As mothers, we’re influenced by who we’ll become from the day we’re born. We’re typically surrounded my moms and grandmas and sometimes aunts and close friends. All of them, in some way, whether good or bad, serve as a role model. They shape not only the people we’ll become but also the type of mothers that we’ll become.
Sometimes, our influence comes from unexpected places.
Almost twenty years ago (oh my gosh – has it been that long?), I embarked on a career in the travel industry. I was young and single and had a bad case of wanderlust. I wanted to go out and see the world. I just couldn’t afford to do it. At the time, however, the travel industry was still moving along, offering flight incentives and fam trips to travel agents everywhere. While I spent most of my time as an Account Services Manager for a corporate travel management company in Raleigh, NC, I did manage to jet off to a few exotic destinations, making the world just a little bit smaller for me.
I’d love to say that it was in Europe that I developed my desire for a healthy life for my child. Or that it was in Mexico that I realized the importance of clean water for my child. Or that it was down in New Orleans that I developed my laissez-faire style of parenting.
But truth be told, one of my biggest parenting influences came unknowingly from one of my co-workers in little old Raleigh, NC.
Bethany came to work for my company about a year or so after I started. She was bright, diligent, and a hard worker. She was efficient and personable and always calm under pressure, all the best qualities for a corporate travel agent. It was Bethany’s personal life that struck me, though.
Even though we were the same age (right around 25 years old at the time), she was married and had a toddler. Even though I grew up with a life plan of getting married at 23 and having kids by 25, I realized I was way too young to manage such responsibility. But Bethany did it with ease.
She was always working extra hours because she had to make up for time out of the office. Her son had chronic ear infections and she frequently had to rush to daycare and off to the doctor’s and then home for dinner and bath. And from what I remember, her husband was there physically (if that) but was completely hands off when it came to anything even remotely domestic. She’s what I like to refer to as a “married single mom.”
Even though I know thousands of women live this situation every day, I watched Bethany live it first hand. I saw how exhausted she was from another sleepless night when she had a full day managing one of our busiest accounts. And I felt the dread she must have had when she had to leave her hectic job and go home to an equally hectic home life.
“Bethany,” I asked. “How in the world do you keep up with it all? Aren’t you exhausted? Don’t you want a break?”
In retrospect, those were silly questions to ask an overworked mother. But I clearly remember her answer. Yes, she was exhausted and yes, she wanted a break. But she did it because she had to. Because when you’re a mom, you don’t get to choose whether or not you want to take care of your sick child. You do it because you have to. And when you’re on the outside looking in, it seems almost impossible.
It wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized exactly how she felt. No matter how tired or sick or worn out I feel at the end of any given day, I’m there for my son because I have to be, and more importantly, because I want to be.
Over the years, I left the travel industry and lost touch with Bethany. Through the magic of Facebook and mutual friends, I was able to find that Bethany left her deadbeat husband (he really was a deadbeat), moved to Florida, got remarried, had a baby girl, and seems to be living the life she always dreamed of. She’s definitely an unstoppable mom.
Do you know an unstoppable mom like Bethany?