I have two sisters. We have three different moms but they’re my sisters just the same. I am grateful for both of them and today I’m writing them a thank you note. My brother’s wife, Donna, and my sister-in-law Carlene, have both been in my life since I was a kid and have influenced the parent I have become. Both of them became moms a good 15 years before I did and by the time my daughter hit the scene, they had 8 kids between them, ranging in age from 15 to 4. I have been looking up to them for years. No matter how long you wait to have kids, how prepared you think you are, motherhood is one of the most intimidating and hard jobs you will ever have. I have been very fortunate to have them blazing the trail ahead of me.
Neither of them held a traditional 9 to 5 job. Instead, they used creative flexibility to balance work and home. They both have busy lives and tons of children but still manage to “have it all”. They taught me that you don’t have to sacrifice your dreams to be the mom you want to be, you just have to get creative and use your resources to get there. Both of them have kept me calm and showed me I had the strength to handle whatever motherhood threw at me. If they can be so pulled together with their collective 8 kids, surely I can handle my singleton, right?
From the time my girl rushed into the world, Carlene and Donna have been there to make her feel like the most special niece in the world. Even though Zoey is the 5th grandchild on either side, they always make her feel like she was the best one yet. Carlene was the one who came running to the hospital as soon as she got the call that her niece arrived 13 weeks early. She sat with us while our baby was whisked away to a hospital across the state. She kept me glued together when all I wanted to do was shatter into a million pieces. She helped us pick a name out of a baby name book for our girl while we waited to get cleared for discharge because that’s what you do when you have a baby. You name her. She helped us stay positive and stayed with me so that my husband could go to be with our baby. As soon as I could leave the hospital, Carlene took me home, made me eat something and threw me in the shower. Then she drove me to meet my daughter.
From that day forward, she has been there for my daughter. I envy and admire her creativity. She’s a true storyteller and loves to snuggle up Zoey, who loves to snuggle up her auntie. In the absence of a grandmother on that side, Carlene is doing her best to keep the feeling of Nana alive for Zoey. Snuggles, summer sleepovers with lots of goodies, storytelling and Christmas traditions are all things Zoey gets from Auntie Carlene. For that I am truly grateful.
My brother’s wife Donna is one of the most realistic and calm parents I’ve ever known. She is the mother of one girl and three boys, so when I presented her with an extra little girl to spoil, she rose to the occasion. Donna is a strong-willed, independent woman who reminds me often that “princess” isn’t the only option for a girl. I am grateful for her perspective on giving kids more responsibility than you think they can handle. I am always surprised how much independence she gave her kids and how well they handled it. She has also shown me that there is hope for a mother-daughter relationship in the teen years. Her relationship with her now 19-year old daughter is inspiring. They have a mutual respect for each other and are thick as thieves.
She also keeps me grounded leading by the example that there’s no need to panic. That woman has nerves of steel. She’s a nurse and just like those barefoot cobbler’s children, her kids rarely went to the ER unless they were half dead. Unless it needed stitches (and sometimes not even then!) whatever it was could wait until you could see your own doctor. By seeing how calm she was under pressure, it helped me keep calm in emergencies with Zoey. Even in the face of fear, in those roller coaster days of bad days and worse days in the NICU, she was there to talk me off the ledge. Now that those days are behind us and we’ve moved on to the just as scary school age years, I know that she will always be there for my girl.
Carlene and Donna, thank you for showing me how it’s done. You have shown me that it’s possible to be successful at home and at work. Your kids are growing into such smart, well-rounded adults who will go far in life. You have taught them not only how to take care of themselves, but also to care for others, something this world needs more of. If I raise Zoey to be even half as good a person as your children I will have done a good job. You have also taught them the importance of family and history, so no matter where their lives take them, they will find their way back.
I am grateful for both of you for setting such wonderful, achievable examples for me to follow. You never judge my choices and always support me. You make my village a better place.