Listen To Your Mother has wrapped up its 2014 Providence show.
Being a part of its fabulous cast was an amazing, unique, very special experience and quite the Mother’s Day gift for me.
It’s hard to describe, really, one of those experiences that to understand, you kind of had to be there.
To meet as a group of people mostly unknown to each other just three weeks ago, and come away on Saturday night as a solid cast and now as friends, is in itself an experience. Seeing a show come together from individual stories into one complete story now made up of many chapters is amazing to think about. Presenting a story about motherhood that is near and dear to your heart, on stage, to an audience of many unfamiliar faces, is the other half of that experience.
It felt almost like a wedding: a whirlwind of preparation, anticipation and excitement, an exciting big event, and then it was over.
Who knows where this amazing, talented group of women will go next, where this experience and these new-found friendships will lead.
We are stronger and better for knowing each other and for having experienced this amazing event together. We’ll never be the same as we were before we met that first night in April.
I was touched by each and every story shared this year, and I can only imagine the untold stories about mothers and motherhood that are out there waiting to be shared with the world. I have always believed that motherhood is the hardest job you’ll ever love and that there are so many aspects of it that go unnoticed. I love that Listen To Your Mother is giving motherhood a microphone, as its tagline states.
To read more about Providence’s Listen To Your Mother, check out my article here.
I am sharing my story, “Twins” below. It’s a post I’d originally written on this blog just over a year ago, so you may have read the longer version of it then. For those who joined me on Saturday night, thank you. I was very blessed to have such a large fan club out there in the audience. For those who could not be there, you can read my story below, or watch it in the YouTube video here.
By Jennifer Cowart
Last April, my mom retired.
For 32 years she had worked for the same corporation. She was one of the only original members of the staff, and they had to create a “Thirty-Two Years of Service” award for her, since no one else had ever been with the company as long as she had.
Before she left, they held a party for her, and my husband and I were invited. My dad would be there too, and I couldn’t wait to attend and be able to help her celebrate.
What I did not expect however, was for that night to be such an eye-opener for me, such a look into my mom’s life as a young mother back in the early 1970′s 80′s.
As a mother, I am continually amazed by the perspective I gain into my parents’ years as young parents themselves. But that night, my perspective was a new one, as I put myself into my mom’s place as a young mother and I realized what hadn’t hit me until that moment: just how similar our stories were.
My mother graduated from a secretarial school after high school, prior to having children. She worked for two of the mayors of the city I now live in. When she had me, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mother, as many moms did then, and as many moms do today. At some point when we were little, she became “The Avon Lady,” a home-based business owner, circulating catalogs, taking orders, meeting with customers and delivering orders. I remember being a runner with my brother, jumping out of the car, running up to doors and leaving the catalogs in bags hanging on the door handles, as she drove from house to house.
Although I finished up a four year college program after high school, I too, left my job and took on a home-based business when my kids were born, my path mirroring my mother’s. Although slightly different along the way, we ultimately ended up in the same place. I had gone back to work teaching when my oldest was just nine weeks old and stayed there for two years, starting the new business when she was a year old. I kept my home-based business for eleven years through two more pregnancies. I had three children, rather than two, but I worked hard in between having babies and caring for toddlers and preschoolers. I took orders, filled orders, wrote newsletters, hosted meetings, taught classes, spoke at regional events and more, all while raising my children. It was very difficult, but it was very worthwhile and very much like what my mom had done with the two of us in tow, all those years ago.
One day my mother received a phone call. We were in elementary school. I was nine, my brother was seven. A friend asked her to cover her job for a number of months while she went out on maternity leave. As I listened to my mother tell the story during her retirement party, she relayed how surprised she was to get the call, and how she had not been looking to return to work.
“I set out conditions. I couldn’t leave before they were on the bus and I had to be home when they were getting off the bus. I needed school vacations and summers off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work,” she told a colleague that night.
No problem, they’d told her.
As I listened, I realized with amazement yet again, how similar our journeys as mothers were. When my third daughter was just three, and my middle was in preschool, I was volunteering at a school event for my oldest daughter, a third grader. At that event I was “discovered” taking photos by the editor of our local paper. She asked to see my photos, loved them, asked me if I could write (to which I said I could), and offered me a job as the education reporter, right there on the spot. I had not been out looking for a job and I had three very young children, two of whom were not even in school all day yet.
I laid out conditions: I would not work full time. I needed summers and vacations off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work. I had to be able to put them on the bus and take them off the bus, drop them off at preschool and pick them up at preschool. I also needed to be able to take them all with me any time I had to cover a story when they weren’t at school and there was no one home to take care of them.
No problem, the editor told me.
My mom never left her temporary job. As the years went on, she worked longer days, taking less time off, because we were older. As my children have gotten older I too, have taken on a bigger work load, working longer, fuller days and weeks when I can.
My mother proved to be a valuable asset to the company because of her strong work ethic, her honesty and her Type A personality. She moved up. She went to college for twelve years, earning an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s degree, ranking first in her class at Providence College when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1999.
I’ll never forget watching her carry the flag into the graduation ceremony, leaning over the railing to see her better. I was 28 and she was 52. I was so proud of her. A woman next to me asked if we were twins.
“No,” I answered. “That’s my mother!”
But I realize now, that although we are not twins, our stories and journeys as mothers are similar. They’ll obviously never be exactly the same, but our core values are the same, our goals as mothers, career women and our work ethic are the same. I can only hope that our paths will continue to be similar as I have learned so much about the type of mother that I insist on being, from her. I know now more than ever, that so many reasons I am the way I am both at home and at work are because of the way she was as a mother and an employee, and because of the things she held dear to her heart.