A week of running last minute errands to make our family holidays bright reminds me the never ending list that is mothering. And a set of recent losses reminds me the power that mothering played in my adolescent years. Sadly the second half of this year marked deaths of some parents my highschool classmates. As I sat through an Irish wake and Catholic mass and only weeks later stood quietly during the Greek Orthodox Trisagion I was caught by the threads of faith and ethnic identity that had shaped these parents, and their children, that lived so large in my youth. I write a column on diversity and offer services through my firm focused on inclusion and conflict resolution.
Growing up in a white state with little ethnic diversity it is easy to presume my friends were mainstream white Americans. Yet when I think about the kitchens I spent my time visiting, the backyards I played in, and the basement parties I went to I note that moms who opened their doors were religiously and ethnically rooted and it was these roots that allowed them to be a solid source of community for their children and their friends.
It makes me appreciate even more keenly the diversity of mothers. Whether it be ethnic, racial, or professional diversity. As I surveyed the classroom of my first grader and heard some children exclaim sadly that their mom or dad was not able to come to help with the holiday party, I certainly felt lucky to have the flexibility to make it. But I also recognized how important it was that my children had access to moms who worked, who stay home, who run home businesses, and who devote themselves to the community building that doesn't come with a paycheck. It means that there is always someone they can reach to for information and for supervision even when my schedule makes that hard.
If the diversity of mothers within a community can have such an impact on adolescents, consider what that means for workplace projects. All the energy and talent of women workers looks a lot of ways, but when you create an environment where their whole self is prized and celebrated, the community that is created is engaging, purposeful, and welcoming. These qualities make for a resilient and inclusive workforce, one that is far more welcoming and attractive than if these qualities are ignored and only the worker skill set is focused on.
As I prepare to celebrate the holidays with my family I write a note to honor the families that opened their doors to a teenage me and taught me their traditions. From how to make enchiladas (thanks Edna) to homemade hummus and tabbouleh (thanks Cora) from how to live and laugh loudly (thanks Maria) to how to tell a story that teaches and questions (thank you Veronica) I remember these traditions and hope my own door remains as open to my children and their friends as you were able to make yours. Some of you are gone, some of you remain, but each of you impacted the lives you encountered just by celebrating your past.
This season as you celebrate, take a moment to thank the moms, past and present, whose diverse experiences provide joy and color for your festivities. And if that job rests on your shoulders this year, I raise a glass in solidarity. The moment is brief but you weave a cord stronger than you know today.
Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor, Entrepreneur, and Diversity Columnist.
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Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP, 2011-2014