I am a mother.

Dear friends,

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I am a mother and that is all I know. My children run through me like blue through a river and I can’t remember me before them.

I wrote these words when my now-adult children were babies. My sentiment reflects both the all-consuming nature of motherhood and, perhaps, its most poignant paradox: namely, the intertwined DNA and lives of mother and child, which we are forced to untangle, against our strongest instincts, if we are to be considered a success.

So . . . I guess I’m a success. HA! My kids have flown the nest and both appear to be thriving as young adults with jobs and bills and loves and professional conundrums and personal heartache and everything associated with making your way in this world.

And just when I thought my raison d’etre might shrivel up and die if I don’t get a grandchild soon (and neither Kate nor Parker look remotely close on that front), I received the sweetest little surprise and reminder of my value in this world, at least to two people.

My dear Kate nominated me for Mother of the Year . . . and I won. Now, just in case you’re tempted to laugh out loud like Mr. Mom did at the news, let me explain both the backstory and Mr. Mom’s thinking.

Not long after I learned Kate had nominated me at American Mothers, Inc., I mentioned it in passing to Mr. Mom. We were both in the bathroom for our morning routine and I said “Hey, did I tell you Kate nominated me for Mother of the Year?” After laughing uproariously, he stammered a bit. “Uh . . . Mother of the Year of what, honey? Of the world? Of our town? People magazine Mother of the Year?”

“Of America!” I said a little too defensively, even though this wasn’t quite true.

“Wow,” he offered. Then silence. Then “That sounds like something the Pioneer Woman might win. I’m just not sure you’ve got the following, honey.”

Okay, so he’s clearly right about that. But turns out, the only following I really care about is my own kids, who are super pumped to learn their mom has been named Missouri Mother of the Year. (Upon learning of the outcome of Kate’s nomination in a family text, Parker called me a “bad ass,” high praise from a Millennial male, kin or not.)

You can read about the many accomplished and inspirational state mothers by clicking here. We’ll all be traveling to Washington, D.C. in late April for the national convention, during which a national Mother of the Year will be named. (You can’t know how relieved I was to learn there is no swimsuit competition. Unfortunately, best I can tell, my featured talent of eating buttered crackers while lying on the sofa watching Hallmark movies won’t score me any points.)

The irony of me being named mother anything is not lost on me. For the first decade of my parenting years, I had benefit of a loving and tireless nanny (my mother). For the last several, I had the luxury of a patient and devoted stay-at-home father (Mr. Mom). To the outsider, one might say I outsourced my mothering to those more skilled and available. At one point, I felt very much the imposter, a motherly Barney Fife — a Deputy with no bullets in a town where the Sheriff is both beloved and wise.

I’d like to say my motherly angst only flared up when my kids were younger and I missed a tennis tournament or school assembly or watched Mr. Mom handle parent-teacher conferences alone. But the truth is, as recently as last fall, my insecurity made an appearance after Kate totaled her car and I only learned about it at the end of a 14-hour work day after Mr. Mom had already handled her hysterical phone call and assorted logistical matters such as towing, filing an insurance claim, and securing a rental car.

Kate had been on her way to our house for the weekend when her accident happened. I came home from work around 9:00 pm and joined the entire family in the den and not a word was said about the drama of the day until I casually asked “Hey, why is there a strange car in our driveway?”

After Kate re-told the story of her frightening accident, my response was “So, I don’t even get a text? When were you all going to tell me?”

“We’re telling you now,” Mr. Mom said. Then, sensing my hurt, he added “Honey. You were in meetings and events all day and evening. There was no need to worry you. Kate and I handled it and she’s home safe and all is well. And you sailed through your long day without extra worry.”

The motherly impulse to be needed, to solve all problems, to reassure and soothe our children is hard to overcome and I needed a few minutes to lick my imaginary wounds. But I quickly realized — who wouldn’t desire for their children to have benefit of two engaged and loving parents? Am I really going to let my ego get in the way of Kate’s exceptional relationship with her father, and Mr. Mom’s remarkable composure and problem solving skills in a moment of crisis? Of course the answer is no, and so later than night I thanked him for allowing me to focus on my work obligations on what was literally the busiest day of the year in my business.

What Kate taught me — everyday and through her nomination — is that I am a mother. And she is my daughter, no matter who else mothers her and no matter whatever else I do, in my work, in the community, or at home. My role has shifted over time but its value has never been in doubt by anyone but me. My dear sweet Kate had a nanny and a mama and a Mr. Mom and our little village raised a strong woman with a big heart who fiercely loves us all, including her mom of the year.

With gratitude {for the opportunity to be a mother of any kind},

Joan-Marie, daughter of Colleen, granddaughter of Joan and Marie, three remarkable mothers, each in their own way

 

 

 

 

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