After writing a total of six “I Am Woman” pieces, I realize that I haven’t allowed the column to live up to its full potential yet. Sure, I’ve touched upon female celebrities who have contributed time and energy to charitable causes. I’ve covered notable figures who have fought for gender equality and same-sex marriage; young adults who have managed to maintain humble spirits while on the verge of international stardom and success. The women have been strong, self-sufficient, bright and brilliant role models that any young girl would benefit from looking up to. But even I must admit, the column has a long way to go. There are more voices to be heard, more actions to be recognized, and more women to be celebrated. And in the spirit of Mother’s Day (for all you no-memory havin’ slackers, it’s this Sunday!), I thought it would be appropriate to scale it back and pay tribute to where it all started (literally).
My mom is a complex woman, perhaps one of the most complex; because after 24 years (am I seriously almost a quarter of a century old?) of Sunday afternoon sauce, dramatic rants about the Christmas lights never working on the first try, and spazzing out every time she manages to misunderstand her GPS and wind up lost, I have yet to fully understand her. Never having been a mother myself, I imagine there is an overwhelming pressure to be “the best mom you can be” all while trying to preserve a version of yourself that is temporarily forgotten or left behind in exchange for having a family. Instead of only having herself to worry about, she now has three other lives hanging in the balance (well, four if you count my Dad). Among the many important, extremely useful lessons my mom has passed down to me over the years, these are some of her greatest Mom moments:
How to Save Money
Take it from me, this woman is a living testament to the phrase, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” My mom comes from a family of hard workers and smart savers. Once upon a time, she and her family hopped on a boat from Calabria, Italy and came to the U.S., hoping to have better luck finding work and stability. They struggled, they schemed, and they survived (with a well-earned savings account to show for it). And after almost 45 years of living in this country, they have the art of saving down to a science. I silently thank my mom every day for passing all of that knowledge down to me, because it’s made me a more capable –and financially sound — adult. She taught me how to spot a sale from a mile away (never EVER pay for something at full price when you can find a hidden loophole), how to consolidate my student loans and maintain a low interest rate (because we’ve given those bastards enough of our money, her lips to my ears), and when to say no to the red pumps I’ll never be able to walk in (I’ll never admit how right she was). And the best part? She laughs at Extreme Couponing because she’s managed to beat the system without storing 150 bottles of ketchup in the basement.
How to Organize…Everything
And speaking of storage, I doubt there is another human being on the planet equipped with the capabilities my mother possesses. She comes from a modest upbringing and knows what it’s like to “make room.” So naturally, she isn’t easily intimidated by clutter (unless it’s a dirty clutter, and in that case, be prepared for an intense verbal lashing followed by endless mist clouds of Windex). She can enter a room and formulate a diagnosis almost instantly. Strewn shoes? I saw a shoe rack on Amazon that will save at least 20% of space. Crowded closet? They sell these hangers at Target that store at least three pairs of jeans each. Somehow, someway, she always manages to make the best out of the worst circumstances. From my walk-in closet of a room growing up as a teenager, to dorming at college for four years, she was and always will reign as the “Queen of Consolidation” in my eyes.
How to Beat the System
Apparently, when it comes to patience levels, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. My mother and I often butt heads over the same issues simply because we are the same person. Though it pains me to come to terms with, it’s the God’s honest truth. Like, for instance, any time either of us is forced to deal with an irritating, automated response system and/or nasty customer service representative. It’s almost like I can feel our blood pressures rise with each passing minute spent on the phone. But, like everything else, my mom has figured out a way to channel her inner aggression into a means of retribution. Seriously, she should teach a course. Instead of losing her cool and cursing at the incompetent, rude individual who refuses to honor the warranty on my Dell computer (Worst. Experience. Ever), she bites her tongue and asks to speak to the manager. Now, I’ve learned that “asking for a manager” is code for “I got this.” Almost always, with any reputable company, the manager will follow this type of protocol: 1) Apologize feverishly, 2) Solve the problem, no questions asked, and 3) Throw in a bonus perk. So the next time Time Warner Cable screws up my Wednesday night plans (watching old episodes of Revenge whilst cuddling a cup of froyo), I know which move to make.
How to Avoid the Wooden Spoon (metaphorically and sadly, literally)
Growing up with an Italian mother means being exposed to customs that are obsolete in most households. Perhaps the most dreaded of which is the unholy, unforgiving…wooden spoon. If you think I’m joking, you’re either not Italian, or are, and have blocked out the dark memories of your own wooden spoon experiences. At any rate, the “Wooden Spoon” doctrine was prevalent in my house. Mostly, it was a scare tactic. My parents — mostly my mom — held it up as a visual warning of sorts.”If you talk back one more time,” “If I see you roll your eyes ever again,”If you so much as breathe with an attitude,” BOOM– out came the wooden spoon. Quite simply, it put the fear of God into us. As adults, we’ve learned to accept the wooden spoon for what it was and is — a non-violent kitchen utensil — but it did its job. We grew up knowing our limits and understanding when “no” meant “hell no.” Discipline is something that is definitely lacking in children and teenagers nowadays. It’s almost as if they’ve never been punished for breaking the rules. Though I hated it as a kid, discipline is necessary. It provides healthy boundaries and structure by which kids are able to grow up and understand the difference between right, wrong, and “break out the wooden spoon.”
How to Accept the Right Kind of Advice
Anyone who knows my mom will tell you that she isn’t the most emotionally driven person when it comes to giving advice. She listens to the problem, points out the red flags, and tells you what she would do if she were in your position. “Easy breezy, problem solved, what else do you have for me” type of thinker. And while this type of rationale isn’t necessarily what I want to hear, it is what I need to hear. Any time emotions are thrown into the mix, logic flies out of our reach and into the depths of the unknown. When this happens, you need someone who is able to put their emotions aside and reel you back into reality. You need someone you can trust to remind you what you have to offer and what you deserve in return. You need someone who won’t tolerate your tears and back down just because they feel bad for you. You need someone who will tell you how it really is after your emotions put you out of touch. You need the slap in the face, put your big girl panties on and pull yourself together type of figure to build you up when everything goes to hell. Thankfully, I have my mom for that.
My mom isn’t perfect. She drives me crazy when I all I want is calm. She engages me in screaming matches of unseen proportions. She offers an opinion on every topic from how much cleavage is “too much cleavage,” to choosing the best laundry detergent. Moms aren’t supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to drive us crazy (it’s the least we can do for them), they love a good argument (I think we all secretly do), and they always have your best interests at heart (even when it comes to washing your favorite t-shirt). This Mother’s Day, remember the sacrifices your mothers have made, and remind yourselves how lost you’d be without them. As for my mom, I can’t say there are very many like her. As sharp as they come, a fighter at heart. She is an exceptional woman, through and through, and I can only hope to become half the mother she is when it’s my turn (and you know I’ll be buying a wooden spoon of my own).
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women who keep our worlds turning; you deserve more than just one day.