The Biggest Lessons We’ve Learned From Our Moms

Who needs a manual when you have a mom?

By Riley Reed

The lessons we learn from our moms stand the test of time. I have a dishtowel that reminds me every day: my mother was right about everything. Mother’s Day is a beautiful way to celebrate and yet, motherhood is timeless and everlasting. It is woven into the fabric of every single human being.

Every story looks different. We should cherish all of them. For the moms who carried their troubles and burdens with grace; who sacrificed their dreams and desires with humility; who smiled and danced despite the pain. For the daughters who suffered abandonment, grieved loss; carried a weight that wasn’t their own, and thrived anyway. For moms and daughters who remained close, protected their bond and prevailed with devotion. For my own mom; for raising her daughters with strength, honesty, affection; for making life fun, adventurous, wild; for stroking our hair at night and singing James Taylor in the morning; for carrying her burdens and ours with vulnerability and courage; for greeting every experience with love.

When you put it that way, today feels like a speck. All days should be for moms everywhere. As the old saying goes…

Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.

In honor of our most coveted figures, here is a round-up of stories and lessons from mom our editors learned. We’d love to hear yours in the comment section.

Riley Reed, Wellness Editor

One evening, when I was 17 years old, my mom and I had a notable conversation on life. My parents were going through a divorce. It had me contemplating relationships often. I asked my mom, “How do you choose a partner? How do you know that they’re the right one?” She smiled intuitively and said, “You prioritize yourself and your needs. You determine what you seek in a partner before you meet them. The list should be truthful, certain, and short so that you can count everything on just five fingers. They’re your five pillars; indisputable, deeply personal, and a guide to your ideal match.” I met my husband, Jack, two years after that night. My mom’s voice and those characteristics I wrote down ran through my mind as I got to know him. The early stages of our relationship weren’t easy. We were young and naive, just trying to figure it out. But those elements were there, staring me in the face… unavoidably. Jack has since shown me so much more and still, I think that lesson my mom taught me is why our love has prevailed. We chose each other’s needs.

Kelly Krause, Wellness Editor 

My mom has an incredible gift to connect with anyone and serve as a “host” for all types of personalities and levels of energy, which truly amazes me. I can’t help but think that stems from her growing up as one of eight siblings and truly craving balance and the desire for ease and peace amongst the chaos that a family of 10 can create. Her cheerful demeanor paired with her ability to see the silver lining in most situations used to annoy me as an angsty teen who just wanted someone to agree that being 13 sucked and kids were mean, but it’s the one thing I absolutely know I can count on till this very day. Every single time I call her, I can hear my mom’s smile through the phone with a “hello my beautiful daughter,” and every single time I share something I’m bummed about, she always has a way of finding the positive. 

Last week I had breakfast with a friend who shared “Your mom and I DM each other over Instagram all the time.” Here, a friend of mine I’ve barely seen talks to my own mom maybe more than I do. And I wasn’t even surprised. Mom loves people, loves being happy, loves community, loves fun spaces, and loves being the literal and figurative host of those spaces. I’m in awe that it took me 39 years to realize how so very alike we are, and how much we both value being a host of connection and kindness, as I can often get caught up in thinking about our differences. Grateful for this moment to reflect. Love you, Mom.

Michelle Nash, Senior Producer 

My mom is a gifted gardener. Whether it’s plants or humans, those lucky enough to fall under her care and attention grow into more vibrant and alive versions of themselves. For a while, I didn’t understand or appreciate my mom’s efforts in the yard. With four kids all close to one another in age, it seemed there was always a long list of to-do’s to accomplish, errands to run, and carpools to drive. Despite it all, she’d spend hours outside planting seeds, cultivating the soil, and tending to each plant with her complete focus and attention. Even with her green thumb, some would last for only a season or two, and others wouldn’t bloom for years. Yet she would continue to show up, start over, plant new seeds, and basically confront the inevitable cycle of life every season in our backyard. And then it was like magic every spring when her lemons would return, her rosebuds would form, and her gardenias would bloom. Now whenever I return home, I’m welcomed with a vase of fresh flowers from her garden on my bedside table. I take it as a reminder to stay grounded, nurture what’s important, and most importantly, slow down and notice things. After all, just like plants, success is impermanent and nothing lasts forever. 

Camille Styles, Editor-in-Chief

The greatest lesson my mom taught me was through her actions even more than words. She’s always acted from the belief that nothing is more important than the people in our lives—prioritizing them, valuing them, and most of all, listening to them. It takes precedence over anything else competing for our attention. Growing up, my mom would pick me up from school and I’d immediately launch into the longest story about whatever drama of the day took place, and I remember her always being completely riveted by every sentence. Now that I have kids of my own, I realize in a fresh light that half of what I said was probably not all that interesting (not by a long shot!) but I’d never have known it by my mom’s fully engaged expression and supportive words. That sense of always being listened to—and that what I had to share actually mattered—was so formative in my sense of self-worth, and that feeling of being truly seen, heard, and valued is one that I hope to pass along to those in my life today.

Suruchi Avasthi, Food Editor

There are two things that come to mind when I think of what lessons I have learned from my mom: the first being the power of giving back to others and the other being the power of community. My mom is basically the most selfless person I know, and would literally give everything she has to anyone who needed it. While I’ve always known that giving back to others is important, she just truly embodies what it means to serve others in need, whether it’s through her volunteering, in being there for her friends any second they might need it, and of course for our own family. Knowing how much she’s done for my brother and me to make sure our lives are the best they can be is truly something that I hope to be able to embody even in the slightest, and I take her example straight to heart. In that same vein, her ability to cultivate a community here is just so inspiring and has been incredible to understand that family can be created no matter where you are. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve truly been able to understand what a gift it is to be able to build a community of people that, although not related, is there to support in all the good times and bad, and how just through being your authentic self, you can find the people who will be there for you always.

Bridget Chambers, Editorial & Social Media Intern

My mom and I are both hardcore perfectionists. We often put too much on our plates and run ourselves dry trying to give 100 things our 100%. Growing up, I would work myself to the point of panic attacks that would leave me hyperventilating on my bathroom floor, but I was never alone. My mom was always there on the floor with me, and for me. One of the greatest lessons that I learned from my mom is that giving my best is always enough. Even if at that moment, my best is subpar. While it took a few years for that to really sink in, I now find comfort in knowing that I don’t have to work to the point of breaking. I can do my best, and then I can take a deep breath and move on. My mom always instilled in me that yes, she has high hopes for me and my achievements, but that she will always be proud of me no matter what. I often hear her voice in my head reciting her favorite Bible verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight,” (Proverbs 3:5-6) and I am reminded that I am loved, I am enough, I am safe, and I will be alright. 

Sacha Strebe, Deputy Editor

From a young age, I have witnessed my mom’s bravery. She had me at 19 and my sister closely after, she birthed us at home with a midwife and I was weighed on a fish scale (I was born in 1980 so it’s safe to say things have changed since then)—and she did it all without any help from family. Then, when things got challenging with my birth father, she fearlessly walked out, holding my little hand with my baby sister on her hip and just a couple of bags, and hit the road. When she met my dad, David (he’s my “real” dad now!), she took on his two kids as if they were her own and brought our baby brother, Josh into the world, who is the glue that connects us all.

Looking back as a mom now, I am in awe of how much she sacrificed for us. She swapped her partying 20s for diapers and park play dates, and never once did I hear her complain, moan, or lament about her situation. Her silver-lining view of the world ensured that we, too, maintained an optimist bias and I am forever grateful for that because I still carry it with me today. I am convinced that my mom is a living angel walking the earth. She has given everything to her children with a smile on her face, never wincing once at the weight of it all on her shoulders. I only hope that I can live up to that as a mom to our son, Neon. They’re big shoes to fill but I am so grateful I have her in my corner to help light the way. Love you mom. 

Lourdes Avila Uribe, Contributing Editor

Throughout my life, my mom, Maria, has emphasized the importance of making my own choices and honoring my needs in every aspect of my life. This might sound like a basic parenting ideal to most people, but when you consider the fact that she is an immigrant from a traditional and conservative background who got married at 22 and gave birth to her first kid (me) at 23, then it becomes more of a radical act. From an incredibly young age, my mom stressed to both my sister and myself that her choices were not our choices. She always spoke about the importance of honoring our deepest desires and needs, even if it leads to making difficult choices in the short term.

Life is too long, she would say, to be stuck in a relationship that isn’t making you happy, a job or career that isn’t fulfilling, or a toxic friendship. I’ve found myself coming back to this again and again.

As women, we are conditioned to settle, be selfless, and give away pieces of ourselves until we no longer recognize the people we have become. As a result of her words, my life might not look like a lot of other people’s lives, but it’s one I have always dreamed of and that is right for me. Any time I am struggling with a decision, like when I decided to switch careers in my late 20s or move across the country, I hear her words, “life is long,” and I know that I can’t waste away on a choice that isn’t serving me long term. She’s always pushed me to deeply examine my own needs and to do what it takes to make it happen, even when I know that they are diametrically opposed to her own or that they may scare her. She never puts her fear on my shoulders, and instead fully accepts and supports me. Not only has this served me with the choices I have made for myself, but it’s taught me to have compassion for the choices other people make and made me a more supportive and loving friend, partner, co-worker, and family member.

My life could not be more different than the life my mom chose for herself, but I have never felt anything but love and encouragement. There are no words to describe how grateful I am for that kind of freedom and support.

Brandy Joy Smith, Motherhood Contributor 

My mom was the OG wellness and clean living guru way before wellness was a buzzword—she was recycling everything, hippie crystal deodorants, fragrance-free products, and most importantly, energy intuitive way back when. The greatest lesson I learned from my mom is one I wouldn’t truly understand and appreciate until I was an adult. She would often tell me, “BrandyJoy, you have a light around you, and the cool thing about that light is people will be attracted to it. But with all things people are attracted to, they will try and take it and make it their own. Draining every bit from you. So with that light comes a responsibility to preserve it.” As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly land with me as a five or even 12-year-old. As an adult, I now have come to fully understand what that means; as a mom, I’ve become far more protective of that light. Knowing myself, my family and close friends should have first access to that light and making sure I take the time to replenish it. I come from a long line of intuitive women, and I feel incredibly blessed to have that wisdom shared with me. 

Lauren Zielinski, Contributing Editor 

The best advice I’ve received from my mom Sandra was not in the form of formal advice via any certain conversation, but more of an example of her actions and interactions with the world, modeled to me throughout my childhood. When I think of my mom I can actually feel smiles and laughter, maybe I’d describe it as a twinkle? It’s truly a sense of contagious joy to be around her. Her loving and positive energy is something she really enjoys giving away and passing around and what a beautiful gift I was given watching her do this. I’m not sure if she is even fully aware of this, but I know from watching her over many years that Sandra takes it as a challenge if someone is a little grumpy, unfriendly, or sad to make their day brighter. She finds a way to make almost everyone laugh or at least crack a tiny little smile by telling a joke, being goofy, giving a compliment, asking questions… anything to engage and make us all feel a little more connected and human!

Growing up with some very real social anxiety, I would squirm and look away, tugging at her to come on, as my mom chatted and conversationally prodded her way into a back and forth with the grocery store clerk, bank teller—whoever it was—whom often looked like they very clearly didn’t want to be engaged with or talk to this chirpy happy stranger. Then, when I could hardly stand to stick around any longer, all of a sudden, the unengaged, sad, or grumpy-ish person would finally crack a smile or laugh, soften a bit and in my mind, be in a little bit better of a mood that day, that moment, in that one little interaction. It’s like magic honestly, she just keeps going until that faint moment of softness appears, a smile comes out, and then she promptly says goodbye and we make our way out of wherever we are, a little happier and lighter after a nice laugh.

I’ve realized as I’ve grown older that it’s little moments like these that feel really beautiful and spontaneous in life that I cherish. There’s no such thing as too much smiling, I’m convinced! I’m so thankful for my mother’s big personality and commitment to loving humans and positivity that I know has absolutely rubbed off on me. The socially anxious, quiet little girl who couldn’t stand these “overbearing” interactions, now makes it a point to put down her phone in public, ask questions, remember names and collect smiles and laughs. Each moment in life is truly worth finding joy in. Thank you Sandra for showing me this, over and over again.

Anne Campbell, Contributing Editor

Throughout the years, when I needed someone to vent to (whether it was about friends, boys, work, or school) I knew just who to call—mom. She’d listen for hours without ever piping up to give advice or dole out recommendations. She’d just be there on the other end of the line, listening in, with zero judgment. As my eldest daughter enters her tween years, I strive to do the same. To be there, fully present without butting in to insert my opinions, as a listening ear. If I can do this for her, maybe, just maybe, she’ll continue to seek me out as a sounding board and confidant throughout her adult life the way my mom has always done for me.

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