It’s mother’s day and even though I have two children of my own, this day fills up with memories of my mother rather than my own.
My mother worked. She didn’t sew, cook, or was around the house much. She’d normally leave the house at 7:30 AM and come back rushing for dinner at 8 PM.
In the mornings, I would watch her get ready for work. I would watch her get really close to the mirror to put on eye liner (something I have never managed to learn) and sift through her colorful business suits. My favorite was the red one. She wore it on ‘important’ days.
My mom was an executive, she had a long career in informatics and ended up being the CIO of large tech company in Venezuela. Her work was very demanding, she traveled often and was away a lot. She had an assistant that answered her phone and often acted as our intermediary.
My mother was different from my friends’ mothers. While most moms were baking cakes, my mother was developing the national information system to manage oil concessions. Sometimes my mother would pull all-nighters and look exhausted and stressed out. I fantasized about telling off her boss for making her work late. But she was always joyful about working, perhaps it had something to do with having a chocolate drawer in her desk.
My mother grew up poor. Without a father to give her a name, an illiterate mother and seven siblings, none of whom attended any type of schooling. She says she was lucky to be the last one because there were enough children in the house working already so she got to go to school. I think there was a little more than luck.
My mother always studied. While she was doing her MBA, her second advanced degree, I would sit next to her staring at some bar charts asking questions that she would ignore because she was concentrating. I remember one her books titled “TQM” which in Spanish stands for “Te Quiero Mucho” (I love you very much), but when I read it I learned it was about a Japanese management philosophy that stood for Total Quality Management.
That is how I saw my mother. Distant, smart, resilient, independent, dedicated, positive, strong. In a country that is obsessed with women’s looks, my mother commanded respect for her intellect without discounting her feminine side. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be like her.
As I got older, we became closer. I felt my mother had been waiting for me to grow up to have a relationship with me. She treated me like an adult much faster than my dad did and when I started my career, she became intimately involved. As I got closer, I got to know her for real. One day she told me I was her best friend. And I realized she was mine too.
But it was the birth of my children that gave me the chance to see my mother in a new light. I saw her rock my colicky baby for four hours in the middle of the night. I saw her cringe in horror when I was having contractions. I saw her sing (badly!) and willfully take any chance she could to change diapers. She cuddled me as I cried when I was feeling inadequate as a mom and confessed she felt the same when she had me. She helped me learn how to hold my babies, how to feed them and bathe them. And in the weeks that we spent transforming ourselves in mother and grandmother, she told me about how she gave up a big promotion and got an easier job (college professor) so she could spend time with me. She told me about how my father would have to hold her when I cried and how bad she was at disciplining us.
Mom is still working. She’s not like most grandmas. She has her own company. She goes to the hair salon often and is working through another advanced degree. She’s obsessed with technology and walks around carrying an unbelievable amount of gadgets.
I may not be baking cupcakes for my girls and sewing their costumes either, but I hope to make my girls proud as I have always been of my mother.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I love you and cherish you.