Our mothers shape our lives in every way we can imagine, and some of our favourite Mills & Boon authors are no exception. In light of us asking you to share your #MumWisdom over on our Facebook page, we reached out to our Historical team to see how they’ve been changed by words of advice, motherly love and lessons over the years.
Once when I was very ill, my mother said this to me: “Provide a pain-free time to gather strength; seek distraction or help of any constructive kind… and if something funny goes by, notice it!
At a critical time in my life, mom told me: “Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
Mama hated faculty parties (my father was a teacher). Once she scandalized my father by dressing up as Charlie Chaplin and clowning her way through an entire dinner.
The one piece of advice she gave that stuck me was this: “When you’re in trouble, pray to God and row toward shore.”
“If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’ve never forgotten those words of wisdom!
She once said “If you don’t want to see it again, don’t write it down.” Valuable advice!
I came home from high school very upset after a meeting with my guidance counsellor who told me that I couldn’t be a teacher and needed to pick a different area of study for college because jobs were scarce in teaching and I wouldn’t get a job. My mother said, “There is always room for the best. Be the best and you’ll have no problem.”
I worked hard in school and did find a job in a tight market because of my mother’s advice.
When dealing with classmates and bigger kids at school my mother said that I should never hit anyone, with this exception, “If someone is picking on you or hits you, you should hit them back as hard as you can in the nose.” She also demonstrated the place to hit them. I never had to hit anyone (I did shove someone down a snowbank once though) but it taught me that you should be kind when possible but also stick up for yourself.
Here’s a funny story I’ll never forget! As a redhead, my mother burns in the sun like all of my family. Once, while driving west, on a trip cross country my sister and I noted that my mother’s left arm and left half of her face were burned red from driving with the window down (no AC back then). When we commented on this she said not to worry because, she’d get burned on the other side on the way east. I’m still scratching my head about that one.
One year on April Fool’s Day, my mother short sheeted all our beds so we couldn’t get our legs under the covers. After she had a laugh at our expense she remade all our beds, which I still think is an April Fool’s joke on her.
Her best advice was this:
“Don’t worry about what she’s doing. Worry about what you’re doing.”
And whenever us kids got to whining she would say “Who ever told you that life was fair?”
The photo above is of my mom shooting skeet (clay targets, not furry animals) on the platform of the cabin she and my father would later build in the woods as a summer retreat. The second is my mom reading to me.
“Listen, advise, laugh, love, worry but most of all, enjoy!” – That’s my motherly advice wrapped up!
My mum would always say “Life is for the living, all hikers are liars, and you never know when you are going to come across a heart-shaped lake.”
The photo here is of my mum (an avid backpacker) standing in front of a heart-shaped lake that she and I discovered on a backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Silver Pass, at 11,000 feet.
“I need to talk to the person in charge?”
Those words punctuated my childhood. My mother did not waste her breath on underlings in banks, stores or government bureaucracy. If you want to get things done, go straight to the top.
To this day, I sometimes wonder at her ability to accomplish tasks and carrel lesser mortals. My own personality differed greatly, but every now and then, when the going gets tough and the stakes are high I will channel that iron will and steely gaze. I too will square my shoulders and thrust out my jaw. I too will say in firm, formidable tones, “I need to speak to the person in charge.”
For much of my adult life, I focused on the differences between my mother and myself. We differed on many issues; hair, clothes and make-up, but it was in the political arena that our differences created the greatest challenges. Not for nothing did my mother resemble the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s conservative prime minister.
Over the years, my mother thumped out letters to bankers, store managers, mayors, prime ministers, cabinet ministers, premiers, MLAs, MPs, CEOs and any number of other acronyms – all on her golf ball type writer – does anyone even remember those things? And without fail, she cast her ballot in every election, be it federal, provincial, municipal, school board or for the local P.T.A
As for me, I have never voted Conservative in my life. Ever
But I vote.
In every election, be in federation, provincial, municipal, school board or the local P.T.A.
And I am fierce in my beliefs. Very. Indeed, I have thumped out letters to bankers, store managers, mayors, prime ministers, cabinet ministers, premiers, MLAs, MPs, CEOs and any number of acronyms. Our politics might be opposed but we share the belief that our voices matter and that individuals must engage with the world and espouse that which they hold dear.
And how has this influenced by own parenting? I hope that I have modeled what my mother modeled so well to me – that one does not complain on the sidelines, one does not inhabit a world without a voice.
One acts. One votes. One cares. One writes. To bankers, store managers, mayors, prime ministers, cabinet ministers, premiers, MLAs, MPs, CEOs and any number of other acronyms.
One piece of advice my mom gave that I’ve never forgotten?
Be glad you’re not Tolstoy’s wife! My mother would dole out this advice if I moaned about homework(or really complained about anything). Now, as I read my editor’s notes and attempt to string words together, I am reminded of those words.
Tolstoy’s wife, Sophie, copied and edited War and Peace seven times, working by candlelight after the children were in bed. So even if deadline looms and my ‘to do list’ resembles a ‘to do’ novella, I am, indeed, thankful, so very thankful, I am not Tolstoy’s wife.
A final piece of advice from me?
A cup of tea makes almost any day better.
My mom quoted: “No education is ever wasted.” If I wondered aloud whether I should take a one hour class on edible wild plants, she would encourage me to go forward with it. Those classes and experiences helped me meet interesting people and enriched my life.
Mom would quilt on winter evenings using a frame she’d created herself. She could assemble the sewing so that the quilt suspended like a large, flat hammock while she worked on it.
The slightest movement from underneath could cause the frame to swing while she stitched. My brothers and I would scoot around and under the tent-like area as she worked. Sometimes we heard a grumble. She had a needle in her hand, and an amazing patience level when she told us to stop bumping the quilt.
No one has ever been close to influencing my life in as many positive ways as my mother. Mom encouraged me to explore textures and hues and cupboards and creativity. If I wanted to ice a cake with a most unappetizing mix of icing colors, she let me try. Truthfully, that faded blue and pink polka-dot cake looked hideous, but she didn’t say a word.
In the days of film, she handed me the video camera, and I made a mini-western with my brothers as the cowboys.
Mom kept lumber ends and pieces on hand and encouraged me to experience carpentry with a hammer and nails. Now I have a nail gun, a router and a miter saw. I’ve added trim to a small room which coordinates with the flower quilt my mother made.
She showed me that ordinary things can bring happiness, and not to be upset at the detours but to find the nuggets in them. One winter the picnic area we visited was so cold we ate in the car. On sweltering days with Oklahoma humidity, she took us to the riverbank and we spent Sunday evening enjoying the cool water that flowed from the bottom of Lake Tenkiller. Some nights, we made bonfires and roasted hotdogs at a wooded area close to the house.
My life has a texture that I wouldn’t have if not for a mother who showed me that simple play is not just for children, but adults too.
My mother wasn’t a great one for verbal advice, she led by example. She was kind and chatty and always making new friends. This makes the one piece of advice I remember really stand out – it concerns writing. Typically, it was short and to the point. ‘Keep going!’ she said.
Mum kept a version of the prose poem Desiderata by the American writer Max Ehrmann in the kitchen. It was right in front of the kitchen sink and my sister is certain it was Mum’s way of giving the family a quiet message. You certainly couldn’t avoid looking at it when doing the washing up! Here are the first lines:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I really like it. By an odd coincidence, Desiderata was written in 1927, the same year that my father was born.
Mum hated having her picture taken, so we have very few, but when I was trawling through the albums I found the above four generation photo of Granny, Mum and me and with my daughter as a baby. Mum is in the middle.
Motherly advice from me? Like mum, I’ll keep it brief: ‘Be kind’.
My mum always said, “You can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it” Wise words.
As for me, I’d say be yourself and don’t worry what other people think.
WOW. What wonderful words of wisdom from our authors, thank you ladies! We hope you’ll go out and spend time with your own mothers today if you can, and don’t forget to share your own motherly wisdom with us over on our Facebook page! Plus there’s more over on Gransnet.