Lessons from our mothers

As we approach Mother’s Day, we are filled with many emotions. For some of us, it is our first Mothers’ Day with a brand new baby. For others, it is a time of remembrance for mothers who are long gone. For many, it is also a time to think about the people in our lives who mothered us, as mothering comes in all shapes and sizes.

One of the special issues around healthy aging has always been social connectedness – sharing and caring about issues, and being part of a community, a family or a social circle. Maybe for you it is a bridge club or canasta. For someone else, it is sharing knowledge, going to classes and staying involved with community or work, despite getting up there in age. Social connectedness is about modelling behaviour around healthy aging, so we can learn and grow.

What did our mothers teach us about healthy aging as they aged? How did they stay socially connected? My mother modelled for me and my siblings all the traits that we value. We also understand that those values have a huge impact on our health.

My mother, Rivy, believed that education is always important and that learning is a lifelong commitment. She wanted – and needed – the stimulation that comes with learning new things. In her mid-50s, she returned to high school, as she had been forced to leave many years earlier to help earn money for her impoverished family – a decision she always regretted. And so, coming first in her class some 40 years later was a special accomplishment. She showed me the value of challenging oneself, setting new goals and working hard to achieve them, no matter your age. Learning new information also keeps our brains vibrant and growing, decreasing the risk of cognitive decline.

Another example of Rivy’s teachings on healthy aging was her acceptance of herself. With maturity, she gained in personal self-confidence and self-acceptance. She had amazing posture, a winning smile, exuberant energy and a wonderful personality. People wanted to be around her. That positive glow and her clear joy of being alive helped all those around her to focus and enjoy the journey, rather than always striving for an elusive destination.

She became more confident in her sexuality and enjoyed her relationship with my dad more and more as time went on. Rivy used to say she had four marriages – all with my dad. At different stages of their marriage, they had different energies, different areas of focus and different levels of intimacy. Although they were both the same people, they were able to grow, to thrive, to enhance their relationship and to support each other. Age does not necessarily diminish our relationships, or compromise intimacy.

One of the most important lessons my mother taught me was to give my all to everything I do and to focus 100 per cent of my efforts on whatever I’m doing at the moment. My mom had the incredible ability of being a wonderful listener. She did not believe in multitasking. She was focused and determined. When she was with me, I felt as though I was the most important person to her. My siblings, and later her grandchildren, all felt the same. She was not distracted by messages, phone calls or texts. And that undivided attention, that level of nurturing, encouraged and helped me develop my self-esteem and self-confidence. My mother believed in me and showed me that all the time.

So on this Mother’s Day, let us thank all the wonderful women in our lives and take from them the lessons that can help us move forward at all stages of life and help us become better mothers, better daughters and better people.