Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Love Note to My Mother(s)

Grateful for these munchkins who have made me a mother

This Mother's Day week has led me to think about different mothering methods and its observed impact on myself.  In many ways, I am the product of my mother's methods.  I have also benefited from the methods of several women who have played various mothering roles in my life, as well as friends and family whose methods I have observed carefully (sorry - did you know you were being watched, did you??).

From my own mother, I was first inspired with what would become my life's work in constitutional policy, both domestic and international.  Her passion became mine and what a gift that has been! I became a lawyer in part because my mother had dreamed it for herself.

My mother sent herself to Europe as a young woman where she developed a taste for the fine arts.  I peered at the pictures she had collected in Paris and Germany displayed on our walls, heard tales of the opera in Venice and the choirs in Vienna.  I was driven to countless lessons and benefited from classical music continually piped into the home.  As a result, I not only developed a taste for music, but a talent for it.  I also developed a desire to create my own beautiful wall pictures and roam Europe like she did.  Little did I know I would spend four years learning how to appreciate and create fine art and another five living in and wandering Europe.  I am musical, but that doesn't translate into being able to think about music for my children.  It's easy to turn the radio on in the car, but keeping good music going while at home is a bit overwhelming for me, and it makes me appreciate my mother so much for always making it available.

As a child, I memorized scriptures, learned how to cross-reference them with scripture "chases" against my siblings, enacted them, and engaged in daily and weekly family religious exercises focused on prayer, religious teaching, and scripture study.  It was part of the fabric of being an Updike.  I am learning how difficult - how much effort - that takes to create and do, and it makes me stand in awe of my mother and father who made it look so easy.

I also enjoyed picture-perfect holidays.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, July 4th -- complete with decorations, traditions, and special music.  It was pure mother-magic, and I again have been overwhelmed with the enormity of creating and sustaining traditions for my own family, yet again deepening my appreciation for all my mother did.

Finally, I was blessed with a childhood environment that was challenging intellectually.  Games and toys, books, and music, not to mention the schools in which I was enrolled, were all geared toward maximizing intellectual, cultural, and spiritual stimulation.  Incredible thought and mother-effort was poured into creating such an environment, and the difficulty of replicating that effort and the myriad purchasing decisions now has underscored my mother's love and service to me while a youth.

Then there are my other mothers.   Those who did not bear me and potty train me (heaven bless all mothers for this most awful task!), but who nevertheless mothered me in various ways and for certain lengths of time.

From my older sister Anjenette, my second mother, I have learned how to teach my children to sleep as babies, how to use the potty, how to sit still in church, how to travel, and so much more. Most importantly, I have learned how to work out and receive inspiration for the challenges of my children, as I so often watched her do with her nine (!).

From my Aunt Nancy, I learned how to invest time and resources into my nieces such that they were more healthy, loved, forward-thinking, well-versed in thrift shopping, and friends with each other.  I have learned these things and hope to be able to replicate them in my own children and nieces and nephews.

From Margaret Lazenby, I have learned how to enjoy my children, how to create a community network of mothers while family is so far away, and how to have charity for so many.

From Gail Ruzicka, piano teachers Lindy Taylor and Made Robertson, JaLynn Prince, and MJ Breinholt, Jean Cottam, Marcia Madsen, Cassidy Pinegar, and Natalie Call and so many others in my Washington, DC ward I learned how to be successful as a mother and in my career.

Sister Ruzicka specifically was the consumate homemaker (I mean, she made bread regularly and now has her grandchildren with her every summer - all of them - for a month) and incredibly interested and thoughtful in all my major life events (gifts, prayers, etc.) along with all of my siblings and so many more children not included in her own brood of well-cared-for 12 (!) while somehow simultaneously running a massive state organization and radio show that made most state politicians tremble, fear, and respect her.

From MJ Breinholt's experience in starting and raising her family while completing her Harvard PhD, I learned my current form of (and favorite) childcare- to work while my babes sleep, usually early early morning.

From Peggy Ducket, Mary Jane Babbel, Kathy Pullins, Janet Tanner Updike, Sally Barringer Gordon and (recently) Katrina Lantos Swet, I learned further that being nurturing as a woman - both in my own family and for mentees in the field - is not and should not be mutually exclusive, but can complement and make palatable and even welcoming the grit and tenacity to successfully pursue family and career dreams.  These women not only balance, but lift and nurture in all of their roles, and bless all they touch in the process.

Then there are my contemporary mothers who I have studied earnestly so far as distance and time have permitted- Sarah Jensen Clayton, Ena Fowles, CK Woolley, Tat Christensen, Holly Hinckley Lesan, Suz Hildebrand, Jacquie Allen, Kim Durfey, Mary Romney, Cali Carlin Sorensen, Julie Shaner, Jo Chesher, Paula Pattemore, Shelley Martin-Light, Donna Driscoll, Maxine Hughs, Cheryl Lauritzen Clark, Lindsay Toone, Aimee Toone Tingey, LeeAnn Akina, Eli Updike, MaryAnne Updike, Anne Updike, Rachel Updike, Camille Case, Mary Tanner, Melissa Eggertsen, Jamie Garlick (the last two are especially amazing hypnobirthing role models!), Lesley Colvin, Rachel Lambert, Rachel Hagen, Charlotte Steinfeld, Laurel Dougal, Gemma Hooson, Julie Taylor, Kristen LeGeyt, Margrethe Fjeldsted, Tiina Maughn, Molly Tanavasa, Sienna Larson, Katie Seirer, Dawn Wessman, Jamie Belnap Gabrielsen.  You may not have been aware of how deeply you have impressed me with your mothering skills and outcomes, and the ways I have sought to emulate your methods and success.

To all who have contributed to my method of mothering, I thank and honor you on this Mother's Day.

Whose mothering methods have impacted you, and how?


  1. Your sister-in-law Eli's mothering has definitely impacted me!

  2. Loved reading this post, nodding my head and visualizing all the mothering that has shaped you into the beautiful woman you are today, and then beyond shocked to see my name on the list. I am grateful every day for the friendships and examples I gained marrying into this beautiful family. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day. You are a great mother and friend. Love you!