The Women Who Raised Us Right / by Julie Schumacher

I have a 5 year old daughter, Loie. As of this moment, she's pretty damn secure in who she is.

I feel an overwhelming and awesome responsibility to protect that sense of self that allows her to wear a paper cup on her head. To help her become a strong, confident, vocal, space-taking, move-making powerhouse, whether she wants to be a creative entrepreneur (however that looks in 20 years) or if she wants to up end things in her own sparkly way.

So I read Caitlin Moran's posthumous advice for her daughter.

And then I read Tina Fey's A Mother's Prayer for Her Child.

And I read the blogs and the posts and the don'ts and the dos. I watch documentaries and cry during P&G's "Thank You Mom" commercials. I pour through what-was-Motherlode. I'm in Facebook groups, I leave Facebook groups. Heck, I even write about it myself.

OUR DISPARATE, DIGITAL VILLAGE

We all know about the village. But, dang, when you move around and have a sister on one coast and a mom on the other, it can be maddeningeven if they are both incredible women in their own right and continue to be sources of inspiration and empowerment, belly laughs and advice. The village is disparate. It's digital. It's both bigger than it ever was and harder, at times, to access.

And it's also riiiiight in front of my face. It may not be a dozen aunties clucking at me. But it is more than 100 creatives who are molding womanhood in their own way. I want that for Loie. Hell, I want that for me.

I am overwhelmingly surrounded by awesome women through Forth. So, I admit, I game the system. The parenting advice I want? I want to hear how the women in the women of Forth's lives helped shape them. Moms, aunts, sisters, grandmas, friends, colleagues, peers, teachers, bosses, mentors, lovers...I wanted to hear it all and use it all. Let’s claim the near and far village and celebrate the hell out of it. 

So I asked: How were they inspired or empowered to become the woman they are today? How were they supported as a young girl? How did a woman nourish them in those heady early years of work (creative or not!)? How did a woman keep the faith as they leapt to an entrepreneurial venture? TELL ME SO I CAN DO IT TOO, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

Here's what some of them said and the lessons I'll take away, for me and the kid.

LESSON 1: Model grit. Wear tartan.

Although I have been fortunate enough to have many great women in my life & family, my grandmother has been one of the most influential. Muriel is 93 and her current pastimes include playing bridge competitively (according to her she is the best in her town—she is very modest), watching the stock market and buying and selling shares, drinking scotch and “tending to her roses” which is actually just code for having a smoke. A fairly classic Scottish woman—she is tough, hardy and her classic line is ‘You’re only young once’— which also means — do whatever you want in life.

Thank goodness for stoic women, vintage life lessons & tartan.
— Natalie Gulliver, Poolhouse Creative

LESSON 2: Encourage them and say you're welcome when they (finally) thank you.

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of positive female role models in my life…from my older sister who emulated the business-owner/world traveller I’d eventually want to be, to who I consider my first real boss—the owner of a new mosaic studio—who took a chance on a 16 year old who had never picked up a piece of tile, to many more, a growing list the older I get.

But my heart will always go out to my mom. She is the epitome of a best friend, confidant, and constant encourager; through her own experiences (and words of wisdom) she has taught me to keep my head up, to remember that it’s not what you have, but what you make of it, to not be afraid to ask questions, and to go after what I dream of (even when what I wanted to do was scary to her).

Mom, sorry for stressing you out with my travels and starting a business, but thank you for the confidence in knowing I was capable of doing it.
— Alison Sustarich, Tiny Bold Creative

LESSON 3: Be the creativity you want to see in the world.

Growing up I was surrounded by fabric, paint, chalk, paper, brushes, scissors, tape, cardboard, rulers, items just begging to be turned into art.

My mom created a house for us that was a place to explore our identity through creativity, music, color, and to try on different identities as we grew up. Today I am proud that my mom’s title on LinkedIn is Artist. Sure, she has her MBA, was an RN for years, but to put a stake in the ground and claim herself as an Artist is inspiring for me as a creative entrepreneur, and a reflection in how I want to raise my children.
— Lisa Guillot, brand, business & life coach

LESSON 4: Believe in them as much, no more, than they believe in themselves.

When my mom head I wanted to open a Sex Shop, she was confused to say the least, but after I explained it to her she offered me a loan to help me open, despite her skepticism and worry about having another self-employed child.

Since then she has been my fiercest supporter (she carries a business card with all her kids’ websites on it) and even occasional un-paid intern. I absolutely would not be where I am today without her support & unconditional love. And yes, that made me cry just a little.
— Searah Deysach, Owner Early to Bed, FtM Essentials & TransKids

LESSON 5: Let them time travel. They'll be ok.

My granny was known for two things: traveling and staying in touch with friends (in the pre-iPhone era, mind you). These two things usually went together. At age 87, she flew by herself to New Zealand to meet up with an old roommate from New York City — where she had lived while working as an economist for the United Nations during WWII.

I remember my mom was so worried that Granny would forget about the International Date Line and make plans for the wrong day. But, as always, she made it just fine, and the two friends had a grand old time traveling about the country (all while wearing their large, sun-shielding hats, of course). Though Granny passed away a few years ago, her sense of adventure and gratitude for all the people in her life continue to inspire me.
— Carolyn Green, VSA copywriter

LESSON 6: Share your lemonade.

My friend Nora McMahon is the fiercest and most loving person I know. She is a champion of life, and inspires me everyday with her grit, passion, humor and determination to live life to fullest, despite any roadblocks, disappointments or major life changes along the way.

During treatment for ovarian cancer last year, she managed to still be a good friend to me during a tough time, in spite of feeling the worst she’s ever felt and battling for her life.

She made significant life changes following her cancer treatment, including quitting her job, getting married to her longtime boyfriend, starting a business venture inspired by her journey and moving to another city to fulfill her dream. Proving once again, when life hands you lemons — you turn those lemons into some delicious fuckin’ lemonade.

Nora has made countless batches of lemonade — and shares it freely will as many people as possible. She is gift to the world and I can only hope to be half as good as a human as she is.
— Christine Cikowski, chef/owner Sunday Dinner Club

LESSON 7: Judge not, lest ye be judged.

I would say my mom has been the most influential woman in my life.

She was never judgmental. Growing up, that felt like unconditional support and the freedom to be ‘me.’ As an adult, I generally don’t judge others.

She also taught me not to be offended when someone was not nice — she always said that when someone is mean it’s a sign that they are not happy. Again, as I grew up, I realized just how true that is.
— Brenda Bergen, Creative Director + Designer

LESSON 8: Accept mothering however it manifests.

My dear Godmother Mary embraced me and took me into her love and care when I was just 20 years old, an international student in Cali.

I had just arrived from Europe and met her at the college I was attending. We hit it off from the beginning, she worked at the international student office. Seeing how I had no family she took me in.

Ever since, her family has been a dear part of my life. Her unconditional love kept me going in a foreign place.

Eventually I graduated college, married and made a life in a different state but I always go back to those early days.
— Vana Chupp, Le Papier Studio

LESSON 9: Build a tribe for her and with her.

I have so much love and gratitude for my mom, stepmom, aunts and two grandmothers — if I think of them as a tribe even though they span a divorce — they have instilled in me a great emotionality and desire to care for others as well as a keen drive for independence and self-sufficiency.

And while family is the fabric of my life and perspective, there are two women who stand out because they are not part of that fabric. They have served as catalysts when I was poised for career changes but had family voices in my head that called for security over adventure.

One helped me love myself for who I am naturally (a researcher) and balance that with my desire to integrate into a new industry (design). She got me steady and connected me with a community of like-minded people.

The other catalyst is my ex-boyfriend’s mother. She is a fantastic model for being a caregiver-professional hybrid. The women in my family are either stay-at-home-moms or accountants so I had trouble reconciling how I could turn caregiving into a vocation, not just a family contribution. She also seems to have reached a state of calm and self-understanding that my family’s frenetic energy stands in contrast to. Perhaps that’s part of the luxury of knowing her from a distance, but nevertheless, I have a new beacon to follow now.
— Sarah Malin, Design Researcher at Essential

LESSON 10: Nice girls finish first.

I have a recent example from my own mom. I told her that I wish I wasn’t so nice because I felt like people didn’t take me seriously.

She said, “I like that you’re nice. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being nice.”

I instantly recognized how dumb it was to wish away such a good quality. So now I embrace it, and see it as a strength rather than a weakness.
— Maria Boustead, Po Campo

LESSON 11: There's a time for everything. It may be right now.

I met Jill Tupper as co-workers when I was a fresh college graduate. We quickly established a friendship that would span decades and continents.

She knew my challenges but never let me off the hook. Rather, she called me to the task of using my skills in the world.

After adopting two children while living in Brazil and balking about completing my coach training because of multiple inconvenient hurdles like leaving my five children in Brazil while I traveled to the USA for the training, she said, “You are a mom to five children, there will never be a convenient time to do anything for yourself.”

She was absolutely right. I have learned to live peacefully within the reality of competing demands and schedules.
— Dana Frost, Holistic Master Life Coach & Aromatherapist

LESSON 12: Show her how to hustle and be kind.

My favorite story about my mom shows her true tenacity. We moved to Michigan from Massachusetts in the 90’s to a small town with a high school that had no women’s soccer.

My mom went to the school and asked for this to change. They told her sure, she could have women’s soccer...if she raised $30,000.

So, after feeling as though they were just trying to shut her up, she went to work. She started a soccer boosters club and made that shit happen. It blew the men away that she had actually gone and done it.

My sisters and I all played soccer (year round) and she always saved the #10 jersey for us since the uniforms were stored in our basement. I think this story shows how my mom taught me and my sisters to find your passion and don’t back down. To hustle and to be kind. She gave me the confidence that I could do anything I wanted as long as I put my mind to it.

Also! My mom was “the button lady!” That was one thing she did to raise money for soccer boosters. So the sound of a button machine is a part of my childhood.
— Linsey Rosen,

LESSON 13: Let go of the monkey bars.

In 2010, an industry colleague I’d never met in person approached me out of the blue at a trade show and whispered in my ear, “I know you’re unhappy. Let’s talk.”

She’d read my blog and saw more than a sullen girl stuck in a cubicle.

Kellee offered me my first taste of freedom from my 9-to-5 existence, bringing me on board as a contractor to help with an annual industry event. She taught me grace under pressure; she helped me find juicy creativity in the driest subject matter; she showed me how to thrive as a young woman in an industry full of conservative older men.

The day we signed my agreement, we toasted glasses of white wine in a suburban tapas restaurant, and when she walked me to the train, she pulled a bracelet off her wrist and handed it to me. I put it on as the Metra roared into the station, and I’ll never forget the moment I looked at my wrist and saw my new mantra, “LET GO OF THE MONKEY BARS,” for the first time ever.

I’ve lived by that phrase ever since.
— Paige Worthy, inbound marketer, writer + culinary student

LESSON 14: Teach by asking.

I was raised by my grandmother. I didn’t realize it until she was gone what a powerful yet gentle presence she was. She would often teach by asking, instead of giving prescriptions. One of the biggest lessons was about love.

I often wondered about this one family member if she loved me. I would talk to her on the phone and for some odd reason I would hang up and then turn to grandma and ask, ‘Does she love me?’

My grandma answered with a question, ‘What’s more important: to be loved or to love?’

I don’t remember if I answered. But in my heart, I knew then and I know now giving love comes first.
— Mana Ionescu, Lightspan Digital

LESSON 16: Look close to home and look world wide for inspiration.

There are an overwhelming number of women who have impacted my life.

My Mother: throughout my life, my Mom has shaped me with her empathetic heart, strong personality and impressive ability to play devils advocate. More recently, she’s become my peer as much as my parent. As peers, we challenge each other—perhaps more than we thought we would. She supports me in my liberal ways and provides me with a safe space to express thoughts and ask questions. This new chapter has allowed me to challenge her, as well; to make her look inwardly and see what’s beneath the surface. She’s my reflection and counterpart; my top challenger and champion.

My community of women: I am shaped, every single day (!) by the REMARKABLE women I’m fortunate to have in my life. Forth has helped me realize my power as well as my unique contribution to the professional world. My personal community has helped me hone my voice and live my purpose.

And then there’s the women of the world—many of which I’ll never meet but feel oddly connected to. Women, far and wide, are shaping and challenging me on a daily basis. It’s a wonderful reality.
— Clare Johnson, Flourish Together

LESSON 17: Keep showing up. With flowers.

Now being a mother myself, I look back at my mom and think “Damn, how did she do all of that!?”

I think back on my young girl years — you know when you go through the awkward stages — she definitely never made me feel like I went through an awkward stage. She has this way about her to encourage and be excited for everyone at what they are currently doing.

She basically has your back — always. And she somehow does it with a cheery disposition and a compliment.

I never had to share the art student sob story of rebelling against my parents’ wishes of me being an engineer or lawyer. She encouraged, supported and cheered me along the whole way — from my initial interest in journalism and photography as a 3rd grader all the way through college.

She was the mom that even though I was SO embarrassed she bought me flowers at every honors night award ceremony or photography exhibit (and I wouldn’t hold them after), she would keep buying them and keep handing them to me with a proud mama face every. single. time.

There is something about that true selfless love and support. I guess in an unknowing way I felt it then, but now being a parent, I can see it and realize everything she did for me by having the attitude she did.
— Melissa Salvator, Owner/Photographer A Little Photo Studio

Lesson 18: Encourage the sprint and the pause.

Teresa Olsen was my first ‘boss’ at my first on-campus job.

Particularly in those college years where there’s pressure to succeed and to define who you are, she understood that success is measured differently for everyone. For me, it meant majoring in Peace and Conflict studies, spending my semester abroad in Thai landfills, and eventually a first job out of college driving tractors on an organic farm!

Teresa saw the method to my madness, trusted my path and encouraged me to run towards it at full speed.

She challenged me, reminded me to weigh happiness with accomplishment, and nurtured my strengths. So much of my personal and professional confidence is rooted in the years I spent learning from her.
— Cortney Ahern, food and agriculture advocate

LESSON 19: BE MY WHOLE ME, ALL THE TIME.

As I collect, into one thought space, all of the mothers who have shaped my thinking, feeling, knowing and being — I begin to understand that they all live openly in the commons of art, business, family, nature and love.

They never clock out or in— they are whole beings who learn as much as they teach and are constantly humbled by the riches of love and living.
— Cheryl Muñoz, Marketing + Outreach Sugar Beet Food Co-op

PHEW.

Super mom powers activated. 

Is there ever enough support and love we can give each other? As women supporting today and future women? As women supporting mothers? I'm pretty sure there isn't.

I watched the fabulous TedTalk, "If I should have a daughter," by Sarah Kay—filmed the very month my daughter was born—which Margot Harrington sent my way which includes the line Margot loves: "I want her to look at the world from the underside of a glass-bottomed boat / to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind / because that's the way my mom taught me." 

Whether you are a mom, know a mom, are an aunt, friend or boss, had a complicated relationship with your mom and sought out role models, cheerleaders, mentors and friends in other avenues, we salute you for being a part of someone's village, our village, for providing the kind words, the shoulder, the financial support, the endless love, the glass-bottomed boat and the microscopes. For protecting, providing, questioning, championing. Girls notice. The women we are? We notice. Today, Mother's Day, every day. 

Many thanks. Much love.
Julie