by Carol Renz Blake
There is that one Sunday in May every year that we all have in common…the day set aside to honor our mothers and any of the other women in our lives who may have somehow touched us in motherly ways. It is not often that one is offered the opportunity to express publicly what being a mother means on a personal level. When that invitation comes from one of your own daughters, it is both a deep honor and a bit of a big responsibility. After all, along with the general public, all of my daughters will be reading my thoughts about what I consider important as a mother and this is an opportunity to say it well.
I do believe that much of one’s approach to becoming and being a mother comes from what they saw in their own mothers or the other important female figures in their lives. I have often thought about the fact that both my own mother and father lost their mothers before they were 10 years old. There was an older sister and a loving grandmother who stepped in and filled the role of mother for them as best as possible.
The reality of this has helped me understand the way my own parents parented my sisters and me, and also helped me understand that regardless of all your role models or any books you may read, you do not really start to comprehend being a mother until you are “on the job.” If one is willing, the opportunity for learning as a mother can and should continue throughout your life.
So much about living is striving to be your best self whether it is as a student, in your work, as a friend or parent or in your relationships. In all of those aspects of our lives, I have a strong personal sense that the best way to find real fulfillment is to BE invested. Whenever something is worth doing – worth our time, our effort, our talents or our love – it seems to request and ultimately require that we be invested. When you are willing to take the risk and invest, the benefits are more than satisfying and can often last a lifetime.
The word invest itself has many meanings and the basic idea of committing to a long term interest comes to mind first – but, when I think of being invested as a mother I lean more toward the words surround, infuse and enrich. I had no idea what a lifetime of investment looked like when I welcomed my first beautiful daughter into this world and little did I know that I would go on to welcome four more.
With each new person, each new personality and each new loving spirit I began to understand more and more what a huge job this really was and, over time, how important it was to be my best self. Along the way, the importance of investing in the individuality of each daughter became more and more significant to me. I believed that as their mother that was one of my most important responsibilities.
I married and began my family on the cusp of the women’s movement when it was just gaining some steam. In the early 70s many of us were educated but after our children were born not working outside the home. I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that over the 30 years that there were “children” in our home, there were times that I wondered what I might be missing in the work force. Over those years, I managed to remain significantly connected to the community and used my free time to contribute in ways that allowed me to utilize the skills I had that were not needed at home. Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I realize how privileged and fortunate I was to be able to exercise the choice to be at home for all those years.
Today, I try to remain invested in those five lives. Five individuals who have chosen five different paths all in their own way contributing and investing in what they believe in. I have come to understand that when you make an investment you first and foremost have to trust, then you allow time and watch the growth occur but you stay with it, you watch it evolve and you ride it out.
Mother’s Day looks different at our house these days. No more of those memorable breakfasts in bed, the coupons for back rubs or “Best Mom in the World” pins…all treasured memories. As much as I miss those years, now I have the immeasurable joy of deeply believing that these five women were indeed my greatest investment and my most valuable contribution to humankind. I am grateful to each of them for all that they have taught me along the way and my love for each of them will be with them forever.
*Footnote: Happy Mother’s Day to all women who share their love everyday and make caring for others an important part of their lives. Mothers around the world have advice and wise words to share…this is just one mother sharing her thoughts and her ideas about a very important job.
My mom, Carol, and I discussed what it means to be invested as a mother, how risk and trust plays into this important job and how she came to realize the importance of taking care of herself. To hear more, listen on…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol Renz Blake started her career working on Capitol Hill in the office of Hon Sam M Gibbons (D – FL) as a legislative newsletter writer and a veteran’s caseworker. She then moved to the White House in 1971 and worked in the Office of the Staff Secretary under H.R. Haldeman, assistant to President Nixon, and the office of Ray Price Head Speechwriter for the President. She moved to Milwaukee, WI where her first daughter was born, and then back to her hometown of Erie, PA where she eventually became a mother of five daughters
When not holding down the fort as a full-time mother, she is actively involved in the Erie community. Carol chaired the TRIO (Transplant Recipients International Organization) awareness committee for the Jr. League and developed a support group for transplant recipients in the Erie area. She tirelessly led a three year fight to support community-based schools by working to keep Tracy Elementary School open, and was instrumental in getting a new school built. The doors opened in the fall of 1998. During this fight she was appointed to fill a seat on the Millcreek Township School Board, and sat on the board for almost two years. She currently is the President of the Board of Directors at the Achievement Center – an organization that provides child-centered and family-focused therapeutic services. In her free-time, Carol enjoys gardening, traveling with her husband, Jeffery, and visiting her daughters in their respective cities.