By MPU Director of Organizing, Brian Bass
It’s getting to be that time of year again! That lovely Sunday in May where everyone (maybe not everyone?) remembers to call or visit their mom and thank them for being the best mom in the world. Cards, gifts and mushy social media posts are raining down on moms like there is no tomorrow. And yes, while only one Sunday a year is officially designated “Mother’s Day”, we can all agree that we love our mommas every day and if we’re lucky we get to show our appreciation as much as we want.
At MPU we’re thinking about all of those incredible moms out there- those that have small or large families, those that split parenting duties with dads or single moms who wear every hat imaginable. We’re thinking about what makes a great mom because we’re going to celebrate our Mom of the Year for being the superhero that she is. And I don’t have to look very far to answer this question for myself, because I was fortunate to be raised by (of course) the best mom ever.
I’m unapologetically gushy about my mother all the time, and I don’t have a problem admitting that. We don’t live in the same state, so we try to speak a few times a week and I’ll drive out to see her a couple times a month. Frankly, it’s never enough time together, but we try to make the most of our hugs, laughs and think about what we can do the next time we’re together. As I’ve gotten older and into my mid 30’s, I think much more about the son that my mother needs me to be, and not the son I may have reluctantly allowed myself to become for a time in my life. And that is all the more reason to express to her my endless gratitude for the sacrifices she made to give me a better life. Get your tissues ready.
Without going into too much detail, growing up wasn’t easy for our family. Mom had 3 children at a young age and I never met my father. Our grandparents became a great support system, but for all intents and purposes we were raised by a single mom whose singular mission was to make sure we had a better life than she did. We were a low income family fighting for everything we had and the scars of poverty are never too far from my thoughts. And this is where I draw so much inspiration for this post- because no matter how rough things were, mom was there with an answer. She put her kids first every single time and never complained. She made sure our lives would not have the same outcomes that she faced. She was a great mom because that is all she ever wanted to be.
I’ll never forget the lessons that we learned. Every single day the first thing we did when we came home was our homework- no exceptions. No TV- no playing outside, until homework was done. She also made sure to help us as best as she could, until we were older and the homework was beyond what she learned in school. And no one was more involved with our teachers than my mom! She had relationships with all of them, right up through 8th grade. They knew her name, they knew her presence and they welcomed her with open arms. Mom knew my sisters and I had incredible potential and she pushed us to achieve in the classroom beyond my wildest expectations. She made education our top priority and I became the first person in my family to attend college and graduate. And she was there, crying her eyes out when I walked across the stage to get my diploma. That picture is still right up on her wall, like it happened yesterday.
But that wasn’t all. Like a lot of single mothers with limited resources, she stretched money like you wouldn’t believe. We never went hungry, we always had what we needed and somehow the gifts under the Christmas tree were overflowing. I truly don’t know how she did it. But I can say that she never spent money on herself before she spent it on us. She put our happiness before her own, no matter what it meant. She had unlimited love and strength to offer to us and put on a brave face, no matter what challenges we faced.
As everyone around her aged, she evolved into the rock of the entire family. She could raise 3 kids, take care of our grandparents AND great grandparents and support her brother who was dealing with mental illness. She was literally all things to all people in a way that defies comprehension. When we needed tough love or guidance, she was there. When hard decisions had to be made, she was taking responsibility and being a leader in our family. And when she was out of her element on something, she knew when to step back and support us in uncharted territory. Mom didn’t pressure us to live a certain way or be what she wanted- she allowed us to discover who we were and make the decisions we wanted to make in order to become the adults we wanted to be. I can recall growing up with peers who felt like their parents ran their lives and dictated their paths and I know that was never my mom. As long as we were good people, she was happy and proud.
And that brings me to my last point about what makes my mother so special- her values. She taught us to be good people first, because what you had in life didn’t matter as much as who you were. We learned how to respect others, how to treat people and why values mattered. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, but most of the time right and wrong are pretty obvious. I’d like to think of myself as a good person with a big heart because I got that from my mother. And I hope to give that same type of decency to my children.
Mom is older now and her health is very fragile. We talk about how the years wore on her and what she overcame in order to give us what we needed to be successful. We get emotional about the things she hid back then to protect us from the pain she knew she could bear. I can see how the sacrifices she made for us changed her own quality of life and at times it breaks my heart. I know that I can never thank her enough or repay her for what she did for our family. I can’t go back in time and change things, but I can be a source of strength for her when she needs it. I can make her proud by living a worthy life that helps others. I’ve never told her this- but I’ve certainly discovered that a big part of the reason I got into politics and campaigning is because of her. She taught me how to be a fighter and do what’s right for others. And I’m going to keep on fighting to help families like ours. To help mom’s like my own.
So back to the question: What makes a great mom? Well, there are a lot of qualities that exist in great moms. There’s never going to be a single definition, but I think you know the type. Moms who make sacrifices, give love and guidance and create a foundation for success that carries on for years to come. Moms who know how and when to fight for what matters and what doesn’t in the long run. Moms who do whatever they can to make things right. It’s the toughest job in the world, reserved for the strongest among us. I’m excited to celebrate my mom, MPU is excited to celebrate our Mom of the Year and I hope you’re out there celebrating yours each and every moment you can.
Happy Mother’s Day!