I always wanted to be an artist. With the loving help of my parents, I worked to become one. After studying diligently in the United States, I moved to Europe for years in pursuit of realism at the highest levels. My mom supported me. We talked on the phone long distance almost every day. When I felt downtrodden because my work didn’t seem good enough, she would say, “Sometimes, perfect is the enemy of good, and even great.”
When I was exhausted and wanted to give up, she would say: “It’s the last lap of the race, everyone is tired. The winner holds on to the end.” She even added an extra beatitude to teach patience toward a goofy classmate: “The nerds will inherit the earth.” She was right.
No one knows better than my mom how passionately I’m dedicated to my career. She of all people knows I never imagined marrying or having children. I dreamed of being a painter. When I did marry, and my husband and I found ourselves expecting, I told my mom I was worried about giving up everything I had worked to achieve. The world doesn’t praise moms. Being a mom is hard. It requires sacrifice. My mom caught me off guard: “Do not be afraid to put your career on hold. Children are only little for a little while, but how you love them lasts forever. You’ll have your whole life to work.”
‘Mother and Child’
Jonathan Eastman Johnson is a New England-born American painter who achieved the dream. Born in 1824, today his name is inscribed on the entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which he co-founded. He painted portraits of prominent personages such as Abraham Lincoln, Dolly Madison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He also memorialized simple Americans, moms, children, and families. It’s striking in his work how the image of an ordinary mother and child can be more moving and impactful than the portrait of a famous statesman or poet. It is good to look into his painting “Mother and Child” and learn.
That piece reminds me of the dedication of my own mother who, with a persistent New England accent and through quiet acts of service, taught a lesson that transcends worldly ambition. Love is the treasure of a lifetime, worth suffering to give and receive. It took a while for me to learn, because more than sayings, or even pictures, such understanding is gained through dedicated example.
Now that I am a mom, I appreciate my mother’s wisdom all the more. I hear her voice: “The minutes, hours, and days are long, but trust me, the years will be short.”
In the coming fall, my youngest child will attend school full time. My eldest will enter high school. Days will be free again. It happened so fast. I look back on becoming an artist, a military wife, and a mother, recalling tremendous joys, struggles, hope, frustration, and most of all, love. It seems long ago that pride began to be replaced by prayer. I asked God to make me what he would have, instead of what I demanded to be. One thing I’ve learned is that his plan is always greater than mine. My kids are growing up, and, implausible as it seemed for a career in the arts, by the grace of God, work is still waiting for me. But no matter what I publish or paint, the most important job I will ever do is be a mom.
The world doesn’t exalt moms. Moms don’t get paychecks for being chauffeurs, counselors, cooks, nurses, diplomats, or maids.
Recently, a hardworking lady I know impressed these words upon my mind, “I’m afraid I am a bad influence on my children.”
“Why?” I asked, truly baffled.
“Because I’m just a housewife. All they see me do is be a mom.”
Moms form the cradles of life. What job could be more important than that? To my friend who questioned the influence of being “just a mom,” a good mom is one the greatest influencers on earth.
To my own mom, thank you. Thank you, Mom, for your patience and for giving up so much to love me. To love beautifully is a masterpiece indeed.