by Carrie Southworth, co-founder
At the age of 22, my mother pulled together her life savings ($2000), strapped on a back-back and left on a worldwide adventure. Her two-year journey had her hitchhiking through Europe and Africa - making friends, breaking hearts, and always dodging danger by the hair of her chinny chin chin. She stomped grapes in the South of France for under-the-table cash. She learned to fly small planes over Sudan, counting animals for government surveys. She slept in broken-down cars on Egyptian streets. And there always seemed to be snakes. Very large snakes. Lurking around every bush, and under every youth hostel bed.
These stories made up the lore of my mother. I was born to this heroic woman who feared nothing, invited adventure into her life with open arms, and dared to live life to the fullest. As you might imagine, they were hard footsteps to follow. Many of my earliest adult decisions were made under the umbrella of WWCD (what would Cathy do?) and I was always pushing myself to do something different. Graduating from college and taking a 9-5 job was simply not good enough. I needed to be something extravagant and fabulous! And for a number of years, I took my own wandering, overseas journey. Perhaps not as wild as hers, but my own, nevertheless.
I don’t know if I fully understood my mother’s story though, until my first daughter was born. You see – yes - my mom had done all of these daring things in life. She had done nothing according to convention or society. And then she did the most daring, heroic thing of all.
She became a stay-at-home mother.
As I now struggle with my own motherhood, as I struggle to find balance between home and work, as I frequently feel less than, and hardly good enough, I wonder about my Mom. How was it to be a stay-at-home mom in suburban Virginia for those 25 years? Going through three children’s worth of diapers. Searching through the trashcan of my elementary school for my accidentally tossed retainer, at least 4 times during my 6th grade year. Sewing Pocahontas costumes for plays, driving my brother to early morning crew meets, feeding the bottomless pit that was three teenager’s stomachs. We were mostly good kids, the three of us. But by no means were we easy.
Did she feel less than? If she did, she didn’t show it. Were the daily household chores, grocery trips, and parent-teacher conferences a mind-numbing grind? Not from what we could see. No, the realization that struck me is that we were an important part of her fearless adventure. We were just as treasured, and crazy, and magical as her years trekking across deserts and hitching rides through European countryside. For her, raising us was still living life to the fullest.
We are all grown now - my sister, my brother, and me. All married off, with families of our own. And my mother? Currently living in the Tblisi, Georgia (formerly part of the USSR) where she and my father live on a farm, amongst sheep and dogs. A whole lotta’ dogs. She has started a non-profit that helps special needs children. She visits juvenile prisons and rescues lost animals.
But every year her Christmas wish is for her children to visit her. We are still her greatest adventure.
On this mother’s day, I realize, I don’t need to be extravagant, or successful, or over-the-top interesting to matter. I don’t need to be daring, or to save the world.
I just need to be the mother that I am.
Thank you, Mom. I love you.