Several years ago my youngest daughter said to me, “Mom why aren’t you a normal mom?” I asked her to define “normal mom.” She said, “You know, the kind of mom that is always at the bus stop, eats lunch at school with her kids, and who puts notes in my lunch box.” In other words, she wanted the culturally constructed image of the “perfect” mother. What child would not want that kind of mom?
I can remember as a child having similar feelings though I was never bold enough to say such things to my mother. I did, however, think them. When Caroline said those words to me, I felt like I had been socked in the stomach. Was I doing this mommy thing all wrong? Or, was there perhaps another image of a mom that, while not the cultural norm, could be equally as healthy?
I am thankful that I was raised by a woman who refused to become who society wanted her to be. A woman who has lived every day of her life striving to be the unique, amazing, sometimes odd woman God created her to be. She is not your typical mother, and all I can do is praise God for that. Without her lively spirit and her zest for life, I would not be who I am. I pray someday my daughter will come to appreciate my uniqueness as I have come to appreciate my mother’s. This mother’s day, I want to celebrate my favorite “abnormal mother” – a woman I hope my daughters will seek to emulate. She is a woman who simply wanted to be true to who God created her to be, in all her uniqueness.
My mom had grown up in the military and had seen the world but found herself living in a community where few had ever ventured beyond the county line. My mom had strange taste in friends. I think it was because she never really fit in to small town culture. I asked her once why her friends were all so weird and she replied, “Because, I like interesting people.”
She had a special knack for attracting people in crisis. She even moved several of them in with us! There were the two teenage boys who had taken to the road to “find themselves”, several alcoholics whose wives had kicked them out, and family members who were just down on their luck. Those she did not move into the house she spent hours at the kitchen table counseling.
Everyone knew that if you needed help, Sissy Miiller would listen without judgment and when necessary, take in the weary traveler. I really hated having house guests growing up. Especially the type of guest my mom invited in. I was embarrassed to have my friends over because no other family I knew was running a homeless shelter out of their house.
Once my sister and I reached grade school, my mom closed up the shelter and we settled into a more “normal” life with my mother deciding to join the workforce. She got her GED and in a matter of a few short years, she climbed the ranks in the local bank and was the Vice President of mortgage lending. From there, she started her own mortgage company which she then sold many years later to start raising emu and ostrich on the ranch of her business partner. From there she started her own embroidery company and to this day, she is continually dreaming of new adventures. My mom is anything but boring.
I think my mom’s decision to take in people in crisis and to befriend social outcasts was one of the hardest things for me to deal with growing up. However, I now realize that though I did not like her choices, somewhere deep inside me, my mom planted a seed of compassion that I know would not exist without her living such a compassionate life. I think the gift of compassion is worth 1000 school lunches and countless love notes. I never doubted she loved me because she loved everyone so freely and genuinely. I always knew I could talk to her about anything because she never judged anyone.
I know I will not win the “Suzy Homemaker” award. My children will not remember me for my cooking, my spotless house, or my attentiveness to all their needs. But I do hope they will remember me as one who loved much and who sought to live a compassionate life. I don’t know if my daughters will every fully understand my choices, but I know I am grateful that my mom choose to be a bit odd and fought against the cultural tide of conformity to claim the life God created for her. That is what I want for my girls. I don’t care if they grow up to be successful or wealthy. All I can hope for is that they become fully who God created them to be and continue the tradition started by my mom.
I pray our society discovers a new definition of the “normal” mom. I have a few suggestions as to how we might think of redefining “normal”:
- What if the “normal “ mom looked a little more like Mother Theresa and a little less like Martha Stewart?
- What if instead of hanging out at the mall, she hung out at the soup kitchen?
- What if instead of spending her money and time on having the perfect hair, nails, and outfit, she invested in disadvantaged children?
- What if instead of defining family as “biological” she saw herself as part of the larger “human” family?
So Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all the “abnormal” moms out there. Thanks for helping redefine “normal” and for being so weird!