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Lessons from our mothers

Learning: Mothers teach their offspring such skills as self-reliance, organisation, and most importantly, problem-solving, writes Martha Harris Myron

What does it take to be a mother?

Initially, it is a brief physical moment of contact. Her (and your) future course is set.

But it is much more than that.

Mothers have borne us through nine long months of a glorious, terribly laborious gestation displaced by irrevocable physical changes. Who among all mothers does not admit to having terrified thoughts, at least once, during that hiatus in life regarding the daunting prospect ahead.

Gentlemen, you have no idea!

It has been said that women have an innate maternal instinct to embrace and invest in a child, but tell that to first-time mothers. It is an incredible learning process that they don’t exactly teach in school. And child-rearing is certainly not like taking an exam where you get to do it over.

Yet for thousands of years, mothers, even more than fathers, have driven the course of history for their descendants: bonding with their children, evolving in caregiving, influencing and assisting children in life-decisions

Watching our mothers’ grocery shop, prepare meals, run a household, balance a budget, we learn finance — what it means to be thrifty, to search for the best value, to set saving goals with allowances, to help with the family chores, to develop ingenuity when money is scarce. These skills teach us from an early age self-reliance, organisation, and most importantly, problem-solving.

Having a mother who is employed both in and out of the home defines her role for us in the workplace as an individual with marketable skills, knowledge, competitiveness, maturity, leadership, a terrific work ethic, and a valued money-earning careerist.

We seek out our mother when we have all sorts of problems, starting at a young age. How many of us have come home from school moaning about what seemed to be insurmountable problems, only to have our mother make us a cup of tea, some cookies and listen. We learn that empathy, patience, consideration for others, pragmatism — fighting some battles and letting others go, can help us with our own social situations.

Through our mother’s dignity, personality, style, and social interaction with family members, and men, women and children of all ages, we learn what it means to be a confident woman in our society, a very import lesson for daughters and sons.

We’ve absorbed the wisdom about her world, subliminally in careful observations as well as with great examples of blatant displays of negotiating prowess, such as when our moms takes on the local bank for account overcharges. We, in turn, have educated her on our wants, needs, fears and desires. Ah, but moms are so intuitive and understanding they already know those things about you, don’t they?

Our relationships with our mothers are not always harmonious. We have our differences, sometimes very large differences, but even so we have an amazing tendency to sanctify our mothers, even though they are not perfect.

Several years ago, for the first and only time in my 15 years of writing this column, I received a hate mail letter. It was anonymous of course, curiously typed on an old typewriter. And it was not directed to me, but at my mother, who is deceased. I was appalled, to say the least.

The content was cruel and cutting — insisting that I stop writing about her since she “certainly was not the pure and noble person who the world of Bermuda loved for her thriftiness, but a miserable scrounger who ate every night at a young couple’s house, depriving them and their children of food.” And on and on, full of spiteful venom. I could not but think that this person was probably a contemporary of my mother and that he or she had harboured this hatred for all these years.

My message to him or her. Get rid of that hate. Be positive. Focus on your own mother’s memories. Write about them. She must have loved you and know that God still loves you.

Mothers are human, not saints. They make mistakes. Like two sides of the same coin, mothers can be mean, vindictive, selfish, aggressive, demanding, manipulative, cheap and yes, scroungers.

And conversely our mothers are confident, powerful, decisive, organised, fashionable, loved, admired, intelligent, shrewd, funny, endearing, forgiving, and dominant in family relationships, while all encompassing in their demonstrated supreme love for you.

Aren’t these the traits that we all display, given certain circumstances?

We are linked forever to our biological mothers, sharing the same body (well not always in this century of in-vitro technology), and 50 per cent of the same DNA. They are part of us and we are part of them.

Real mothers are precious. They may be one and the same: both our biological and our real mothers. They are the truly magnificent ladies — aunties, adopted moms, sisters, cousins, friends, moms, grannies, even dads who became both parents because they had to — who loved us, cared for us, nurtured us, sacrificed for us and guided our way to adulthood.

Real mothers are inherently fierce survivalists, strong and incredibly courageous heroes. Statistically, mothers live longer alone than men. Mothers have suffered in wars as much as men. To protect a precious child from danger, real mothers, since time began, would never hesitate to do what is necessary to protect a child’s life, including stopping a proverbial bullet for us.

So many have.

God rest their souls.

Honour your mother(s). Cherish the best memories. Respect her talents that made you who you are. You are so unique in this life. Remember she chose to have you — to join her on this dear place we call Earth. Give thanks to her tomorrow on Mother’s Day.

In memory of our mother. Anna Clarine Sawyer Harris. 1918-1997.

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM. Masters of Law: International Tax and Financial Services,

Appointed to the Professional Tax Advisory Council, American Citizens Abroad, Geneva, Switzerland

President: The Pondstraddler* Life™ Consultancy: international financial planning, publications, presentations for the challenging lifestyles of multinational individuals and their families residing, working, crossing borders, and straddling ponds in the North Atlantic Quadrangle. Specific focus for residents of Bermuda, the premier international finance centre. Contact: martha@pondstraddler.com