Understanding my identity and perspective on life became an important task once I became a mother. If I was going to raise a child to be self-assured with a strong personal identity, I knew that committing the energy to improve my own was paramount. In my four years of mothering, I learned to understand myself more. Also, in the way I parent and the values I hold dear to my heart, I notice the influence of past generations. The mothers and daughters in my family have been pivotal to my identity.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from the 5 generations of mothers in my life:
1. Love the young. My great-great grandmother was alive for all of my youth, leaving our family when I was almost 22-years-old. I feel so fortunate to have had the great-great grandmother that I did. While she was approaching 80 years of age when I was born, my memories of Abuela Ana are of a vibrant and loving woman. Even in her final years, she kissed me and told me I was beautiful. Her legacy to me is that love spent on the young never goes in vain. Love the children in your life and not only will they love you back, but your legacy of adoration will be remembered long after you’re gone.
2. Speak with kindness. After my parents divorced, my great-grandmother watched my brother and I so that my mom could work. We called her Margo (her name was Margaret) and I simply cannot think of kinder person. Even as I sit here, trying to recall a time where she yelled at us or lost her temper, I can’t. Margo was patient, never asked for anything in return and loved us immensely. She was quiet, yet stern in her virtues. In the most challenging mothering moments, I ask myself, “How would Margo handle this?” My children have a better mom because of Margo.
3. Self care is vital. My grandmother is a pinnacle of strength. She immigrated to the United States as a political refugee from Cuba with my grandfather and two small children. Together, my grandparents created a legacy of wealth and stability that most of us call the American Dream. In my motherhood, her advice to me has always been the same: take care of yourself! From diet and exercise to manicures and facials, my grandmother has taught me that to raise a great family legacy, you need a solid foundation. Self care is vital for healthy motherhood.
4. There’s no room for judgment in motherhood. For as much as I love my mom, the stress a divorce had on her motherhood (and my childhood) impacts our relationship. Most moms are doing the best they can with what they have; casting judgment only diminishes they’re ability to mother. Now that I’m a mom, I understand her so much more. I appreciate her struggles and am grateful to her — I also judge less.
5. I am good enough. As the fifth generation of a legacy of mothers, and also as someone who has battled with low self esteem, I finally know that I’m good enough. To raise happy kids and lead a successful life, the lessons we learn from past generations falls back on foundation of knowing your worth.
I feel fortunate to have a generational legacy of mothers. Each different in their roles, but all important to the type of mother I am — and to the children I’m raising. Take some time to think about how generations of mothers — or lack thereof — influence your parenting. You might be surprised by what you discover.