Enjoy this guest blog from the author’s daughter.
The other day, I texted my mom in a panic after an interview for a winter internship: “If I royally screwed myself in an interview this morning, should I address my faux pas in my thank-you email?” Even though I had spent the past week ignoring her calls and sending her one-word text responses, she answered immediately. After she calmed me down and walked me through composing the email, I thanked her profusely and like any well-raised, indebted daughter, asked her how she was. “When you get back from school and to the couch with a hot chocolate in your hand,” she replied, “I will tell you about the God-awful day I’m having.”
As much as we like to think otherwise, our moms don’t exist solely to give us advice and help us through our slip-ups. Sometimes (shockingly) they have their own moments of uncertainty, struggle, sadness, anger, and thinking everyone in the world is rooting for them to fail and life is awful and why can’t we all just eat Ben and Jerry’s and watch Saturday Night Live instead of anything at all ever. In these moments, it’s hard to know what to say – since all we have to offer was learned from the person we’re trying to help.
Sometimes the most helpful way to get moms to take their own advice is to repeat their words and update the meaning. Here are a few of my mom’s classic tips, excerpted from her book, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening. A mother’s wisdom with a loving, daughterly twist – for the women who work too hard, love too much, and still have a hard time believing they’re enough.
1. Wash off your makeup before you go to bed.
When you told me this at age 15, Mom, you did it with my skin health in mind. But beyond clear pores and morning raccoon eyes, this trope also has spiritual applications. At the end of a long day of putting your best face forward, perfectly shadowed eyes and tinted lips begin to smudge and fall away. When you get in bed after a long day of kicking ass, Mom, wash off all of your make up. Don’t bring the struggles of the day into your happy comfy place. Take a Neutrogena wipe to that board meeting where you had to keep your mouth shut, to that obnoxious guy who cut you off at the light, and to the embarrassment that the neighbor had to return the Bichon again because I and my sister accidentally let him out and then forgot. The day is done. Needing everything to be perfectly contoured can be tomorrow’s battle. For now, clean your face, put on your favorite sock monkey pajamas, grab a glass of wine and maybe the just-returned Bichon. There’s probably a Friends marathon on somewhere.
2) Don’t give in to bullies.
I first heard this in second grade when a girl was being mean to me in gym class. You asked me why she was being so mean and I sobbed that it was because my team had won and hers hadn’t. For starters, you told me that under no circumstances was I to stop trying to win. It would benefit both of us in the long run, you said, for me to keep competing and for the other girl to learn that if she wanted to win, she was going to do it the old fashioned way – not by scaring me out of wanting success. Remember that, Mom.
As a grown-up, I’m ashamed to admit that more than a few times I’ve bullied you, trying to avoid a fair fight that I knew I’d lose. Since you rarely backed down, I know how to argue and self-advocate with effective maturity. Don’t forget that either, Mom! Standing up for yourself made strong kids. If the Starbucks barista bullies you though, you may just have to sit back and take it. A woman needs her latte.
3) Expectations are powerful things. Learn to control them.
But don’t be afraid to tell people when they exceed them. And don’t underestimate how much a “wow” means – especially from Mom.
4) When you get something new, decide where you will keep it and put it there.
AND when people who live with you get new things and decide where THEY will keep them, LEAVE THEM THERE. Seriously, Mom, stop moving my laundry hamper. I LIKE IT WHERE IT IS!
5) Know the difference between collecting and hoarding.
Keeping my baby pictures is collecting. Keeping my baby teeth is creepy.
6) The quality of your friends can define the quality of your life.
Don’t forget what friends mean. You can grab them from anywhere. Who cares if you’re over 45 – if you meet someone you like, plan a meal with them! There’s no statute of limitations on introducing new, interesting people into your life. Real life can be as much like college as you make it – except maybe with less cheap wine . . . you’re a grown woman afterall.
7) Don’t be paranoid.
I love you, Mom. You are my only mom. You are the best mom. I was listening. I agree. I’m okay. You’re okay. My laundry’s not done, but I’ll do it eventually. I do miss you. I do love you. You did a good job. You’re doing a good job. I’m safe. I’m happy. I’m full. I’m yours. You’re mine. I turned off my straightener before I left the room. I’ll text you when I’m home safe.
BTW . . .
My mom’s book was just featured by Oprah’s Book Club! If you want to give your mom 270 reasons to love you and herself more, get the book here. Remember, to moms, loving advice feels like hugs. Who knew?
Taylor Kay Phillips