My Mother, My Hero

When my mother was little, her father took her to a park and abandoned her. She and her younger brother were left alone and scared, waiting for their dad to return — like he promised. Years later, he did. At age 16, my mom's father suddenly came back into her life. Slowly her heart started to mend and her relationship with her dad began to grow. Unfortunately, a heart attack ended his life only months after he reentered his children's lives. He left again, just as suddenly as he had returned.

My mom's relationship with her mother also left her feeling hurt and alone. From her earliest memories, it was strained. There was more arguing than there were kind words. More anxiety than peace. More shame than pride. And affection was almost non-existent in her home. In fact, she does not remember being hugged by her mother while she was a child.

Knowing that my mother never had a positive parental role model, I find it interesting that from a young age, my mom's desire was simply to be a mother.

Maybe it's because she had to mother herself. She was used to it. Perhaps to lessen some of her own pain, she began dreaming of someday taking care of children, giving them the love she so desperately needed as a child.

When she married my dad, she knew her wishes would soon come true. And from the stories she's shared with me over the years, I wonder if in some way, she hoped to receive a baby as her greatest wedding present. My mom once told me she was depressed to discover that she was not pregnant upon returning from her honeymoon. She wanted a baby! She conceived a few months later, however, and her dream of being a mother was in sight.

My mom actually thrived on motherhood. She was made for it. Parenting was her passion and filled her heart with so much joy. She loved the baby stage with all its cuddling and rocking and cooing. And she is the only person I know that actually considers the toddler stage her favorite!

Early on, being a mother to four children was everything she hoped it would be. Being a wife, on the other hand, was not. By the time her third child was born, her marriage was slowly deteriorating. Dad was drinking heavily, and it affected his personality, their relationship and their finances. She knew that in time, she would no longer be able to shelter us from his drinking, and it seemed that his drinking would never stop.

A few years after my youngest brother was born, my mother divorced my dad. His drinking was out of control and she was scared. Scared of the idea of raising children with an alcoholic father. Scared of the idea of raising them alone. In her mind, she picked the lesser of two evils.

This lesser evil — the life of a single parent — was a tough choice and a huge sacrifice, as well. I can't imagine being a single mom in my early 30s with four kids under the age of 9. I can't imagine the anxiety she must have felt.

My mother went from being a stay-at-home home mom with time to volunteer on the PTA and at our sports events, to working three jobs and coming home exhausted to four latchkey kids. I'm sure she cried herself to sleep many times in those early months after the divorce.

We didn't own a car, so she walked to work or asked friends for rides. I remember going to the grocery store and walking home, each kid — along with my mom — carrying a bag or two. Our lack of a car also put a wrench in the carpool arrangements for my swim team. The other parents didn't know that we suddenly didn't have a car. I remember feeling pressured to lie about when my mother would drive next in the carpool. I would say that something came up and my mom couldn't do it this week, but that she would drive next week. I don't recall how it all turned out. I know it worked for a while.

My mom would get up very early in the morning to prepare ahead for dinner that night. Oftentimes, she would get everything ready for a pot roast, and we kids would put it in the oven when we got home from school. In third grade, I was frequently in charge of dinner. My mom would leave out chicken and Shake n' Bake or pork chops and Shake n' Bake. We ate a lot of Shake n' Bake.

Unfortunately, Dad was not consistent with paying child support, which only added to my mom's stresses. One on occasion, I remember seeing her at our front door, crying and picking up a huge box of food someone left there. I can't begin to imagine the worry she must have felt, living paycheck to paycheck.

Yet with all our new stresses and responsibilities, I don't recall ever feeling really bitter. Immediately after the divorce, I was crushed. I think my heart broke the day my dad left our house. And I know that we were embarrassed to bring kids home after school, because we couldn't afford snacks. I remember feeling a little different in school, wondering how many people could tell that my dad didn't live with me any more.

At her lowest point, but what may have been a crucial turning point for our family, my mother loaded us all up into the car one Sunday and told us we were going to church. We had never really been to church before. She told us that God was going to have to help us in our situation, and we were going to have to put our trust in Him. So, we all did — that very Sunday. None of us questioned Mom.

All five of us have been walking with God ever since. Now, I can look back and see His hand on our family during those difficult years. I know this is true, because I can only remember the great times we had as siblings and as a family.

I am amazed to think how well we all adjusted. I know that it's due to my mom — her love for us and her faith. She instilled so much confidence in us. She taught me how to make dinner, clean house and do laundry at a very young age. We had a lot of responsibilities, and I think that made us stronger. She encouraged us to participate in sports. Come to think of it, she made us participate, and we had a blast because of it. Growing up, there wasn't anything I didn't think I could do. I saw my mother wear many hats successfully and gracefully, and I knew that if I had an ounce of the confidence and strength she had, I truly could accomplish anything.

My mother sacrificed her life to give her kids the best she could — and to help us be our best. She even turned down a marriage proposal from a man who loved her dearly, but who wanted us to live with our dad half of the year. My mom wouldn't stand for it. It was her dream to be a mother, and she loved mothering more than anything. It was not exactly the life she dreamed of having, but as she often says, her kids were her life. And for her, it was all worth it.

I am blessed to call her my mother — my hero.

Background Information

Journey of No Return
Sometimes as parents, we have a knee-jerk response to our kids as we're barraged by their numerous inquires and desires. Maybe it's time to stop being so negative.

When Not To Discipline
Parents should recognize when they should and shouldn't discipline their children.

When You Feel Like Calling in the SWAT Team
Are your children constantly testing you? This classic parenting advice will help you regain the upper hand.

Questions and Answers

After I spank my child, she usually wants to hug me and make up, but I continue to be cool to her for a few hours. Do you think that is right?

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