Women know we are our mothers, but do we really know why?
To end Women’s History Month, I sat down with the woman who has impacted my life the most to understand the depths of our relationship and her influence on my identity. She has known everything about me since the day I was born, even the things I don’t know about myself. But I only knew the things about my mom that I had seen myself and the occasional stories she has told me. You know, those random moments when your mom talks about dating your dad and you think, “You guys had lives before me?!”
Within an hour and a half of sitting down with my mom to ask her all about her interests and lifestyle during her college years, I found out just how similar we are. Knowing that much more about her introduced me to how our mothers can influence our life choices through what we see in them growing up, the lessons they teach us, and either pure coincidences or crazy genetics.
Flipping through the college scrapbook my mom dug out of our basement, she stops on a page with photos of her and her friends on a lawn at Bowling Green State University. She points to a guy who asked her out, but says that she declined because she didn’t really like casually dating.
I flash a perplexed look at her, partially because he was extremely attractive, and say, “You always made it seem like no one liked you in college, but all of these hot guys asked you out.” She agrees as if she is just figuring that out herself. It reminds me of how my friends and I complain that guys don’t like us when we’re really just picky AF.
It’s the first time I have ever seen photos of my mom in college, because it is the first time I ever asked to.
I ask her to tell me anything she remembers about her life when she was my age. She talks me through how exciting moving to college as a freshman was because everything was so new. She joined an advertising club and became a “little sister” of a fraternity to get as much out of being on campus as she could – a goal I inherently transitioned into college with as well.
“I wanted to be on the news but I didn’t think I was pretty enough,” she says lightheartedly of wanting to go into broadcast journalism before she majored in advertising.
This is the first time she tells me broadcast journalism was her original dream job. My mom is the one who suggested that I go into journalism before I even knew it was what I really wanted to do. I think about how she saw herself in me for a while after making that connection.
I find our college experiences to be even more similar when she talks about working toward landing her dream job in New York City after graduation.
“I vividly remember talking to [my roommate] about working and she said something like ‘Well, what if I don’t work? What if I stay home with my kids?’ And I remember saying out loud and realizing, ‘I never even considered that as an option,’” she says.
I have never factored marriage and kids into the equation of my goals, just like my mother hadn’t. She did end up getting married at 29 and started having children at 31, because it naturally happened that way. She says people were surprised she had four kids, because having a career or having children used to be something women thought they had to choose between.
Despite that belief, she didn’t choose. And she allowed me to know from a young age that I could also have both if I wanted to one day.
As my mom thinks back on how she chose to live her life, she unintentionally shares valuable advice that I didn’t realize I had already been following.
“I grew up with not a lot and I learned that if you want to experience things, you can just experience it. Nothing was going to hold me back from what I personally wanted to achieve,” she says.
I was raised knowing of and admiring the risks she had taken in her 20s, like moving from Ohio to California to work in film. Throughout college, I knew being aware of her bold choices had influenced my own risk-taking, like choosing a competitive major and studying abroad. But it took her saying those words out loud for me to register that we don’t just make the same choices, we think the same way in order to do so.
She continues to dig out old college photos and analyze the preppy knee-high socks and a red striped long-sleeved shirt with a collar giving off a sailor vibe she wore on an average day. Although I would absolutely never be caught wearing that type of vintage, I turn to look at her thinking of all she has revealed to me and say, “We really are so similar.” She turns her head to me and replies, “Oh my gosh, you’re right, we really are.”
It is so important to know the women who built