Sara's post a while back about maintaining her sense of self while still being a mom resonated with me. Her memories of watching her mother paint made me think of all the little things I'd observed about my own mom while I was growing up, both the little personal habits and bigger personality traits.
It seems that while we, as moms, might not be aware of it, our kids are quietly observing everything we do. So often you hear about women who learned to cook or sew or knit from their grandmother or mother. While I would have loved to have been taught how to make baked ziti, my family's of Scandinavian and Irish origin, so great culinary skills weren't going to be passed on.
While there are many things I admire about my mom (Mom, don't think that just because I'm singling one out doesn't mean that's the only thing I admire about you...) the thing I admire most is her commitment to her friends.
My mom has always had a close group of friends and has put forth effort to stay in touch with them and spend time with them. Since I can remember, they've gone out to dinner to celebrate each other's birthdays, talked on the phone and gone on trips together. When my mom was pregnant with me, some of her friends hosted a baby shower for her. When I was pregnant with my daughter, those very same friends hosted a baby shower for me. These friends have been integral players in not just my mom's life but mine as well.
When I was 14, my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. It was a horrible time for us. I can't imagine how we would have gotten through without the support of her friends and our family. Her friends came from out of town to stay with us so the house wouldn't feel so empty. One even bought me a beautiful new bedding set to help distract and cheer me up, something I've always been touched by. Another friend invited us to visit her in Hawaii so we could get a break from things. Other friends (and my aunts) pitched in and helped us out in so many little ways. The summer after my dad died, I decided I wanted a dog. My mom was pretty much willing to give me whatever I wanted at that point, so I got my puppy. Her friends came over and helped build and paint a fence for that dog. I could go on about the wonderful things these friends have done over the years but the point is that the time my mom spent nurturing her friendships meant that when we needed people, there was a strong support network there for us.
Growing up, I never minded if my mom, who was a working mom, left on a Tuesday evening to go to dinner with her friends. I still had plenty of attention from both her and my father. Besides, she didn't always leave us to be with her friends, it was often that we were all together as entire families. I loved the time that we spent with my parents' friends and now consider them to be my friends as well.
I think that today, we often feel we need to be everything to our kids at all times and we forget they don't actually need our undivided attention 24/7 - I am certainly guilty of this. I've also noticed that since I've had kids my friendships have largely taken a backseat to mothering. While my kids are my top priority, my friends are also a priority and it saddens me that I've let so many friendships slide. Yes, we keep up on Facebook but sometimes it can be so difficult to get together in person. Most of my friends live scattered around the greater metro. area, which means they often live 40 minutes away. Sometimes a ferry commute's involved, or a border crossing, which makes it that much more difficult to see each other. Many of my friends work and most of us have small children and it just seems to get to be longer and longer between visits.
Thinking about my mom and her friends makes me want to put renewed energy into my friendships. Not just because I always feel better after spending time with my friends but also because it's a good example to my kids. I think it's good for kids to see their moms happy and fulfilled in a pursuit outside of mothering. And besides, let's face it, if I maintain my friendships as I age, it'll take some of the pressure off of my kids to visit and call me so often. So in the long-run, they'll really appreciate my friends.