Happy Mother’s Day to My Friend Consuelo

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I met Consuelo two years ago when I first moved to London. The name “Consuelo” means comfort or consolation in Spanish. We met while walking our dogs in our neighborhood. She is a nanny for a family with two children and a handsome black Labrador Retriever. Her dog and mine took an instant liking to each other. Her dog is 11 years old and still looks very youthful. Consuelo shared that the secret for her dog’s youthful look and good health was that she had fed him freshly cooked chicken and rice since he was a puppy. Spoiled boy!  Consuelo shared that she had moved from her native Ecuador to London over 30 years ago. So we had always chatted in Spanish. Over the months, we would run into each other with our dogs. Most of the time Consuelo would be pushing a stroller with an adorable little girl who is now 3 years old. One weekend afternoon I ran into Consuelo with the family that she works for and I found out that their older son had severe disabilities. Consuelo also cared for this little boy.

The months would go by and we would continue to meet each other and share pleasantries on the street. Then Friday morning was a special day. I was on my way to a coffee gathering when I ran into her with the little girl. We said our hellos and the cute little girl who recognizes me gave me a huge smile. It turned out we were walking in the same direction so off we went to the St. John’s Wood high street and chatted for about 15 minutes.

She would share so much in just those 15 minutes. She would open up in such a way that even she surprised herself. I asked how the little boy that she watches was. She said he was doing ok. She shared that it is always so challenging to take care of his needs. It is an exhausting job for both the parents and Consuelo. I told her I so admired her patience in dealing with the boy. My friend commented that she is always so concerned when they hire a babysitter for when Consuelo cannot be there. Consuelo will review a thousand things with the new sitter to ensure he is well taken care of. You can tell she is very protective of him. One day last week, Consuelo was preparing the boy for a bath. The boy is about 7 or 8 years old. As Consuelo lifted him to put him in his bath, he turned his face, and he placed his open mouth on her cheek in what appeared to be an attempt to kiss her. She was so moved because it was his first attempt at kissing and of showing any signs of affection. Consuelo could not believe it, and even as she recounted the story she was filled with goose bumps. The little boy had not even done this with his own mother. I said to Consuelo, “That little boy loves you so much. He must sense and recognize your dedication to him.” The outside world only sees the boy’s disabilities and suffering, while Consuelo focuses on improving his quality of life while showering him with love and affection.

Consuelo then shared that she and her husband were expecting a grandchild. I congratulated her and asked if it was their first one. She said it wasn’t but that it was the first girl and she was obviously very excited. She said her oldest grandson was 11 years old. She was delighted to share that her grandson had just been awarded a full scholarship for the rest of his education in London. She commented that the family was very pleased with this since her son had limited financial resources. As we walked further, she turned and said, “You see my son is disabled, he’s been in a wheel chair since he was a child”. She went on to tell me some wonderful stories about her son and how he has tried to live independently and support his family. I asked her if he was the reason why they had left Ecuador and she said yes. Her son would not have had much of a future in her native country back then.

I turned to Consuelo and I said something like, “Dios te escogió para este labor por una razón muy especial”, which translates into “God hand picked you for this task for a very special reason”. I could not get over the fact that after raising her own disabled child she would find the fortitude and patience to repeat the whole experience all over again by helping raise another family’s child with special needs.

We arrived at the high street and were getting ready to say our goodbyes. But she had one more story to share. She told me how her son had adapted a vehicle that allowed him to store his wheel chair on the roof and was therefore able to drive everywhere. It pleases him very much that he can transport his own family. You could sense how proud she is of her son. No doubt her son gets a lot of his “can do” attitude from his mother who through her example taught him to never give up. Consuelo continues to share this love and perseverance with the children she watches. And in return those children adore her not just as a caregiver or nanny but also more like a grandmother. Not to mention the family dog who also adores her because she showers him with love and attention too, oh and with freshly cooked chicken and rice, as well!

My heart filled with such joy to have met Consuelo and to have run into her on that particular Friday morning. I turned to her and said, “I must hug you”, and I did. She thanked me for listening to her and said she shared these stories with me because she felt I was a special person. I was very moved. We said “Hasta Luego” (See You Later) and went in our different directions. It may be the last time I run into her since I will be moving back to the US. I often wonder why people’s paths cross. I like to think that it is not just coincidence but that somehow it is meant to be, that there is a reason for it. Even if it is just to say, I am so proud to have known such a special person and role model like Consuelo.

Happy Mother’s Day

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Happy Mother’s Day

To all the women who have raised or help raise children, be they biological mothers or stepmothers, adoptive mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends, or godmothers, my glass is lifted in a toast, to you unbelievable women who have been part of molding the next generation. May I remind you that no one ever gave us a manual on how to raise children. May I remind you that society does not place much value on raising kids or gives out awards for parenting. May I remind you of all the women out there that are raising our future leaders of the world on their own, our amazing single moms. May I remind you of all the moms that hold down full-time jobs and sometimes even multiple jobs and still have the patience and love to raise a small human being.

Allow me this moment of saluting you amazing mothers of the world, because sometimes I feel that parenting has been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, harder than engineering school, a Harvard MBA, and rocket science. I have to admire those women who make parenting look so effortless. Some of you have hosted babies in your bodies, sometimes for nine months, and others for just a few heartbreaking days. Some of you have struggled with infertility and its emotional roller coaster. Some of you have been entrusted with suddenly caring for a child. We have had to care for, bath, feed, change this baby, and later teach this child the difference between right and wrong. May I praise the mothers who have children with special needs. I was left speechless, when one day at the supermarket I observed a mother with a cerebral palsy child in a huge wheel chair contraption, while she calmly picked her tomatoes in the vegetable aisle and included her child in her conversation. These women find the courage and strength to handle all kinds of challenging situations. Then there is all the worrying. Let’s not forget the nights you stayed up with a feverish child, or the nights you stayed up waiting for your teen to get home. And then there’s the moment when your “pollito”, little chick, must leave its nest. You have completed your mission to a degree and now you can only place your trust in them and send them on their way. You think the worrying ends when they get older and become adults but it seems that it never ends. There are those other difficult moments when nothing you say or do can fix the problem, no amount of holding or supporting can change destiny’s course and only guilt and helplessness consume you. You may not know it but you teach the rest of us so much about endurance, perseverance, and understanding.

I cannot deny the joy of the moment when your child laughs uncontrollably when you tickle them or when they give you a big kiss. These are the happy thoughts that sustain you through your child’s colicky nights or the moments when your annoying teen thinks they know more than you do. There are those amazing moments when a stranger admires your child’s manners or compliments their kindness or performance. You sigh and think to yourself that perhaps you are doing something right after all. Then there are those moments when you feel you are of some great use, when your child’s head wound is bursting with blood, and only your hugs and kisses, can make it feel better or when your child asks you for help in math homework and you can actually be of help.

I would not be the mother I am today if it were not for my role models. Among them, my own mother who deserves the title of saint, a mother who has always had patience and love to guide me through life, a mother who has been unselfish and giving in every aspect imaginable.  She is a mother who always has a solution, who always says, “yes, we can do this”, who is always ready to take on a task.  She is someone who only knows positivity and possibilities, who never gives up. She is the one who jokes, laughs, dances, and makes me laugh. She is the one who played with me as a child, plays with my children, and finds the playfulness in life. She is the one who practices mindfulness and meditation, and who is thoughtful and magical in her ways. She is a healer, a source of positive and universal energy. How lucky for me to have had this amazing role model.

And then there are all those other great women in my life who have shared with me their wisdom and ways.  Everyday I learn something new from the women who surround me, be they mothers or not. I feel blessed to be surrounded by such powerhouses, with amazing insight and experiences. I take all of this in to help me in my most challenging undertaking, that of raising my children.

To my dear fellow women raising children out there, around the world, a big salute to you because I know what a challenge it can be sometimes and I hope you recognize the value of your effort and your amazing contribution to the human race.

My friend wrote something to me in an email the other day, it was an ordinary email response but oh, so powerful. This is a friend who does not have children of her own.  She wrote me after I commented to her about my daughter being upset at my not letting her do something. She wrote back,

“Your daughter is fortunate to have you as a mom.  It’s not always easy – I say this from watching my sister and closest girlfriends raise children.  I admire all of you mothers for the gift you provide to our planet.  It’s great to set boundaries and also prioritize yourself!!!!  This is something not enough moms do even though everyone benefits! “

Wow, “the gift I provide to the planet”, that sounds very powerful when put that way. And in all of this we also need to follow my sage friend’s advice, to ”prioritize yourself”, find time for yourself too.  We must not lose ourselves in the everyday craziness of parenting. We must find time to learn and achieve new things, to better ourselves, and to reward ourselves. We must first take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Aim for greatness as a person, and greatness is what you’ll hope to impart on your child.

What more can I say, wherever you are in the world, raise that glass of wine, beer, margarita, shot of aguardiente, detox juice, or just a beautiful crystal glass of sparkling water, and join me in this special Mother’s Day toast, in celebration of who we are and the special role we play,

I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day, and a Happy Mother’s Life.

Brussels, Belgium
June 2000

Cordoba, Spain
December 2011