Lessons from my Mother: An Open Letter in Honour of Mother's Day


By Brittany Van Den Brink

I wrote this open letter to my mother last year in honour of Mother's Day, while I was pregnant with my son. I want to share it again this year, on this platform, as it remains very special to me - especially now that I've become a mother myself

Mother's Day seems extra special this year now that I'm about to be a mom myself. I'm slowly starting to realize what my own mother meant when I'd question her judgement and she'd say: "You'll understand when you have kids of your own."

And she was right. I haven't even given birth to my son yet, but I love him more than words can express. I would do anything to protect him and keep him safe. Yet, I know I can’t – and indeed, shouldn’t – shelter him from all life’s hardships. To strike that balance between mothering but also also knowing when to let go, from my mother I’ve learned the importance of giving children rules but freedom within those rules to express themselves. I’ve learned the difference between love and tough love, and between fostering our children’s sense of self and being the rock that they need as they go through life. Most importantly, I've learned that she may not always know what she's doing either, but that she always acts with our best interests in mind.

She leads by example
She listens without judgement. She goes to work then transitions seamlessly to mom-mode. She always shows up for her kids, no matter how big or small the occasion. She doesn’t complain. Perhaps the biggest example she’s set was the importance of respecting others. You don’t snap at the cashier just because you’ve had a bad day, nor do you take your anger out on your loved ones. Instead, you treat others as you would like to be treated – a simple but powerful lesson that we’ve all heard, but few of us truly live by. In short, she embodies what it means to be an engaged mother, but also a genuinely good person.  

Your kids don’t need to be enrolled in every activity in the book. They don’t need to grow up to be doctors or earn six figures or be multilingual. They need to be self-sufficient, to be sure, but what’s most important is that they are good people who find joy in life. That starts with the habits they pick up at home.

She made mistakes – and that’s a good thing
She's not perfect. She’s lost her patience with us. She’s probably been too harsh and too lenient at times. Too often, she put her kids first - which we certainly benefitted from - but I now know that carving out alone time for yourself and for your spouse is one of the best things you can do not only for your own mental and physical wellbeing, but for your kids as well. It’s important for kids to realize that their parents have interests and goals outside of parenthood. Regardless, every day she demonstrates that she’s a real mom, not a perfect mom. And if you do your best, show up for your children, and love them, they will be just fine.

Kids have different personalities, despite being raised by the same parents in the same household
This seems like a no-brainer. We all know every individual is unique. But witnessing it first-hand on the beings we have created can be eye-opening. When I first started university and was in the process of choosing courses, I toyed with the idea of filling an empty spot in my timetable with an introductory political science course. My mom advised me against it, telling me she didn’t think I’d like it. Bear in mind, this was based solely on the fact that she had no interest in political science, and assumed that I wouldn’t either. I took the course anyway, loved it, and promptly changed my major. In addition to my freelance work which has since taken a more creative turn, I’m now pursuing a PhD in local government and working part-time for a political publication.

So, mom for all the times you were right, you were wrong this time, but thank you for recognizing my individualism and letting me carve my own path.

She has immense patience and gives unconditional love
Friendships and romantic relationships need to be reciprocal to thrive, but motherhood doesn’t have the same dynamic. Mothers do much more giving than taking. I recall spending nearly my entire four years of high school in a self-absorbed bubble, bouncing from activity to activity. I’m not sure that I asked my mom how her own day was once during those years and I know I said “thank you” much less than I should have. We’ve had our fair share of arguments and I still snap at her more than I care to admit. Through it all, she’s been patient beyond measure. She never holds a grudge. She’s always there for my siblings and I when we need her.

I know it won’t be easy to navigate my new role as a mother, but thankfully I have one hell of an example in my own.

Brittany Van Den Brink is a PhD Candidate and freelance writer living in small-town Ontario with her husband, baby son, and their Golden Retriever, Chevy. She founded Motherhood Her Way to collaborate with other moms as they go through the ups and downs of motherhood. Say hi on Instagram @brittanyvandenbrink.