My mother died two years ago. I miss her. Sometimes I wonder if I think more about her now than I did when she was living, though I am happy to say that I spent quality time with her that last year.
This amazing woman taught me the value of an education, the pride of being a woman, and the satisfaction of honesty and hard work. Perhaps even more important, she taught me to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
It was in our discussions of her final year that I learned that mother's life did not turn out to be the life she planned. As in many of our lives, love intervened. Mother told me that when she graduated from high school she was interested in books not boys, and she wanted to go to college. That was before Dad entered the picture.
The year was 1929. The time was The Great Depression, and banks were folding. My grandfather managed to withdraw his savings from the bank, and as the story goes, never trusted a bank again. As I piece together their story, my grandmother must have done an end run around my grandfather to make college possible for my mother. She sold cream to the local dairy and used the money to send Mom to Illinois State Normal University. Those women make me proud!
Mother graduated in 3-1/2 years with a degree in physical education and physiology, and was president of the N Club, a campus women's athletic association. She began dating my father during her brief visits home, and Dad would drive the 70 miles to visit her some weekends. By graduation day, Dad insisted she give up her career and marry him or he would move on to someone else, which proves to me that men can be manipulative, too. Mom chose the man she would live with for 58 years - until death do us part. I am pretty happy about that.
My parents raised four children while they farmed a 500-acre grain and livestock farm in Illinois. When many Americans went off to fight WWII or work in factories, my parents and other farmers fed the nation. The whole country fought that war, even the kids who gathered scrap iron and bought war stamps with their pennies.
From my mother's memories, my thoughts turn to my own. I wrote a book for our daughters - a book filled with lessons, biology warnings and plenty of "do as I say, not as I did." I wrote that book not only as a guide for our young women but also as a tribute to our mothers and grandmothers. Those women opened many doors for us.
In it, I remind our daughters, "You live at a flourishing time and you are fortunate. Others handed you the right to vote, to own property, to attend school, to own a business, to be paid a fair wage for your work, to have a voice in your own behalf and to NOT be anyone else's property. The women who lived before us often lived a life we find difficult to comprehend."
Unlike the days of my childhood, most mothers of today work outside of the home to put food on the table and/or for the satisfaction of a career. These working moms deserve extra admiration and support for all of their hard work.
It is close to impossible to do the mom stuff and reach the top of the career ladder at the same time. It can be frustrating to watch the males receive the larger salary increase or promotion when you know you work so hard.
There is no satisfactory way to explain this. It is what it is. However, there is a more positive way to look at the situation whether you work nonstop as you raise your children or move in and out of the workforce.
Women have choices, and we take advantage of those choices, especially within a two-parent household. With two parents and two incomes, you may be able to choose to be a stay-at-home mom during the children's growing years and return to the workforce later.
With a career split up into segments, you may not climb to the top of the career ladder and reach the top salary range, but you can still have the independence of a career, perhaps several different careers. This is one advantage that we have over men. I know many men who become bored and stagnant with their profession or job but they cannot or will not consider a change.
Lastly, for moms and dads alike, I remind you of an incredible hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is an endorphin, a natural opiate that calms and soothes us. Oxytocin is generated in the skin by touch and is released throughout the brain and body.
Oxytocin bonds people together - husband and wife, parent and child, friend to friend.
These chemical bonds strengthen with each touch, with each hug, with each fond memory, with each letter - keep in touch.
On this Mother's Day, generate oxytocin in yourself and everyone around you. Moms do that every day, and it is a much better gift than anything you can buy.