Thank you, Mom
Happy Mother’s Day!
A few weeks ago my Mom came to visit me in NYC, for the first time since the pandemic. It was a special time for both of us. I took her to Fotografiska museum that at the time was running a few stunning female-led exhibitions. We marveled, we laughed, we cried at the art depicting authentic and powerful female experiences, emotional and physical.
I felt like we both reached a place of acceptance, respect and even admiration for each other. Over the years I went from questioning and objecting, to trying to understand my Mom as a person and ultimately feeling grateful and privileged to have her in my life. Now I’m also able to identify and appreciate a few valuable lessons my Mom that have shaped my values and gave me strength. In the celebration of 2022 Mother’s day, sharing just a few of them:
- Talk- and listen to your babies
This was such a simple yet life changing lesson my Mom gave me. When my son Teddy was born, I, a “head” person went through a library of parenting books, trying to analyze different “techniques” of parenting, and come up with “strategies” to become a good parent. Nothing wrong with that. However, looking back it became clear to me how I got sucked into this modern way of over-parenting that is based on a false mode of objectifying people and looking for ways to control them. It’s kind of like micromanagement.
Mom helped pull me back into a different culture with the set of values that focuses on a human as a whole, letting go of the urge to control or manipulate, and focusing on being in a moment and building a relationship.
“Talk to him” — Mom said. Each time you pick him up, each time you’re about to do something, when he’s in your arms, when he’s crying. “He’s communicating with you, listen to what he has to say” — Mom said when Teddy was crying. Apparently, every cry had a meaning I was going to learn like a new language. I tried looking it up in books… but all human children are different and there was no book that would help decipher an individual child. I really just had to learn how to listen and understand.
I realized that listening and talking to humans, understanding people in their own terms is simply a better way to be, not just in parenting. In leadership, business development/sales, product design and strategy, etc. we see that manipulative tactics, gimmicks and quick fixes inevitably fail. The best leaders I’ve seen lead with respect and authenticity. “Focus on the user and the rest will follow” is not a tactic, but a philosophy of embracing human-centricity that has demonstrated to drive amazing results for humans.
2. Raising kids is easier that you think
Human babies are born as whole individuals, and it’s our responsibility to support them, but it’s not in our control to “make” them into something, which includes making them happy.
The lesson helped me become a more relaxed and confident parent. Now I understand what Mom meant. The so-called lazy parenting, as an opposite of helicopter parenting, has been successfully adapted by some of the most family-friendly cultures in the world. It shows to be effective at raising confident, independent kids, who are also happy. Interestingly, the societies that are known to be family-friendly, tend to be ahead of the curve economically and socially.
3. Kids will teach you more than you teach them
My Mom always said that she was learning a lot from her kids. Not only when we became grownups, but also when we were little. I understood this after having my own. This realization came from simply observing them play and solve problems. Not only did they not need me to interfere, but I was fascinated by their creativity and innovative spirit. Any object can become magical and I became envious by their ability to be in a moment and truly think big.
Kids also ask the most incredible questions, that point out simple but fundamental truths of what’s right and wrong. They’re yet untarnished by internalized conflict and biases, and are able to think clear and decisive, acting with authentic curiosity. I find myself trying to think like my kids when facing puzzling scenarios. What would my toddler/kindergartener do?
4. Take care of yourself, first
It turns out to be very true in the fashion on putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. One of the dangers of over-parenting is that it prevents parents from doing just that. It creates an illusion that you can control another human being, and by inevitably failing to do so, makes parents feel like a failure overall. It also takes a mental toll on parents unable to relax a little and focus on their own wellbeing.
While it’s not always easy to keep that focus in the day-to-day life, it’s a critical reminder that if you don’t give yourself a time of day first and foremost, you won’t be able to give anything to anyone else. You simply won’t have enough to give.
“It takes about three years to recover from child birth” — my Mom said. What does that mean to focus on recovery over a period of multiple months? I found out that it can mean different things to different people. Every individual has baseline of wellbeing, and some recover faster than others. Also, recovery does not mean not functioning or not adding value in a moment, it simply means that you pay attention to your own needs, and ask for help. The advise to nourish yourself doesn’t only apply to becoming a parent, but to any profound change we undergo in life.
For me it meant reinventing myself with the new identity, seeking support through identity crisis that followed, focusing on rebuilding my body but also taking care of my mental health and embracing the fact that I have become a new person.
Another example of a strong woman who embraced this self-care philosophy and successfully raised three wonderful men, one of whom has become my best friend and partner — is my own Mother-in-law. Not only did she raise him to be an equal partner, she has also taught me the importance of having your own life and interests. All three sons adore their Mom and have a close relationship with her, something I aspire to as a Mom.
These values of female independence are incredibly powerful in our world, where women are still objectified and pushed to sacrifice and into becoming a mere vessel after having children, and tragically sometimes already reduced to a vessel by becoming pregnant. I’m grateful to all women and Moms in my life who continue supporting me. As a Mom I’m inspired to raising my boys right, teaching them that women are powerful and worthy of having her own life, and the world doesn’t evolve around them just because they are boys.
I explored this question of who am I after become a Mom myself, and whether I wanted to continue working and having a career, or whether I’d pivot to become a stay-at-home parent. I fully acknowledge my own privilege of having the choice and ability to explore these options and recognize that, sadly, not everyone today has the luxury of this choice. Some women simply have to continue working to provide for their family. I’ve decided for myself that having a career is part of my own journey of learning and self-discovery, and I choose not to feel guilty about it.
My Mom worked her whole life, reinvented herself professionally, and took time when we were little to try herself as a homemaker. She found that it wasn’t for her, but did convey to me that every parent should be able to choose their own path, without feeling judged or obligated to explain themselves to society.
Thank you, Mom, for lifting me up when I felt down, and for loving and supporting this often unreasonable and stubborn, but always genuinely curious individual. I’m a better person and parent thanks to you.
Happy Mother’s day!