Mother, Healer, Champion

Mother Healer Champion

“Am I a bad mom?”

I grew up witness to motherhood as simultaneously fierce and beautiful, gentle and brave. I also bore witness to how few people seemed to recognize the power and grace of the profession.

People frequently attacked my mom for what they described as her poor mothering. They often did this in front of my siblings and me. Others, they did it outside our presence, leading her to cry as she recounted their scathing words to us later. “Am I bad mom?” she would sob.

When I was little, I would hug her and say, “You’re a great mom!” My answers changed as I grew. “It’s too early to tell,” I’d reply. “The answer will be in what we go out and do with our lives, and how we do it.” Sometimes this answer made her sigh. It wasn’t as gratifying as an enthusiastic, “Yes, you rock!”

One strong sense of self

More often, she’d chuckle and tell me how lucky I was to have such a strong sense of self. Much of that grew directly from her loving support. Some came from watching how cruel people were to her because they could get away with it. What could an impoverished single mother of four possibly do to retaliate against them?

I saw how little people’s judgment had to do with truth. I saw how their actions and words changed depending upon the relative power they perceived in people around them. I vowed I would never tie my sense of self worth or accomplishment to the frequently ill informed opinions of passersby. “Your belief is irrelevant” became my catchphrase.

Enduring light

My mom died of cancer four years ago. I think of her often and wish I could have one more chance to answer her. I can’t tell her anymore, sadly, but I can tell you a little about what made her a stellar mom, hoping that you might find in my words reflections of things that make you, too, a light that will endure through generations of loving memory.

Her advocacy: She feared no one when it came to her children’s health and safety. Her advocacy helped us believe we were worth loving and fighting for.

Her love of reading: She read to us often, took us to the library and bought us whatever garage sale books she could afford. She taught us books would fuel our imaginations and that imagination would be our key to escaping poverty.

Her passion for forgiveness: She hated it when any of her kids withheld forgiveness, explaining unforgiveness was more apt to be our own downfall than anyone else’s. In urging us to forgive even those who wounded her with their careless, needless words, she taught us not only to forgive but also hope that better was possible.

Her love: Four years without her in body and more than that without her in sound mind, I walk tall knowing I am the daughter of an Amazon. Through good and bad temper, relative abundance and scarcity, we never lacked for love. No matter how many years she is gone, she will live on in her countless words and acts of love.

Not all will see the power of motherhood. What they do or do not see is unimportant. There is great beauty in the gifts a mother gives her children. No ill or misguided words could possibly change that to her children, she is mother. Healer. Champion.


What do you remember most fondly or value most about your mother?
What parts of her do you actively share with your kids?

Deborah Bryan

From researching killer whales in British Columbia as a teen to volunteering as a tutor in law school to running a couple of marathons and one barefoot half marathon, she carries some pretty remarkable memories close to heart. Her life day to day now doesn't include quite so many extracurriculars, but she is content within it.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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  1. Deborah,

    My mother died almost 3 years ago after a long, long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve wished many times that I had one more chance to tell her how much she meant to me. One more chance before her mind wandered away never to return.

    I would tell her that all those Saturdays baking cookies together were more than baking. They were nurturing my soul.

    I would tell her that her willingness to do hard things (things I didn’t not want) because they were BEST for me have paid off.

    I would tell her that she set the course for my life and changed it time after time.

    I would tell her how much I miss doing the dishes with her after dinner … where words flowed easily over a needed mindless task.

    And most of all, I would tell her how much I miss her….

  2. Marie Boomer

    I ask myself and my kids this all the time. Am I a good mother or, at least, good enough? With me living with a mental illness it hasn’t been very easy for my kids. I know my mom doubted her skills as a mom but she was all you described and more. I had a good role model and take strength from the memories I have of her and her determination to be there for all of her eight children. Great article, Deb!

  3. Very nicely said, Deborah. My mother, gone 19 years as of this past Monday, was a proud woman. To me she was ingenious and beautiful. She fought against poverty of another kind. She was alone and unfulfilled, but she gave the five of us everything we needed. She never faltered in carrying out her duties, as she saw them. I miss my mother too, yet with each passing year I grow closer to her. I understand her more and more, I understand myself more and more and I become patient and appreciative of my own efforts as a mother. We all rock. Motherhood is a non-stop test of strength. If we’re reflecting on it at all, then we’re doing something right.

  4. Julie Buchanan

    This is beautiful. Im some ways I can relate, in other ways, feeling this way you describe about your mother is very foreign to me. I grew up with a mentally ill, often abusive mother. She was wonderful at times, terrifying at others. I actually just wrote in my blog yesterday, in a post titled, “I didn’t want a daughter” about how those experiences shaped me as a mother, and my view of motherhood. I’ve come to realize mothers are not perfect. They were daughters first, learning from their own mothers, and they, theirs. Perhaps its in these moments of vulnerability of a mother asking their children, “Am I a bad mother?” when we realize their imperfections while trying to find their way, and carry on the motherhood torch, are their motivation. Motivates to be better than they had, and give their children the tools to better mothers one day than they. Seems that oftentimes, despite odds, flaws and doubts, the goal is always the same. Just to be a Good mom in spite of the challenges.

  5. Martin Conterez

    This is how I want to answer every mother who asks the question

  6. My mom and I would sing nursery rhymes together as we walked to and from the grocery store. I loved those times. Thanks for reminding me.


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