Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day: Lessons from my mom.

Last year I wrote about how much I've enjoyed being a mother so far and how motherhood has changed me. This year I thought I'd write about how much my own mother has influenced my life. There are the obvious things that I got from her: a love of cooking, home decorating, and, of course, drinking wine! But the single greatest lesson I learned came at around age 17.

Teenaged daughters cannot be easy to raise. I was actually a pretty good kid, rarely caused trouble but I know that I handed out my share of hormonal drama. At 17, I remember being really depressed about not doing well on my SATs and was sure that I wasn't going to get accepted to college because of it. And, even if I did get accepted, I'd never be able to pay for it, etc. So, I was sulking on my bed when my mom came into my room and started on a rant. She told me that I was in charge of my own happiness and nobody was going to do it for me. I could stay in my bed and be depressed or I could do something about it. Her rant included phrases like, "Oh poor Jenny, the world is just so tough..." I remember being a little pissed that I wasn't getting more sympathy. I think the word "bitch" even came to mind. I'm sure she doesn't even remember this because she was probably dealing with raising three other daughters, 2 under the age of 5, and working full-time. Anyhow after a little more sulking, I managed to pull myself out of bed and she helped me get my college applications together. Years later, even after getting a college education, this little life lesson has made a bigger impact on my life.

It's pretty simple advice, really: you are in charge of your own happiness. I'm sure there are thousands of writings on this exact concept. Oddly enough, I've met plenty of people (many, much older than me) that just don't have a handle on this. It's often easier to be the victim of a situation than trying to find a solution. I had a hard time working as a manager because I was often viewed as unsympathetic. (Seriously, I had to take one of those personality tests as part of leadership training and I came across as very unsympathetic.) My mom raised me to have a strong sense of self and an equally strong work ethic. I just don't get people who lack either. I also don't get people who blame others for their own unhappiness. Sure, there are relationships that go sour and cause unhappiness. But, at the end of the day, it's up to us as individuals to make ourselves happy. We can't depend on someone else to make us happy. We need to make ourselves happy and then share that happiness with those we love. I love being married to Adam and he does make me happy. However, if I depended on him as my only source of happiness, let's just say- I don't like golf, NBA basketball, or poker that much.

So when I find myself getting bummed out, I do as my mom would- figure out if it's something big that requires me making significant life changes, or maybe I'm just in a funk and need to paint my bathroom blue, rearrange the furniture, or change the color of my hair. If all else fails, pour a glass of wine and snap out of it in the morning! Parenting isn't easy but I'm grateful for my mom's rant 15 years ago. I consider her to be pretty bad-ass, and can only hope that my kids say the same about me years from now. Happy Mother's Day Mom, love you!


Emily said...

I remember you telling me that story a few times in college and when I get in a funk, I think of you and your mom and snap out of it! I love that she didn't enable you, but instead taught you a valuable lesson. Happy Mother's Day to you too!

Anonymous said...

HI Jenny. I love your message here. It is hard to remember to have this attitude all the time, especially when is seems like, everytime you look up, you are getting kicked in the teeth. :) I try to live my life this way, and it is definitely encouraging to see you put this attitude in print! All of us would be better people remembering that we are ultimately in charge of our own happiness. Chalk this up to ANOTHER thing for me to add to the list of things I admire about you.