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From a Stay-at-Home Mom to Her Working Mother

May 3, 2015 | by Debbie Gutfreund

A letter to my mother.

To some people you and I seem to be opposites. You love yoga and sitting by the ocean. I love running marathons and bungee jumping. You have two children and are divorced. I have five children and am blessed with a loving marriage. You were a working mother, starting off as an attorney and working your way up to NY State Supreme Court Judge. I took my Ivy League education and my graduate degree in psychology and put it on the side to stay at home with my children.

But looks can be deceiving because you and I are really not opposites at all. You taught me so much through your work that I carry within me. The more years I spend raising my own children, the more I realize how similar we really are. I hear your voice within my own voice. I find the echoes of my childhood reverberating in my own home. From your example, I learned how to be strong. How to be courageous and persistent. How to be responsible for my own life. And you continue to teach me all this and more each day.

I can give to my children because of what you gave to me. You are the reason I became a mother. And you are also my best friend who I know I can call anytime, anywhere. Juggling work and kids and everything else is hard no matter what we do, and every day I appreciate more and more what you taught me, what you teach me, and what you inspire me to become.

Here are some of the lessons that I have learned from you:

1. Don’t give up. I watched you go through so many ups and downs. I watched you pour all your heart and money into an election only to lose by the tiniest fraction of a percent. And then I watched how right away, you picked yourself up, brushed yourself off and had the courage to do it all over again until you succeeded. I use this lesson every day whenever I feel discouraged by a mistake or stuck because of past failures. This is how I know that I can achieve anything I want to if I never give up.

2. Take care of yourself. A mother is constantly giving, nurturing, managing, worrying and caring for everyone around her. Sometimes we can forget how important it is to take care of ourselves. You were always a wonderful role model for me of a mother who makes sure to also nurture herself. You made time for your friends, for exercise, for travel, for reading, and for professional development seminars. As your daughter, even with a house full of children, I make sure to do the same. I know I can't give endlessly without also giving to myself. And I know I am teaching my children how to care for themselves by my example.

3. Speak up. When I was little I remember seeing how hard it was for you when you first started working. You were timid and unsure of yourself. But I saw how you taught yourself to be assertive as you built your law practice. I watched you speak up even when you were afraid. And I watched you since then, time and time again get up and speak in front of huge crowds. This has inspired me whenever I need to assert myself in any situation or speak publicly. Even if I am afraid or unsure of myself, I stand up and speak anyway.

4. Help others. Throughout your career, you’ve always made it a point to reach out to others. Whether it was hosting dozens of judges and lawyers for Shabbos meals or jumping to get on the phone when someone needed help, you have always been the kind of person who gives without reservation to others. I’ve watched you help people with their professions, their relationships and even their health issues. I try to use this beautiful personality trait whenever I’m asked to make someone a meal, to lend something, to give professional advice. Whenever I feel rushed or unable to help, I remind myself how you always help anyway and it often pulls me through.

5. Nurture spiritual goals. You were the one who made sure that no matter what I would get a Jewish education. You brought me to synagogue every week. You connected me to teachers, to books, to resources I never would have had without your guidance. You kept Shabbos and all the Jewish holidays as the center pieces of our lives, even in the most hectic years of your career. Today, that Jewish education and meaningful life is being passed down to your grandchildren and is the foundation of my home.

So thank you, Mom, for all the years that you spent and continue to spend, until 120, being my mother, my best friend and my teacher. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!


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