A few years ago my youngest daughter said to me, “Mom why aren’t you a normal mom?” I asked her to define “normal mom” and 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, the culturally constructed image of the “perfect” mother; the kind of mom whose life revolves around her children, and who values her family above all else. 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 everyday 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 one of the early “abnormal mothers”, a woman I hope my daughters will seek to emulate; a woman who simply wanted to be true to who God created her to be, in all her uniqueness. I want to celebrate my mom.
I was born in Lampasas, Texas in 1967. (Yes, that beautiful baby in the picture is me.) Lampasas is a sleepy little rural Texas town with a population of about 4,000 people at the time I was growing up and a culture that was closer to the 1950’s than the 1960’s. At the time of my birth, my mother was 19 years old. She had dropped out of school at the age of 16 to marry my dad, her high school sweetheart. 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 outside the county line.
My sister was born two years after me and my mom and dad were your typical working class family. Dad worked at the local Drive In as an assistant manager and mom stayed home with my sister and I. But she was always dreaming of her next adventure. She sold jewelry, spent a lot of time with her friends, and threw a lot of parties. At the time I did not like the parties and I’ll be honest, I never liked her friends. My mom had a strange taste in friends. I think it was because she never really fit in with the “normal” mothers. 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 was 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 wanted my family to myself and I deeply resented the amount of attention my mom paid to these really messed up people. I was also 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’s party days ended as did the house guests as we settled into a more “normal” family 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. I wanted her to be “normal” and to do “normal” mommy things, but 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 feely and genuinely. I always knew I could talk to her about anything because she never judged anyone.
So why don’t I go to lunch at the elementary school or greet my daughter everyday at the bus stop? Because God has called me to the same mission as my mother, to befriend interesting people and to show compassion to my hurting neighbors. 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 of redefining the “normal” 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”:
- So what if the “normal “ mom looked a little more like Mother Theresa and a little less like Martha Stewart?
- What is 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 spending hours hanging out on the soccer field, the “normal” family spent that time building relationships with the poor?
- What if instead of being only focused internally, the “normal” mom was also focused outwardly toward a world in need of the love she has to give?
So Happy Mother’s Day Mom, thanks for helping redefine “normal” and thanks for being so weird!