My mom and I have a unique relationship. We are extremely close, and I believe part of the reason for that is that my parents divorced when I was six. While I wasn't an only child per-se, my sister lived with my dad for the better part of her adolescent years, and I lived with my mom. The unique custody arrangement meant that my sister and I were raised very differently, as my parents are polar opposites. It also meant that in my home, it was just the two of us, me and my mom, for the majority of my formative years. Looking back, I know I am so fortunate to have had that time with her. She was, still is, a strong, single parent. I learned everything I know about being a mother from her. She is a woman of many words, but ironically, the most important lessons she taught me came from her actions, not her words, whether she realizes it or not.
My mother taught me that there is so much that can be said without words. She wordlessly taught me that a sense of comfort and security from just being there is so important for any child. By just being there for me when I needed to sit in silence after a bad day, or when I had a fight with a friend, or had my heart broken by a silly boy, she allowed me to be vulnerable. That vulnerability was only possible through her endless support and by simply being there, by co-existing and leading so much more than just parallel lives. I remember so many nights when I just wanted to lay and watch TV in bed with her, or when I had a project I needed help with, or in those dark teenager moments when I just wanted my mommy. Her support was unwavering back then, and she continues to be a source of comfort and support for me to this day. I pray that my daughter feels the same way about me.
My mother taught me that typical gender roles should be thrown out the door. As a daughter of a single mother, I watched her hang fans, paint walls, hang pictures, pack up and move homes several times, and put together anything from a bookcase to a bed frame. She didn't need a husband to do things around the house, and I was raised with the same understanding. As a mother myself, I have already put together countless toys and play sets, furniture, and everything in between. I do this not because my husband won't, but because I was raised with the knowledge and can-do attitude of an independent woman. Feeling empowered is something she unknowingly bestowed upon me at such a young age.
My mother taught me to be a leader. Even as a child, she valued my opinion and input. By doing so, she instilled in me a sense of self, which allowed me to be more confident child, and eventually, a confident adult. I have never been afraid to speak my mind or to share my opinions, even if I know I am not standing with the majority. I took on many leadership roles as a teenager, and I truly believe they helped form me into being a self-assured adult. Had she not built me up, while still keeping me humble, I would not be half of the woman I am today.
But at the same time, my mother taught me absolutely nothing about parenting. You see, she taught me to trust my instincts. She taught me that each baby is different. And she taught me that I need to listen to my gut when it comes to raising my daughter and when it comes to doing what is best for my family. She has allowed me navigate motherhood and figure things out on my own, while supporting the decisions that I have made. By not preaching to me what she thinks is "right," she has given me the self-assurance that I need to be the best mother I possibly can be.
And that may the most important lesson of all.
My mother taught me everything and nothing I know about parenting, and for that, I am forever grateful.