Let’s get one thing straight: I’m anything but my “mother’s son.”
For as long as I can remember, my dad has been the idol I have looked up to in all manners of ethics, career and character. He created a business out of nothing and built it up to the successful company it is today. I’ve spent my entire young adult life in search of doing the same for myself, so his influence on me has been blatant and clearly impacting.
But it wasn’t until I actually achieved this goal of starting and growing my own successful business, and met the woman of my dreams, that it really struck me just how much my dear mom has impacted my character in much more subtle yet significant ways than my father.
You see, my mom is a successful business woman in her own right, which is only all the more impressive when you consider that she was the main homebody and lovingly raised a family of 10 (yes, 10!) children while growing her own adoption agency in our home town of Buffalo, N.Y.
With my wife and I now expecting our first child, it's apparent that the lessons she has been quietly teaching me since I was a young kid will have a huge influence on the kind of father I hope to be.
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1. Vulnerability = Strength
For as long as I could remember, I always viewed vulnerability as a weakness. Telling the truth was important, of course, but I had developed this idea that honesty and being completely vacant with those around me were the same thing, so why any need for the latter?
I had no problem with telling the truth in all situations, but at the same time never really “letting my guard down” fully with close friends and family. It was my mom who eventually got me to understand the difference between the two by telling me to always assume the best in people and give my most vacant self to them from the beginning to let communication be as fruitful as it can be.
Once these words truly sunk into my character, vulnerability became one of my strongest attributes to make every interaction (and thus relationship) in my life deeper and more fulfilling. Having walls can make you feel more emotionally secure, but there is real courage in being completely open with the world and the people in it. This courage rewards you with feeling entirely more connected to, and understood by, those around you.
2. Learn how to juggle
The balance between work and family life that my mom gracefully and effortlessly managed was incredibly impressive.
My dad very rarely took his “man of the house” hat off. He was the main provider for our large family, so his serious CEO energy in the office would more often than not come home with him. I always admired this about him, wanting to embody that very same “papa bear” demeanor in my own household.
But the balance between work and family life that my mom gracefully and effortlessly managed to keep throughout my entire youth was—looking back on it now—incredibly impressive. She always had time for even the most insignificant problems my siblings and I would have. It was down to her ever attentive nature that I never once felt lonely at home, even through my inevitably rebellious, “mom and dad are the enemy” early teenage years. Little did I know that throughout all my youth my mother was also a business woman.
In addition to balancing work and family life seamlessly, both my mother and my father kept very healthy lifestyles, which really blew me away the older I got and the more I learned about life. Keeping all balls in the air of career, family and healthy living simultaneously without sacrificing any one over the other is one of the most important internal skills a father can develop. It’s thanks to my mom that I recognized this and fully intend to do her proud in this respect while growing my own VPN company, personal website, staying healthy and raising my own happy family!
3. Be a teacher, not a preacher
Everyone loves a teacher; very few people tolerate a preacher. I’m not talking in a religious sense here, but rather the type of person in your life that loves nothing more than to get on their high horse and preach what they believe to be very important life lessons. Think, “You know what your problem is?” Yeah, that type of person.
Such people rarely communicate their “lessons” in a way that actually entices the listener to want to understand their point. Much like a parent that defaults straight to raising their voice and telling their child “how it is,” an opportunity to teach rather than preach has been missed.
I know that staying true to this will take a massive amount of patience and restraint with my own kin, but I also know that the rewards will be beautiful and long-lasting.
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4. Make love the reason, no matter what the action
This lesson definitely qualifies as a “no brainer” statement, right? But lord knows sometimes we need a big old kick of the obvious. I placed this one last because, even though it's the most obvious, I also fully anticipate it being the most difficult to live by as my own kids grow up.
Growing up, like most kids, I would almost always argue with and get annoyed at my parents’ decisions. It’s in a child’s nature when going through adolescence to rebel against figures of authority, with the parents being enemy No. 1 in most cases.
Looking back on my rebellious youth now (thank you perspective and hindsight!), it blows my mind just how my mom managed to deal with my and my nine siblings’ moments of rebellion in such a patient and caring manner. No matter how antagonistic or hysterical we would get with her, she would always realize that our resistance or frustration with her orders was usually because we didn't fully understand the why of them.
Realizing this, my mom would always go the extra step to calmly explain things in a way we would better understand where she’s coming from and make sure it was always coming from a place of love.
Hopefully, like for me, each of these lessons will help you in your own family life, whether as a parent or even in the connection you feel with your mothers.
Photographs by Jordan Fried