Everything I Needed to Know About Being A Woman I Learned from Jean and then taught to my daughter Rachel (the picture here is of myself with my mother Jean and my daughter Rachel)…
My mother Jean learned from her Mom Irene, who learned from her mother-in-law because her mother died young.
Intergenerational patterns are very strong, and I feel thankful that I learned from some stable hard-working mothers. All my clients should know that if I helped you to improve your family and your relationships in any way, a huge part of who I am is because of Jean.
Having spent twenty years hearing the stories of many clients who had mothers who went out to the bar drinking, who watched soap operas instead of cooking dinner, who criticized instead of showing love, and who beat their kids with belts instead of patient teaching – I know I am blessed.
My mother was home every night, devoted to her family. And she spent her time working, not watching soap operas and drinking Tab.
I learned to keep working, even when you are broke and dislike your curtains and your kitchen. My mother made the best of what she had even at the times when she didn’t have much. From that example, I learned that eventually, you will earn the new kitchen and the new curtains.
My mother showed me the importance of always having good food in the home. No matter how broke we were, food was never rationed. There was always milk and fresh fruit and vegetables (even though that meant fighting with my sisters while we were cutting up strawberries from the strawberry patch).
Jean loved sweets, so there was always Hostess twinkies for the lunchbox and Shwann’s ice cream at night (with the strawberries that were picked with my sisters).
I can think of only a few times when my mother became angry at me, but when I think about the long days, she had raising five children and keeping her house, she was overall very patient. She described my grandmother Irene being incredibly patient while raising eleven children and Mary having patience while she raised eighteen children who were mostly boys. Can you imagine?
After stories of hearing about how some parents rage at their children, I know that I am truly fortunate to have had grandmothers who were patient with children.
Jean loved to find just the right gifts to give on holidays, and she made holidays special with decorated birthday cakes or sugar cookies. On family vacation, she would set up activities in which we would all go around the table and say what we liked about another family member.
During times when my mother was healthy, she liked to play games and do craft projects. She taught me how to sew and bake. I collected my own recipes, just like my Mom.
She had standards for cleaning that German women have. There was no mopping the floor. It was getting down on your knees and really scrub the floor to get it clean. Get it done right or don’t do it at all!
Jean was in the habit of having her house cleaned up before she went to bed at night. Apparently, Irene was the same way, and this was because if someone became sick and the doctor needed to pay a home visit, the house should be clean and straightened up. People used to hire me as a babysitter partly because when they came home, I had put all the toys away, swept the kitchen floor, cleaned and put away any dishes, and everything was neat as a pin. Courtesy of Mary, Irene, and Jean.
I was in shock the first time I want to my friend’s homes in middle school and saw how their mothers kept house! Food all over the kitchen. Piles of laundry on the couch. This was unthinkable in my mother’s home. My father always said she “ran a tight ship.”
My mother praised me for things I did well, but she was also not shy to correct me when I was being selfish and not thinking of my family. She allowed me to be on sports teams and to give speeches and to play in the band, although I am sure a part of her would have rather had my help on the farm. She gave me boundaries and expectations, but they were not so rigid that I didn’t have the opportunities to develop and grow.
Jean loved music, so we had a piano and three guitars in our house. She asked the choir teacher to come to the farm and teach my sister and I how to harmonize our voices. When I was in the second grade, she took me to guitar lessons in addition to piano lessons. And then she made sure I practiced on a regular basis. Like it or lump it – mostly I liked it… and the house had music in between chores and fighting with my sisters!
My mother said she was sorry when she made mistakes. When I was in my 20’s and I thought I knew everything, I told her about the memories from my upbringing that I didn’t like. She had the wisdom to listen and to apologize for mistakes made. My teenagers now have the benefit of her example. When they complain about my mistake, I listen and apologize instead of defending myself. Any mother who is sacrificing day in and day out for her children knows it can be hard to hear your child complaining about what you are not doing.
There are a million habits and routines that I learned from my mother about how to manage a house and take care of your family that some women do not have the courtesy of knowing. The stuff I mentioned above are only a few. I am truly fortunate to have an earthly parent who is so remarkable.
In some cases, I get to teach women who are willing learners what I learned day in and day out in our farm house. Not everyone gets to experience an amazing mother in action.
Hard work combined with love, hugs, and praise. Sprinkled with some ice cream and some play in the swimming pool or playing some Uno. Then more hard work. That was pretty much the sum of it, along with clean laundry, ironing, baked goods, cooking, and a clean house. With the security of unconditional love and knowing I would get an apology and understanding if I felt emotional pain.
My clients say I am “down to earth” – that’s also from Jean. If you met her, you would see that she is just herself. I have often heard her say, “I like myself the way that I am.” (usually that’s when she is referring to being in jeans and a t-shirt while working her butt off in the house – she would rather be baking cookies for her grandchildren with her hair pulled back in a ponytail than getting glitzed up to go out to a concert).
When it comes to Moms, you really can’t ask for much more than what I experienced in a mother-daughter relationship. Relationship Repair and love and some good family functioning. Our home wasn’t perfect, but it was as damn close as you can get to heaven on earth from what I have heard about other families.
I am fortunate to have a career where I get to counsel other women and families on how to be more like Jean. My clients don’t necessarily know it, but along with my book knowledge and theories – that’s pretty much what they are getting.