It has been said that life is about leaving a legacy. Mother’s Day is a great time to celebrate the legacy of moms and those who have come alongside us as stand-in moms, whether for a season at college or life in general.

According to a 2017 study of 2,000 American moms with kids between 5 and 12, commissioned by Welch’s, being a mom is the equivalent of working at least 2 1/2 full-time jobs. The study found that a mom works an average of 98 hours per week. 

The average mom starts her day around 6:23 a.m. and doesn’t stop until 8:31 p.m. And, she is lucky to get an hour and seven minutes to herself each day. Four out of 10 moms said their lives feel like never-ending series of tasks all week.

This information made me think about my life as a mom and my mother’s life as she parented three children, many of those years on her own.

My brother Lee was two years older than I and my sister Diane is 5 years younger than I.

My mom was 22 years old when she had my brother, and the doctors said he had a 50/50 chance of survival. On day seven, they took him out of the incubator and sent him home. At 4 months old, Lee became diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The physicians said he would be a quadriplegic, unable to walk.

At 10 months, my mother suspected a hearing problem when she noticed that Lee did not respond when she called his name. A hearing test confirmed a severe to moderate hearing problem. Lee was enrolled at the speech and hearing center when he was 2, where they learned he had significant learning challenges.

Growing up, I witnessed my mom being a ferocious mama bear when it came to making sure my brother had what he needed to learn and grow.

My sister and I certainly were not neglected, but my brother had some pretty focused needs. My mom stepped completely out of her comfort zone to advocate for Lee and make a difference for many others who faced all kinds of challenges. At one point she was the statewide president of the association for children with learning disabilities. Not only did my brother learn to walk and talk, he also graduated from high school with a special diploma and went on to do great things.

Lee passed away at the age of 56, having lived an incredible life. Although he faced many challenges, nothing discouraged him from embracing and living life full-on. Though he was far from perfect in the world’s eyes, Lee took his opportunities very seriously. Whether volunteer coaching middle school football or basketball or taking people’s dirty dishes in the cafeteria at K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Lee was all in. One time his basketball team lost by one point at the buzzer. As the coaches assessed the situation outside the locker room, one of the coaches asked Lee what he thought. He looked up and said, “I did my job.” He loved people and became affectionately referred to as the Mayor of Oak Ridge.

After my brother passed away, I was thinking about my mom’s legacy. For 60 years of her life, I’m pretty positive my mom worked at least 2 1/2 full-time jobs as she parented the three of us. Even on the most challenging days, she just kept putting one foot in front of the other and carried on. My mom’s example made a profound impact on her family.

Watching my mom navigate life taught me how to be strong, passionate and relentless. I learned that taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone is part of living a full life. Through her love of cooking and entertaining, I have carried on many of her traditions and started some of my own. I also learned the importance of doing things right the first time. And yes, to my horror, I have opened my mouth at times to say something and heard my mom’s words come out with a phrase I’m sure I swore I would never say to my child. Sometimes you just have to laugh, right?

Every year on Mother’s Day, we celebrate the legacy of moms, whether they gave birth, chose to adopt or became one in some other way. Sometimes motherhood can feel like a thankless job. Truth be told, it is the chance to give the gift of life and leave a powerful impression on children. To my mom, the women who have spoken into my life, and all of the moms and women who have filled the role of mom through the years: Thank you!

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