Moms are the consummate multi-taskers. Whether that’s my sister’s ability to lead a conference call with direct reports while picking up kids from school, or my own mother’s aptitude for managing her five children’s sports, music and academic commitments each week while making sure family and friends received cards to mark big occasions, I think most would agree this particular multi-tasking gene tends to be most common among females.
As we face the reality of celebrating mothers at a distance this year, a buffet brunch followed by a family visit to the zoo or botanic gardens seems somewhat surreal right now. Chris Mann captured it well in his song “Thank U Frontline” when he sings “How ‘bout appreciating what we took for granted, everything.” This year Mother’s Day is likely to be marked with Zoom calls, yard signs and contactless floral deliveries. My own mom will spend Mother’s Day quarantined inside her senior living home in Boston, despite a daughter living within walking distance.
This time apart from mom and other important people in my life has prompted a great deal of reflection. I think a lot about how much I am missing those near and far. And my reflection this weekend is prompting feelings of gratitude, as many of the important people in my life just happen to be mothers or have served as mother figures to me during challenging times in my adult life. I believe that we never stop needing mothers, and the ones who step up in difficult times are not always the ones who gave birth to us.
When I faced the prospect of becoming a mother myself at the*mature* age of 37, I found solace and support from my colleague Beth Drews as she herself was late to the parenting game, and had managed to raise two delightful teenagers while navigating a dual-career household. Beth’s optimism and wisdom eased my transition to the role of working mother, and she served as a surrogate parent to me, posting photos of baby John on my office door during my leave and being the first to hold him when I visited for a firm-wide meeting when he was two months old. The loss of Beth a few years later to pancreatic cancer was heartbreaking to so many, but her generous and courageous spirit will never leave me.
As the years passed and my two boys became increasingly more self-sufficient, the opposite was happening with my parents. The stroke my mother suffered in the fall of 2014 was frightening in its severity, but also shed light on the cumulative stress my dad had been living with as caretaker and companion for a spouse suffering from vascular dementia well before her stroke. When I arrived at the hospital in Kentucky, I found myself faced with an entirely new role of guiding and helping my parents through their own struggles. Yet I was still in need of parental wisdom and mothering. Fortunately, I was blessed with the presence of Lucretia Thomas, lifelong bestie to my own mother, and super mom to four amazing children.
Lucretia has been a part of the Brady family since the beginning. She and my mom became fast friends as newlyweds and teachers at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary church and school in Lexington, Kentucky. When my mom moved to Kentucky in 1964 with the heavy Boston accent she’d never lose, a unique friendship formed between two women who’s shared Catholic faith and tight knit families enabled them to form a tight bond. Never mind that Lucretia was nearly a decade younger than my mom and had grown up in a part of Kentucky that my New England educated mom had never heard of. My mom saw in Lucretia qualities that my siblings and I also grew to appreciate.
Decades into their friendship when my mom moved into nursing care following her stroke, and my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer not long after, Lucretia was there for my entire family. She brought joy and comfort to me even when she didn’t realize it. My 47th birthday was one such occasion. It was spent in Kentucky helping my parents who were both too compromised to realize the date or meaning of it. I took Lucretia for a nice steak dinner that evening as a thank you for all her help, and that time spent with her managed to shift my spirit from self-pity to appreciation for the many blessings in my life.
I have come to appreciate that regardless of how old we are, there are always mothers around to inspire and care for us. We read about the unconditional love between parent and child, but it’s surrogate moms who can truly offer a level of acceptance and encouragement for who we are meant to be. As parents we’re hardwired to want what’s “best” for our children, when sometimes that’s tinged with a degree of self-serving intentions and concerns for ways our kid’s accomplishments (or screw-ups) may reflect upon us.
In more recent years, I’ve formed relationships with supportive moms throughout my community. There are the many devoted, kind and fun moms of my sons' friends, tireless in their dedication to PTA, Scouts, book club, music, church or sports that helps shape children (and benefit parents!) throughout our wonderful Glenview community. And there’s my Spiritual Life Group “moms” of Glenview Community Church, a small team who has supported me these past eighteen months in navigating my transition from spouse to co-parent, and from employee to entrepreneur.
And let’s not forget the mom-trepreneurs who’ve started organizations to benefit families everywhere. The tireless work of Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation founder Maryellen Maguire-Eisen has educated kids and families on the dangers of sun exposure at a young age while successfully advocating for tanning bed restrictions in her home state of Massachusetts. Visionaries Christine Dodson and Sascha Mayer were motivated by their own experiences as young mothers to create the company Mamava with a mission to transform “nursing from a privilege to a right.” Monica Brady-Myerov recognized the value of bringing public radio to classrooms around the world with her company Listenwise so kids without NPR-obsessed parents would learn valuable listening comprehension and critical thinking skills.
I am privileged to call the aforementioned women friends and family, and there are so many more women I’d love to recognize, but instead will ask for a Mother’s Day gift from my small but loyal cadre of readers. Please take time to think about those mother figures who may be household names (Oprah) or lesser known but no less important (Gretchen Grad) who’ve started a movement, inspired others or have touched lives with their generous spirit.
And say thank you!
Thank U Mothers - Glenview & Beyond!