I am, what my mother once called, “high strung”. One of four children, I knew where I was going at an early age. Rather, I knew where I was NOT going. I was not following my Mother’s rough and rocky path. A stay at home mom forced to return to the workplace when her marriage collapsed, she managed meals, teenagers and a triple paned glass ceiling. It was the 1970s and we were a proud Latch Key family, bravely making lunch hour Kraft Dinner and watching TV until the school bell rang. We were never late, usually cleaned up the dishes and acted responsibly. My mother modeled that.
She was up and gone long before we went to school, but always made sure there was hot oatmeal on the stove. “A good breakfast and a deep breath” is how she encouraged us to start each day. I would roll my eyes at her “wisdom”… these little nuggets that passed for conversation or insight. She grew up during the depression in Saskatchewan and knew how to handle privation. She’d plant and weed a huge garden every year, so we had our own vegetables. Only she could master the slightly sinister, hissing pressure cooker, serving up hot meals in minutes three times a week. Rarely she would brew home made root beer, which we would enjoy with popcorn, snuggled in the back of our Oldsmobile while we watched a drive in movie.
In short, she kept us afloat, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
We did not holiday in Hawaii like some of my friends. We never owned a new car. She was the sole breadwinner in a man’s world. Rather than see this a noble, I was embarrassed. Her sensible words and shoes irritated me.
“Bloom where you’re planted”, she would chirp when I would jealously carp about our less than ideal life circumstances. I wanted a summer vacation…two pairs of jeans. I wanted more and was certain I would be nothing like my mother.
My path would be different. I would not be a woman chained to her life with regret. I pushed back, I looked down, I lipped off. In hindsight, I was insufferable.
“I hope you have a girl” my mom uncharacteristically barked one day, after a particularly piquant argument fuelled by hubris and hormones.
I didn’t stop to consider what she was saying.
I was fast out of the gate, a joiner, energetic, opinionated, a leader. I was GOING SOMEWHERE.
And I did go places: I had early success in my career with movies and travel, I took a few years to work abroad and, upon returning to Canada, started my own business. I moved forward. I moved fast. I moved on…but was never quite sure what it was I was moving toward.
A short-lived love affair resulted in a broken heart, great life-learning and a marvelous baby girl. A single mom with a child to support, my entrepreneurial overdrive kicked in. Mental pedal to my mettle. There is no maternity leave when you run your own business. In fact, it’s the freedom to work 24/7. My mother was there, quietly dropping by with meals and missives. “Relax!”, she’d say.
I look back at pictures of me ten years ago and wonder how I did it. I look great (the stress diet), but there is something in my thin smile that belies the photogenic reality. True, I was clearing my own path, but I was exhausted. I hadn’t bothered to look where I was going.
Now, over a decade later and entering what is commonly referred to as “middle age” I wonder what am I really working for? I’ve had success and done some amazing things, including getting married for the first time at 48.
And, I have a pre teen daughter who wants for nothing. It’s what my parents tried to do for me, and probably yours too: generations of mothers and fathers working to make life better for their children. Easier. Happier even.
But have I done that? I see clearly now that the time I thought I would be able to get back (“I can’t play today but maybe next week”) is simply gone. My doll-playing daughter has moved on. And while I was leaning in, moving faster, working harder, my daughter was growing up, defining who she is, and of course moving further away.
She talks about becoming a lawyer like her father, or an environmentalist. Or a dancer. It’s wide open for her, so many paths and potential. She’s kinetic and kind. Expressive and emotional, and mostly unafraid. She’s a doer.
So, will I tell her to “Lean In”? Work hard, push harder, and keep on moving forward?
Ironically, I will probably say “Lean Back”, breathe deeply, cherish moments, and be so grateful for the people who love you. Savour this life. If eating quickly is bad for one’s digestion, then certainly living quickly is bad for one’s soul.
“RELAX”, my mother would say. It may mean less of something, but what can be gained is infinitely more.
I can almost see my daughter rolling her eyes, sighing, knowing she will be nothing like her mother. And you know what? That makes me smile.
“Blurg” or Really Easy & Healthy Oatmeal:
My lovely friend Lisa makes this every morning…you can adjust to your your own tastes, adding additional treats like currents instead of raisins, more cinnamon etc. Real milk? Soy Milk? You decide.
Four Servings (easy to make more or less, just adjust using your amazing Kitchen Math!
1 1/3 C real large flake/steel cut oatmeal
Put water and salt into saucepan, cover and boil. Add oats, bring back to a boil. At this point add anything you like including raisins, craisins, fresh ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg…you get the idea.
Cook uncovered stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. Don’t worry! You can run upstairs and do your hair, make a kid’s lunch…even read the paper while this cooks on low.
Stir. Dish out. Add aguave syrup, molasses…whatever you use to sweeten (if you do).