Motherhood and The Duty of Family

Three Generations- Granddaughter, Grandmother, Great Grandmother

Duty: obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or in a group)-i.e. was his duty to support his family. Source

It has been four years since I left my full time job to help my mom. In that time I have been through many things and learned much about patience, acceptance, and gratitude. I have started a small business, penned a book, experienced the joy of another grandchild, and spent consistent and overflowing amounts of time with my mom.

In this time with my mom, I often reflect about the two decades devoted to the raising of my two children. They are now beautiful young adults, responsible and contributing members of society.  They are good kids with big hearts. I couldn’t ask God for more and yet He gave me two amazing grandchildren as well.

I remember back to my child rearing days and I’m grateful for a husband who loves and adores his kids. Jim has always been a good provider, often working long shifts and weekends. Many times the kids and I were on our own, attending parties and functions without Dad in tow.

Though I deeply loved my children, I remember feeling at times the need to go to the top of a mountain and sit there for a while. Maybe I’d be quiet, maybe I’d scream, maybe I’d pack a lunch and eat it all by myself without interruption. Even as the kids got older and more independent, the responsibility of them continued (and really still continues to this day). It is a juggle to nurture and encourage our young and adult children without stifling them. I like to think of it as a balance to allow them to be themselves but within the social boundaries of society.

I see my duties with my mom as much of that same responsibility. Sometimes the nurturing and encouraging is on her part, sometimes it’s on mine. I am making the same sacrifices I did thirty years ago. Living on less financially, saying No to things I don’t have time for or basically cannot afford. As an oldest child, this is how I was raised. My sense of duty and responsibility to my family is deeply rooted.

My mother told me once that when I was in elementary school I often brushed my sisters’ hair and helped get them ready for school. I remember consistently looking out for them whenever we were playing or when my parents were not around. My dad told me I was the one they would look up to and to behave accordingly. I may not have behaved in my teenage- hood but I certainly did in my later years.

It is hard for me to describe my views on the caretaking of my mother to others who are not caretakers themselves or not “the oldest child.” I can see the lack of understanding on their faces and part of my acceptance is knowing that they simply cannot understand how it truly is. If you are the oldest or only child and/or the current caretaker of an elderly or aging parent (or even grandchildren), you do understand (and I’d love to hear from you). I am blessed in that I have a couple of dear friends who truly know what it is like. They are my saving grace.

With my mom’s 88th birthday fast approaching, I want to say how much having the experience of spending time with her has meant to me. She is my biggest cheerleader, best friend, and confident. Remember to spend time with your mom this coming Mother’s Day. If that is not possible then be with someone you truly enjoy.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

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What Is It About Mothers?

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children. Jessica Lange

Mom and the Three of Us!
Mom and the Three of Us!

Whether she was wiping noses, cooking dinner or teaching us life lessons, my mother dedicated herself to her family. When I look back in time, she was tireless. Ever cleaning, ever cooking, ever managing the household- that was Mom.

I have many friends like me who have aging parents with issues. Some have parents who have passed. As I feel my own age more and more, I grow in awe of what Mom did for us, despite some serious obstacles. I can wipe away a tear just thinking about moments in time and how Mom managed and survived major stresses. At the time those events happened, I had very little awareness of the gravity of situations. Now I know better.

Mom was a real stunner!
Mom was a real stunner!

As I take care of my mom now, I realize how she took care of my dad all those years ago. He had some of the same issues she is having right now, yet I do not remember ever worrying about him (or her) or offering to assist much. This bothers me a bit today but I know deep inside, mom shouldered this all because she just had to. And likely she would have not wanted it any other way.

My own stint with motherhood has taught me many things. One is that I am not always right. Second, I have a lot of power. These two things can sometimes get the best of us moms into trouble. When we tell our kids they don’t do this right or that right, they are listening. I used to think my kids did not listen to me. Then I realized that they were very much listening, watching and learning.

As parents, I believe we have a tremendous responsibility not to use our kids to fulfill our own unsatisfied life dreams. Rather, they are here to be their own individuals, embrace their gifts and qualities, and contribute to society as a whole. I have learned the hard way to love and accept my children (and grandchild) for who they are, rather than to try and force them into what I think they should be.

John and Michelene
John and Michelene

As I have said in previous posts, I have really realized the power of unconditional love. My daughter was a single parent at age 18. She finished her GED ages ago and attained a Bachelor’s Degree just a few years ago. She is working hard and getting ready to buy her first house. I am very proud of her.

My son is following his instincts and doing what brings him satisfaction and happiness. Though I sometimes wish for other things, I want him to come to his own conclusions about life’s journey. What I try to do is encourage, support and love him just for who he is…a wonderful human being.

My vocation as a Mother will never be over. I try and remember every day that I will leave a lasting legacy for my children and grandchild. As I remember the gifts my mother and grandmother gave to me, I can only hope to leave behind some fond memories of myself… and a great recipe for baklava. 🙂

This post is in honor of my mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to you! What is your favorite part of Motherhood?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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