the next.

Of course it's one thing to recite the momily and another to live it. Having seen my mom in community volunteer work my whole life and in Congress for 25 years, it is true as she often says that she sees her service as an extension of her role as a mother and a grandmother. The same organizing, cajoling, quarter mastering, coalition building and encouraging that all moms do in the house is essential to the work my mom and others do in the House of Representatives. 

Now a mother myself to the irrepressible intrepid Isabella, I find myself invoking the momily as my three-year-old makes her way, through the impish moments when she draws on walls or the inspiring ones when she shares her toys and affection with others. Her generation is freer then mine from social divisions, with more diverse friendships amongst kids from families across race, religion, sexual orientation and nationality: what I call the "21s century blend." She watches President Obama on TV and thinks his message is "we love everybody." She has traveled with me to campaign boot camps in 20 states and three foreign countries. Isabella recently told me she thinks my work is "help kids get to eat, go to school, and play" -- a pretty apt job description of parenting and politics, and a new momily to live by this Mothers Day.