“Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story,
because hers is where yours begins.” – Mitch Albom
I was raised as an only child by a single mom so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve always had deep feelings about motherhood.
When I was little, my mom and I were inseparable (she smoked a pack a day but also nursed me until I was two and a half years old – ah, the 1970s). When I was a teenager, the closeness we shared scared me and I remember the feeling of freedom I felt when I moved away to university, relieved to finally not be so entwined with that one strong presence in my life.
Later, I found myself relying on her again, to help me care for my two children as I tried to balance motherhood with running my company. Now that my mom is in her late seventies, the tenderness I feel towards her is like a strange ache. I feel her generosity, compassion and resourcefulness inside of me like a tangible inheritance. Meanwhile, I try to ignore the signs of her aging, her slowing down, her forgetfulness, the clench of my heart each time one of her friends passes away.
I am humbled by how often I fall short of the mother I thought I would be. When I was first pregnant, I read books, I did yoga, I talked to other mothers who made it look easy. And the infant years were not the chaos I expected. But when my son turned three, I lost the plot. We now had a second baby and my preschooler’s new fascination with the word “hate” was more than I could manage.
I found myself yelling. A lot.
I was stunned at how acutely I heard my mother’s voice in my own short temper. I blamed her. Then myself. Then I forgave us both. And repeat.
The complexity of the relationship we have with our mothers is fascinating, and undoubtedly pays the rent for many therapists. Intellectually, I know it’s impossible to be a perfect mom myself, and yet I so often wish my days with my kids were an Etch-a-Sketch I could shake and start over.
As the founder and president of ECHO, a storytelling agency, I’ve led the production on hundreds of personal memoirs – both books and videos – since 1999. If I have learned three common things about the human condition through this work, it’s this:
No life is perfect
No one’s relationship with their mother is perfect
True happiness only comes with sharing what’s in your heart
The idea for our Mother’s Day video came out of our conviction at ECHO that the best gift for mom is not flowers or a pedicure, but just telling her what’s in your heart. We invited sons and daughters to share stories about their moms, and give them a chance to tell their moms what often goes unsaid. I hoped this eclectic group of individuals would speak to some universal truth about motherhood. I hoped it would reassure mothers they don’t have to be perfect yet would also underscore how important moms are (whether they think they’re doing a good job or not).
The results were even more powerful than I hoped. The vulnerability these people showed, the regrets they shared, and what they said to their moms utterly surprised and inspired me.
We heard hard stories and happy ones. Lots of little kids made us laugh. A few made us cry. But no matter what their backgrounds, every single person transformed into their best self simply by talking about their mother. There were no accusations. Just love.
I intended to make this video for other mothers. The unexpected gift is that I also made it for myself.
Samantha Reynolds is the founder and president of ECHO Storytelling Agency.