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Becoming like my Mother

img009My mother taught me many things both spoken and unsaid.  Teacher by trade, she took every teachable moment to give her children insight and education.
I was a stubborn and independent child (okay I still may be a little of both of those).  I would hardly sit still for a hair cut, let alone have my hair brushed to look presentable.  I did not make mothering easy on my mom.
I remember fighting off my moms efforts to show me how to cook, iron or craft.  Something inside of me fought it off.  If my brother and dad weren’t doing them too, why did I have to?!  I was a baby feminist.  I connected with a famous quote form Mark Twain, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”  Of course I kick myself now, without a cooking skill to name.  Many socks turned pink.
Hundreds of students have been graced with my mother as their teacher.  Some having learning or behavior problems.  But probably none so challenging as the very student she had living in her house.  Me.  Even when exploring college programs, the career path of teacher came up again and again in assessment tests.  I firmly stuck to my past behavior.  No.  Not for me.   Why was I working so hard to forge my own way?  Be different from my mom?

img035From a little girl to this day, I openly declare my adoration for my mother.  Counselor, writing editor, teacher and friend.  We have many achiever qualities in common.  She was labeled an underdog in middle school, both in school and sports.  Self taught to succeed.  Beautiful.  She quickly pursued her career in education, living on hot dogs & macaroni the first years of marriage with my dad.  Took on numerous jobs to make ends meet.  While working full-time with kids at home she went back to school for her masters degree.  A finalist for the Wyoming Teacher of the Year.

img257She is resourceful.  The type of person you would want with you at the bottom of a well.  With her, you would cook dinner and find your way out by morning.  She came from humble means.  Ranchhand as a young girl.  She would sew her own outfits, later would do the same for my brother and I (as seen in the picture to the right, mother daughter matching).  Makes Campbell’s tomato sauce into a culinary classic.  Shopping expert in sales racks, auctions and antique shops.
I remember in middle school, looking at her high school yearbooks, wondering if I would be able to accomplish what she had.  She racked up titles such as cheer captain, homecoming queen and the lead role in the school play.  I would find her face nearly on every other page!  The black and white images portrayed a woman full of grace, joy and respected by those around her.
Maybe it was in those yearbooks that I started to realize it would be ok to be like my mom.  Mass media pumps messaging to women about being like your mom, both positive and negative.  Combining both, there is an odd fear injected into daughters, that you’ll become your mom.  I know from conversations with other women my age, that at some point we have all had those thoughts in our heads.  We are also all at the point in our lives realizing how silly that was.
For some, there may be good cause to fear you will become like your mother.  Maybe their mother abandoned them, hurt them physically or emotionally, or made bad decisions for their family.
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But my mother has done none of those things.  Not even close.  Perhaps it is a biological response between mothers and their daughters.  A built-in conflict for independence while seeking integration.
I have only two more days of my 50 day blogging goal.  I have written about nearly everyone in my family but my mom.  As I write this I realize even my timing in writing about her is typical for me.  Why did I wait so long?!  Best for last?
I know it was not intentional, but it got me thinking.  Has my pursuit for independence been at the expense of the relationship with my mom?  Have I missed out on an even better life if I would have just embraced her teachings and tendancies?
But here is where the voodoo magic of mothers can astound us all.  The system I thought I was outsmarting as a kid was overruled by instinct, biology and fate.
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You see I am my mother.
Look at my senior yearbook and I can be found on most pages.  Was told I should be held back in kindergarden from being small.  I went from my bachelors into my masters, living off canned vegetables and PB&J.  At one point held four different jobs to pay for our wedding.  I don’t buy any clothes that are not at least discounted.  I attempt to hem my own paints.  My career is in education.
But the biggest discovery and acceptance that oh yes, I am definitely my mother is…I want to be a teacher.
This has been on my mind for some time now.  I hinted at it in a previous post called Fears and Creativity, citing a Ted Talk by David Kelley called How to Build your Creative Confidence, that creativity comes when letting go of your fears.  In doing so, “people gain confidence, they start working on what is the most important in their lives.”
In my case, in addition to gaining confidence, I also took on ownership of being like my mom.  Feminist or not, I want to be like her.  A woman who lights up in her classroom as she declares, “good morning boys and girls!”  With children and people from all walks of life, she lifts them higher.  Even though she teaches in a small town with a small classroom, she makes a huge impact on her students because she loves what she does.
While I have zero interest or ability to teach six-year olds, I do believe I have been always been called to teach.  In my case, I have found an interest in higher education and working with college students.  College campuses are such fascinating places, both described as a political jungles and a piviat developmental point in students’ lives.  That’s where I want to be.  I look forward to bringing out my mother in me as a faculty member.  It is going to take a lot of hard work.  I am an underdog.  That too I am not worried about, because again I am like my mom.
Mom: You have always been teaching me.  Like a good teacher, you also knew many things I needed to learn on my own.  I now brush my hair daily.  I try my best to make dinner sometimes.  White clothes do not go in the same load as bright colors.  Most importantly I have learned that I need to be like you more than ever.  I hope for your humility, genuine care for others and sacrifice for family.  Being like you is the one of the best achievements of all.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all.” ~Author Unknown

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My wedding day

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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