Saturday, May 09, 2009

Honoring my (Working) Mothers on Mother's Day.

In honor of Mother's Day, I have been thinking about the influence of my mothers in shaping me as a worker. I have several mothers, my natural mom, my godmom, and 3 grandmothers, 2 of which survive to this day.

My earliest memories of my grandmothers is seeing them working, one worked outside the home, as a visiting nurse, and the other in the home as a housewife. Both always diligent, good at their respective crafts, make a contribution, not griping but committed to doing what they did well. I'm always inspired by them when I consider the decades of work they have put in to build our family, and in an age of racial and gender discrimination. Over the years of my career I have had many talks with them about their work and my career and witnessed their pride and amazement at opportunities I've gotten. I have always been struck by how it never occurred to them, in their time, to go to college, or to work in a company or industry with a well plotted career track, or to expect promotions every few years, all things I, too often ungratefully, take for granted. After these discussions I am always 1) humbled by the thought of how they have done so much in their lives with so much less than I have, 2) motivated to honor their work in my own work, 3) proud of the progress we have made as a society in allowing more opportunity for more of our members today than we used to, 4) grateful for their example which has helped me to get to where I am in life, and 5) challenged (if not shamed into) being ever more grateful for all the blessings of my work and career.

Now my other mothers, natural and god, were the mothers who made me work in addition to being good models of work. I can barely remember a time in my life when I have not worked. My mother always had work for me to do and while I have not always been happy about it, I see now that this has been one of the influences that has most contributed to my success. Her regimen provided discipline for me, tied up time which if idle might have ended me up in irreversible trouble, developed my skills, cultivated my work ethic, attention to details and project management skills, instilled confidence in my ability to learn and to overcome adversity, and put me in a habit that has made all the difference in my life and that of my family. I still often reflect on my first day of work (outside the house) when my mother stopping me at the door and reminded me to, "make sure you double check all your work and that you do a good job.". I also recall the day when I thought I was visiting my god mother to relax away from my parents only to find that I, along with my god siblings, were being enlisted to do Spring Cleaning. Painful, at the time. :-)

So on this Mother's Day weekend, I take time to reflect on the best "work" learnings I have gleaned from my mothers:

1. Plan your work well. Think about what you need to do before doing it. Plan ahead and do not wait until the last minute.

2. Double check your work. Pay attention to details. Your work reflects you and its your reputation. When you do your work, do it right!

3. Keep your word, period. (By the way, you were not given a choice of giving your word or not and you were expected to keep it whether you cared to or not.)

4. Take advantage of every opportunity. Collectively, they made me to understand that I come from a family of "survivors" who know how to make "something out of nothing", how to overcome any adversity with God's help, how to see opportunity that all around me where others may only see problems.

5. Remember your work builds on the hard(er) work of those who have come before. Everytime I reflect on my mothers of crueler past generations, I am grateful to them for bearing the hard(er) work that makes my work today relatively easier.

6. Enjoy your work today because you will not always be able to. In my recent visit with my octogenarian grandmothers, I note that they both bemoan the fact that age has robbed them of their ability to work as easily and as much as when they were younger. This reminded me that everything I have I will lose one day and that I must enjoy what I have today all the more because of that.

These insights and experiences of my mothers have made me the professional I am and I am eternally grateful to them for that. I write this because I want my children, extended family, bosses, reports, and organizations to understand how my mothers have benefited them also. :-)

So on this Mother's Day, reflect on the influence your mothers have had in shaping you into the worker you are and be grateful while expressing such gratefulness to them, whether they are still with you or not.

Happy Mother's Day!

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