When I come home to my wife at the end of the day, I know better than to ask, “What did you do today?”
On the days she doesn’t work, she accomplishes a myriad of tasks that magically make the lives of everyone in our family run smoothly. Bills are paid, appointments made and events planned. No one is left waiting for a ride to school, music lessons or practice. No one is hungry.
Motherly magic is largely invisible. We don’t appreciate it until it’s gone. The days when my wife is out of town are long days indeed.
Good parents teach their children the essentials, and they teach best by behaviour rather than words. We internalize – for good or ill – the lessons of our parents.
This season has been a difficult one for my sister and me over the past 10 years.
I write and practice medicine in my hometown of Burnaby because of my mom. A big reason why I chose work here was to ensure that my parents got the best of care when they eventually grew old.
My personal golden rule of medicine is to treat every patient as I would want a family member treated. I therefore would do the same level of investigation, prescribe the same treatments and refer to the same consultants as I would want for my own parents.
I expected to look after both of them – if they needed me to – in their golden years. When we bought our home, we chose one with a ground level bedroom and bathroom just in case they wanted to move in with us someday.
Yellow was my mom’s favourite colour and Spring was a favourite season. She appreciated natural beauty and she loved to garden. On a sunny spring day at the end of April 2003, my previously active and healthy mother attended a recreational class at Confederation Centre just steps away from the public library that we both frequented throughout our lives and the pool where I continue to swim.
Without any warning, she collapsed, apparently from a cardiac arrest, and despite prompt and professional attention from centre staff, lifeguards and paramedics, she could not be resuscitated.
I was out of town with my wife and young children, and I remember the shock and disbelief when my sister called to tell me that our mother was dead.
My mother modeled unconditional love. She appreciated and expected the best in us but forgave us for being imperfect and making mistakes. She lived a life of selflessness, generosity and compassion. Her circle of concern seemed to expand without boundaries.
She inspired us to give the best of ourselves. This was not to please her because her love was unconditional. When someone appreciates the best in you, you come to see it yourself.
I imagine how different life would have been had my mother been alive for the past 10 years. She would have loved spending time with my children. She would have been there for all their sports, recitals, school concerts and graduations.
She adored them as little children, and she would have adored them as they grew. We would have enjoyed her great meals and all the holidays that she would make special, and every one of my birthdays would have continued to be a celebration.
But I realize that my mother has been with me all along. Though she has not been here to teach my children, I have tried to pass her lessons on to them. I can only give forward what she has given to me.
I often remind my patients to be good moms to themselves.
I ask them to channel their inner mom. We all have one deep down inside – just like the inner six pack. Some have to take a big breath in and dig deeper.
Most of us tend to be hard on ourselves – critical, judgmental and unforgiving. We could all use a little more compassion for others and ourselves. Many of us don’t give ourselves the care we need.
Here are four ways to be a better mom to yourself – direct orders from your inner mom.
Go to bed. Make sure you get enough rest. You’ll perform better at school and work in the morning, and you won’t get run down and sick.
Go out and play. Get some physical activity every day. It’s essential for your emotional and physical wellbeing.
Eat your vegetables. Don’t skip meals and don’t ruin your appetite with junk food. Though not everyone can eat an early breakfast, we all need regular snacks and meals to get through the day.
You can do better. Your inner mom may not be talking about your partner or spouse. See the best in yourself and be inspired to do your best. Move towards your positive potential.