Editor's note: This article was compiled after interviewing 8 wonderful, loving, successful older mothers and asking them questions about today's mothers. The mothers interviewed are all mothers the author has admired throughout her life. They shared their perspective, insight, and encouragement with the author who then weaved it all together into the letter above.
Dear Mothers of Today,
Let us start by saying we are in awe of you. Being a mother now seems so much more difficult than it was when we were mothers. We didn't have technology to monitor or social media to worry about, neighborhoods and parks were safe places to wander, allergies were rare, extra-curricular choices were limited and life seemed to move a little more slowly. We watch you juggle so many things and are so proud of the way you seem to do it all.
We love the way you keep yourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy by refueling through exercise, date nights, personal interests, and professional counseling. These habits allow you to better manage the stresses of motherhood with a smile. You are so good at involving husbands and fathers in childrearing, and it is a wonderful thing to see you work together as a partnership.
You pass on this healthy and active mindset to your children. We watch our grandbabies eat avocados and peppers for breakfast and our grandkids chomp on salmon and sweet potatoes for dinner. This is a far cry from the Pop-Tarts and Cheetos of the past. You spend your Saturdays on bike rides, hiking and exploring the world together, and mom is always part of the fun. This makes us smile.
You inspire us as you serve in your communities, churches and the world at large. We see you take on roles that stretch you far beyond what you imagined you were capable of, yet you do it so well. You let your children be a part of this service, and they learn selfless values from you. They are focusing on giving and showing love to everyone at such young ages, and we think it is phenomenal.
We are thrilled by your focus on learning. Regardless of your educational status, mothers today study, read, learn and increase their talents. This desire to know, grow and improve is passed on to your children by example and is a gift for which they will forever be grateful.
They will also be thankful that you loved them enough to talk openly about the hard but important things. We watch in amazement as you handle topics in real time that were often too uncomfortable or taboo for us to talk frankly and honestly about. You discuss sex, drugs, death, suicide, pornography, politics, faith and religion with your little ones in age appropriate ways and answer questions without judgment. We know it can't be easy and we salute you for doing it anyway.
Perhaps the thing we are most impressed by is the way so many of you love motherhood. Sometimes we, as older mothers, are a little critical of young mothers because they don't do things the same way we did and don't feel "guilty" like we used to. You are less constrained by the norms and feel no need to be a martyr. This allows you to truly enjoy what you do.
You get down and play with your kids; you don't stay inside doing dishes while the rest of the family heads to the park; you play loud music and dance; you stay up late for meteor showers; and you are OK making a mess and cleaning it up much later with everyone's help. I think your kids know you love being a mom, and I'm not sure ours always did. You are better at understanding what matters most and living that way. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching that kind of mother raise our grandchildren.
Because we are moms, we also want to caution you about a few things our older perspective has allowed us to see.
Do not compare yourselves online or in person with others. Social media sets a stealthy trap that is so easy to fall into. Remember you and your children each have a unique path only you can walk and spiritual gifts that are solely yours, be secure in that.
Please watch the time your family spends with technology. These kids are plugged in so often and are missing out on life experiences because of it. The same thing is happening with parents (and grandparents!). Take some technology breaks, keep some of your life private, look up and out more often and make a point to truly connect. We think this is a battle worth fighting.
We love the way you help your children develop their talents, but make sure there is still time to play and be kids. Children should have time to be creative, hang out with friends, take family vacations, attend church events and explore less structured interests. Be sensitive to different personalities and needs. What is good for one child can be harmful to the next, so don't let coaches or programs dictate your life to you. Be flexible and open to what is best for your children on an individual basis.
We wish more of you would eat together. Our favorite memories were made around the dinner table. The food doesn't matter, but there is such safety and security when children see their families eat, talk and laugh together each day. These daily moments of learning to trust, share and communicate are invaluable.
Our last request is to ask you to take a step back. We know you love those little ones, and so do we, but because you love them, give them space. Let them take responsibility for their own actions and reap natural consequences at a young age. Don't fight their battles. Expect them to work hard and contribute. Allow them to fail, and then let them feel the joy that comes from owning a problem and solution all on their own.
We know that nothing about motherhood is easy, but you are doing it so well. Hold on to your sense of humor and laugh at yourself every now and then. Keep faking interest in Pokémon and knock-knock jokes and lip gloss and tween heartthrobs. Keep kissing owies and waking up all night and rocking sick babies. Keep listening when they are ready to talk, even if it is long after you wanted to go to bed. Keep loving them when they are unlovable and forgiving them when they have hurt you, so they will always know they have somewhere to turn.
Keep showing your kids how to enjoy and love life, even during the hard times. Assume the best in people and intentions. Pick your battles and let the little and unimportant things go. Be who you hope your children will become; they are always watching and want to be just like you. Say yes whenever you can, but know when to say no. Be your children's advocate and celebrate their uniqueness. Don't be afraid to ask for help; you were never meant to do this all on your own. Don't worry so much. Have faith that things will work out for the best, because in our experience, in the long run, they usually do.
Don't be so hard on yourself! You have never done this before. You will mess up, you will feel defeated, but you will never give up. Twenty-five years from now you will be shocked and amazed at the woman you have become and the depth of your wisdom, patience, compassion, and joy all because you were able to be a mother.
We are cheering for you. We are praying for you. We love you. Mothers of today, you've got this.
All our love,