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The Mother of All Mothers

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Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved ~ Robert Browning

Mother. Just saying the word brings up a multilayered spectrum of reactions I know, depending on our own personal experiences with our mothers. Like it or not, without our mothers, we wouldn't be here.

Growing up in the 50's and 60's, my mother Lillian was primarily a "stay-at-home"mother. It's not that she didn't have high aspirations for her future, as she dreamed of being a dancer. However, times required she go to work directly after graduating high school as a bookkeeper for a dress manufacturer, her professional dancing dreams dashed.

To me she seemed to enjoy being a "housewife". She was highly social, having many neighborhood friends, playing mahjong and staying involved in community events, even helping my father at times with his work. And the dancing dream wasn't totally lost, as my father and her were outstanding ballroom dancers. When they took to the floor, everyone cleared the way and stopped to watch.

2014-05-05-IMG_0692.jpgMy mom remains an amazing guiding light to everyone who meets her. At the ripe young age of 98, she is still active and vibrant. No-one believes her when she says her age. She looks that amazing. Until age 96, she had never been in the hospital overnight other than to have her children, my brother Niel and myself.

She has a life-affirming attitude and an indomitable will, that keeps her enjoying life, never complaining or looking back. She holds no grudges and has few, if any, regrets. She's become everyone's surrogate mother or grandmother, always there with a listening ear, or shoulder to cry on. However, be prepared, as she'll often tell you, (whether you want to hear it or not) to "Talk yourself out of it." A philosophy that appears to have worked for her.

What I'm perhaps most grateful to my mother for, is the belief and encouragement she offered, daring me to dream big and to spread my wings and fly. She always supported me in everything I wanted to do. There has never been any question about the intensity and sincerity of her love for me. She still places me on a pedestal and maintains unwavering faith in my abilities to accomplish whatever I set my heart on. Maybe sometimes more than I do for myself.

In the piece I wrote to honor her 95th birthday, I shared: "She is vivacious and vital; has an impeccable memory, is beautiful, gracious and an inspiration to everyone who meets her. An inspiration of what aging gracefully can look like, in a culture that is obsessed with and idolizes youth." Nothing much has changed since then. Although she does mention that she's had to slow down, as things take longer to do than she would like. Never a complaint, merely a comment.

My mother was the middle of six children, the last one standing now. Her crisp, clear stories sound like they happened yesterday. With her pristine memory, she freely shares this gift of story, with family and friends if asked. My book, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie, my memoir, is very much a tribute to my mother, as the stories of my life, simply wouldn't be what they are without her. It felt important to record her recollections of a time long past, along with my own. Her energy and smile are still contagious and as my way of sharing a little bit of her with the world, she plays a key role in the "Confessions" book trailer video too.

My relationship with my mother is quite different than my relationship with my own daughter, Lani. My daughter and I are friends and fly on the same wavelength. My mother and I are from radically contrasting eras, with vastly different values and morals. One of the many cultural seeds planted during the "hippie" era when I grew up, was a new realm of possibilities for women, arriving via the birth of the women's rights or feminist movement. It broke down barriers, ushering in a new era of choices and freedom for many of us women.

Personally, although I intended to go back to work soon after having Lani, something shifted in me after giving birth, and I stayed home for the first 20 months of her life. However, offered the opportunity to partner with someone to start, what became a very successful business in the early days of home video, I eagerly jumped at the chance. My dream had always been to be active out in the business world. Before my daughter was born, her father and I were on the road, performing in our own "rock and roll" band. It was great fun to write about many of these life experiences to share in "Confessions" too.

Thinking about my experiences both being mothered and as a mother, I wondered how things have changed in relation to stay-at-home vs. working mothers? It's fascinating to see the stats on the topic. A LiveScience piece reports: "In the 1950s, only 19 percent of mothers with small children worked outside the home" and goes on to say, "As of 2008, more than 60 percent of moms with kids under age 6 were in the work force." Quite a dramatic increase.

According to a Pew Research study there is currently an increase in the numbers of women who are staying at home again. Interesting. "The share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29% in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23 per cent in 1999." The study continues, "The rise over the past dozen years represents the reversal of a long-term decline in "stay-at-home" mothers that had persisted for the last three decades of the 20th century." And there are a variety of contributing factors to this; demographic, economic, societal, along with mixed feelings about the impact a working mother has on young children and their well-being.

Although my mother wanted to work, my dad wasn't too keen on it, preferring she stayed home. Women seemed okay with this back then. She did manage to work part time and after my dad died, (when they were both only 51-years-old), partly due to necessity, my mom went out to work full-time, working well into her late seventies. Her eyes sparkle when she talks about how much she enjoyed working. To me, my mother represents the ideal balance of stay-at-home and working mom. In a marvelous way, she's an example of the "mother of all mothers".

Not working, was never a consideration for me. Starting in my teens working retail, I've engaged in a wide variety of things in my life and intend to continue exploring opportunities, creating new life adventures, as my mom did. I respect whatever choice a woman makes for herself and family, as I truly value my time spent staying home with my daughter when she was young.

Not all mother/child relationships are perfect. I get that. I've also worked on putting the past in the past, to focus on the wonderful, positive things my mother has given me, healing any areas of our relationship that needed healing. I've arrived at a place where I truly see her and appreciate her, for who she is.

How can we honor our mothers, not for just one day on Mother's Day, but every day, for all they are (or were), and all they are not? I cannot imagine my mother not being here for me. I'm blessed to have her with me for this long. To my dear "mother of all mothers", with all my love, this one's for you.

Feel free to share your own "mother of all mothers" stories.

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