“Some women feel the need to act like they’re never scared, needy or hurt; like they’re as hardened as a man. I think that’s dishonest. It’s ok to feel delicate sometimes. Real beauty is in the fragility of your petals. A rose that never wilts isn’t a rose at all.” ~ Crystal Woods
As I gaze at this bouquet of flowers, I note that it is far from its finest hour. Yet, I treasure it. It was the centerpiece on our table at a luncheon I attended last week during the 84thAnnual Convention of American Mothers, Inc. I had the ‘winning’ seat at my table and my prize was this lovely pitcher from the immensely popular Pioneer Woman collection and it was filled with beautiful flowers, in full bloom. Of course, I had already won in so many ways. It was my privilege to attend the conference after being named the 2019 Mother of the Year for the DC Metro area by American Mothers, a nonpartisan non-profit organization which owns the trademark to “Mother of the Year®” and is the official sponsor of Mother’s Day. American Mothers is committed to serving as an advocate on issues affecting our country’s 85 million mothers and their children.
I was part of a special cohort of Mothers chosen to represent their states, with 46 actually attending the Convention. I was awed by the energy, courage, candor, and kindness of this group. I had read most of the bios, so I already knew I would be in very special company. However, I was blown away by the speeches on Day 2 of the Conference. We were challenged to address America in a speech themed, “America, this is your mother speaking…”. Moms being Moms, you know we could have gone on for hours — alas we only had three minutes. Accustomed to making magic out of mania, we dynamic Moms rose to the occasion, delivering heartfelt testimonies of triumph and loss, joy and pain, uncertainty and revelation. We approached the task through lenses tinted by different races, religions, and regions of the country as well as different educational backgrounds, career experiences, and lifestyles, yet we all cheered when the underdog won, were outraged at insensitivity and injustice, mourned the losses, and were in awe of the sacrifices our sisters had made. There was a sense of knowing among us only Mothers possess. A knowing that on most days not all of the flowers in the bouquet will be in bloom at the same time. There will be some curled or wilted petals as trials set upon us and dry, discolored leaves as our resolve is tested. Yet, like flowers pushing through concrete, there are always signs of hope and beauty in our bouquet.
My convention speech
Leading up to this year’s Convention, American Mothers launched a nationwide study to find What Matters to Moms through the American Mothers Project. Preliminary findings indicate the top three concerns are access to mental health services and resources, access to affordable childcare, and quality education for all children. On Day 3, we got a glimpse of how we could use our knowledge and personal experiences to make a difference in our country. First, we witnessed an engaging bipartisan discourse between Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) about such topics as women in leadership, sex trafficking, foster care and others. Next, we headed to Capitol Hill to meet with our elected representatives, armed with our states’ respective concerns as well as the early data from the American Mothers Project. We felt powerful. We were powerful. As the Convention began to wind down, I was thankful that one of my college-age sons was able to join me at the Gala on the last day, along with my husband and mother. Without them, and my other son, I none of this would have been possible. Together, they have watched me and often caused me to stretch and grow, and to stay firmly planted with arms folded when I might otherwise have given up. After my son listened to the speakers that evening, he wondered aloud why practically all of the discussion centered on the love and nurturing Mothers provide. He thought it sounded patriarchal and somewhat dismissive of all that mothers do. He said he appreciated my staying home to raise him and his brother. He also remarked “that [love and nurturing] was the least of what you did. You did so much more – you were working.” I was touched by his sentiments, but I had to remind him that love and nurturing was at the heart of all the work I did. It’s how Moms everywhere make everything fall into place like only they can. Motherhood. It’s a thing of real beauty.