By Jolie Day
My mom is one of my biggest heroes. For my sisters and I, she has been one of the most amazing women to emulate growing up. She is courageous, warm hearted, intelligent, and has a presence that can brighten any room. She has one of those souls that you feel lucky to know. Our relationship has changed a lot over the years, but one thing has always held true: she has given me the support and advice that has made me into who I am today. My mom is the reason why I am a feminist, and her support is what helped me navigate womanhood.
The morning after the election, I called my mom knowing that she would know just what to say to comfort my fears for what lies ahead. Having four daughters, she knew the weight that her words would carry. She spoke calmly as she reassured me that our future is not as bleak as it seems. My mother comforted me with her promises to keep hope and to fight for what is right. She reasoned that the pendulum swings both ways, and that we may go through a period of feeling helpless, but that we will get back to working together to help protect people who are threatened. She helped me see the platform that this can be to engage in the deepest changes we need to make in our nation. My mom has always given me valuable advice on how to get by in this world. That morning she told me something that I don’t think women and girls hear enough: that I am strong.
I learned strength from my mother. She raised herself a lot on her own. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she moved around with her mom and her sister every year. She started working at age 14 and worked multiple jobs throughout high school. She married her first husband at 22, and had her first daughter (and my oldest sister)—Megan. They ended up separating about two years later, and she lived as a single mother with Megan in McCall, Idaho for a couple years. She later moved back to Boise and married again, and had my sister Maddi. Their marriage ended a couple years later and my mom was once again a single mother and was unemployed at the time. She later married my dad and had me, and 5 years later, my sister Caleigh. They were married for 23 years and divorced around this time two years ago.
Throughout this time, my mom played multiple roles. She was a stay-at-home mom, then she worked part-time, and then she inherited a restaurant in Boise with her sister and her oldest brother after their father passed. She now runs the business with her sister, Annie, and my oldest sister as manager. I always thought it was annoying that people would assume it was my parents’ restaurant, not just my mom’s, but that was something I haven’t hesitated to correct them about.
While I have been up here at school, I have found myself missing my mom’s daily insights on life. Something that she said the last time that she visited stuck with me. Frustrated by the situations in her life recently, she said, “I forgot I have meaning outside of being somebody’s wife, or mom, or daughter.” This made me think about how much women truly do get subjugated into these roles. Throughout women’s lives, there is an expectation to have their livelihood depend on getting married and raising children. My mom and I discussed how this can rob women of their sense of autonomy and doesn’t allow much room for women to pursue paths outside of that perceived norm without facing harsh judgment. Although she spent a lot of her time married and raising kids, there is so much more to who my mom is than being a wife and a mother.
My mom also taught me to embrace all aspects of myself. When I came out to her, I’ll never forget the sense of unconditional acceptance that she gave me. She had come up to visit me for Mom’s Weekend and as she and I sat in her hotel room fixing cocktails, I informed her that I was in a new relationship. She asked with whom, and if it was anyone she knew, and I told my mom her name. She looked surprised at first, but welcomed the news with a hug and a congratulations. She listened to me, she understood where I was coming from, and she told me that she would support me in any way that I needed. And that meant more than she will ever know.
Another thing I have appreciated of my mom is her genuineness. She is open about her thoughts and always knows how to make people laugh with her spot-on commentary. I love her unapologetically crude sense of humor. My mom has told me how important it is to her to feel like she can be herself and not worry about what others think. I think this is so important for women, because all too often they are judged more harshly for what they say or do.
Learning from what my mom has told me about her own experiences, she has given me the strength to make my own choices and follow my own path. She taught me the importance in being myself and not being afraid expressing how I think and feel. She taught me about acceptance, and that love should be unconditional. My mom helped me to feel strong and embrace being a woman. Thank you, Mom.