I thought I couldn’t live without my mother and – actually – I never wanted to live without her. But then she died when I was 32 and I was just 6 weeks into my own mom-ness, wondering how I could possibly live without her. She was the indispensable glue in our family. She created home for us and – bonus feature – in the words of Roseanne Barr, her uterus was indeed a homing device. She knew where everything was, from our socks to our keys to our baby books. How would we ever find anything again?
I had a dream about six months after she died, when Mom was in her 30s wearing hot red lipstick and she said, “Don’t worry Jan. You’ll know what to do.” And I woke up feeling much better.
One of my favorite bloggers – Vu Le – wrote about the myth of indispensability yesterday here and his mother is gone too. I’ve heard it said that we don’t become adults until our parents die, and – while I know lots of responsible adults whose parents are still living – I get this. Upon the death of our parents, we can no longer rely on them for back up and encouragement – and the silence is excruciating. But that loss teaches us that our parents are not in fact indispensable.
And neither are we.
Business professionals encourage us to “make ourselves indispensable” so that robots will not take over our jobs. Or something like that. And many parents keep us dependent on them because it gives them power or a sense of worth or something really sad and unhealthy.
And as Le Vu says in his post, we in non-profit leadership are so absorbed in our Change The World mindset that we believe the world might just collapse if we didn’t care so much/work all the time. Actually I know some government and for profit staffers who believe this as well. What would the church/agency/hospital/school/office do without us? (We kind of hope they would fall apart because we are insecure that way.)
The best leaders as well as the best parents are the ones who teach others how to thrive without them.
The best moms teach their kids how to be adults and take care of themselves. The best moms share the secret recipes and don’t clean up all the messes. The best moms teach their kids to make their own appointments, wash their own clothes, and do their own science projects. This, of course, goes for the best Dads too.
My Mom – as it turns out – wasn’t indispensable. I could live without her. I just wish I didn’t have to. This will be my 27th Mothers’ Day without her and it still sucks. But I’m grateful that she taught me how to teach my own kids how to bake cookies from scratch – and much more.
This post is dedicated to my TBC on her birthday. I never want to live without her either.