Three generations of mothers; my grandmother, my mother, and myself. Photo by Kate McGregor
We may not all be mothers but we all come from mothers, and wouldn't exist if it weren't for the efforts of that woman carrying us in her womb and pushing us into the world.
We owe everything to our mothers.
I always wanted to be a mother. I could feel it in my bones, even as a small girl. I mothered my dolls, my cousins, my pets, and as I got older my friends and lovers. So when I found out I was pregnant at 19, I was actually excited. Even though I had just broken up with my boyfriend a few weeks prior, and I was at the height of my nomadic life, which meant I was homeless, jobless, and without a clue as to what I wanted to be when I 'grew up'. But the one thing I did know, with absolute certainty was that I had always wanted to be a mom. So I made my way back to Canada, mostly to see a doctor for free but also to figure out how I was going to raise a kid when I was still a kid myself.
I'll never forget the phone call to my mom, to let her know her one and only daughter was pregnant at 19, and having the baby. My mom, who had my older brother when she was 18, knew all too well what the life of a young single mother looked like. Pretty sure it broke her heart to see me following in her footsteps. But she said nothing. What could she say, she had made the same choice. And I'm so glad she did!
I had witnessed my mom juggle the challenges of single parenting without compromising her dreams. She put herself through University, often with my brother and I in tow, she cultivated and maintained strong friendships, she immersed herself in the arts and built a strong community of emerging artist that she later represented when she established her own gallery. She was an inspired, optimistic, dreamer that was always generous with her love. She was a great example of what a strong, independent, driven woman could accomplish.
If she could do it, I believed I could too. After all, she had raised me. I believed in myself so much that I decided to raise my son on the other side of the country, without any family support (or maybe I was just totally naive as to what was in store for me). Instead, I built a new family for myself, and we all supported each other (naiveté often wins).
Like my mother, I was carving a new path, stepping outside of society's perceived norms of how a child should be raised, following my heart, listening to my intuition. I juggled my responsibilities with my dreams, I did not sacrifice my life for my child. Instead, we embarked on a great adventure together.
I gave birth to my son three months after my 20th birthday. He was born in a small apartment in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, with two midwives, a doula, my midwife's daughter, my son's father and my very best friend. It was a quick labour and a smooth delivery. It was the most challenging thing I had ever done and the reward was by far the most astonishing thing I had ever received. My heart was blown completely open, I had never felt love like that before, it was all–consuming.
What a gift that was; to experience the incredible power of a woman's body and the delight of mind–blowing unconditional love, all by the tender age of 20.
My first born son and I, on the North shore of Kauai, HI 1994
My mother used to always say that we, my brother and I, were the greatest things that ever happened to her because we were what drove her to make something of her life. She would joke that without us, she would've partied her life away.
My children weren't my drive, as my brother and I were for my mom, they were the beacons to my heart. They taught me how to love relentlessly, they taught me patience, they filled my life with so much beauty and forced me to grow in ways that I never would have on my own or in a relationship with a significant other.
Now, at 42, my kids are young men. They have grown into these marvellous human beings and are crafting their own lives, learning their own lessons, living the best way they know how.
I am often in awe that I didn't ruin them. They came into the world with such distinct characters, so different from my own, and somehow those characters didn't get lost along the way. They are still the magnificent beings they were when I first laid eyes on them.
We've gone through our struggles, our challenging moments, and yet we always seem to come back to love.
This is true of my relationship with my mother as well, we have had plenty of moments, it is not easy to raise a fiercely independent young woman, and it is not easy to be raised by a career driven mother, and yet, we have loved each other through it all.
The greatest lessons I learned from my mother, I learned by her example. I have tried my best to pass on these same essential nuggets of wisdom to my boys. Embodying them, living them, as best as I can, while staying true to myself. Always.
From one mother to another:
Trust your gut because only you know what is best for you
Freedom is essential for growth
Love is limitless
All can be forgiven
Friends are essential so cultivate rich friendships
Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your dreams
Spend quality time with family, they are your greatest teachers
Have faith (miracles do happen!)
Celebrate your victories and accomplishments, no matter how small
Express your love (there's more than enough to go 'round)
Live your dreams
Speak your truths, no matter the risk
Life is short so use your time wisely
Eat healthy food
Never stop dreaming, growing, and stepping into the unknown
It's ok to cry
Hugs are good medicine so give them freely
Be of service
Clean-up after yourself
Call your mother
And never forget that you are perfect just the way you are