Design

What Was Your Mom Like When She Was Younger?

Mothers Before book edited by Edan Lepucki

Do you ever think about who your parents were before you blew onto the scene? The beautiful new book Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them (Amazon, Indiebound), edited by Edan Lepucki, comes out tomorrow and features photos and stories by grown children remembering their mothers before they became mothers. Take a look…

Photo above: “Here are my mom and dad at their engagement party. They started dating when they were nineteen. My mom is from Queens and my dad is from Brooklyn, and they both ended up in Fort Lauderdale when they were teens. That’s where they met — at a mall! In this photo, my mom is wearing her future mother-in-law’s dress. My grandmother lent it to her for this special occasion.” — Alycia Elizabeth (photo from the early 1990s)

Mothers Before book edited by Edan Lepucki

“I don’t know where this photo was taken, or by whom, but this is my mom, Jill, cracking up, boldly and beautifully. Her laugh was recognizable — and loud! You could hear her howls ring down halls and through elevator shafts (not unlike her daughter’s). She was quick to roar with glee about something funny she’d said or snicker over something witless a politician had done. Many years after this photo was taken, she laughed merrily with my sister and me as we sat around the kitchen table, where she held a new head-of-the-household position. Later, she giggled with joy when hearing of something a grandchild accomplished. And later still, with a combination of frailty and fate, she dissolved into laughter as she gamely faced her lung cancer prognosis and treatment. Her ability to find the funny in all of life’s pains and detours is only one of many lessons I draw from, especially on days when I feel her loss most acutely.” — Fran Melmed (photo from 1960)

Mothers Before book edited by Edan Lepucki

“I love this picture of my mom and dad in the mid-1970s, taken in the garden of my dad’s family home in Tehran. I love the way my mom is laughing here — how spontaneous it seems, how unselfconscious. And I love the tender way my dad is looking at her.

“This picture was taken before my parents’ lives were upended by the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Before they had to immigrate to America with toddler me in tow and rebuild their entire lives from scratch. Here, my mother is still just a young law student, married to a newly minted architect, a bright future ahead of her. She doesn’t know that she’ll never get to be a lawyer. Or that she’ll never again live in her own country, speaking her own language, surrounded by her family and friends.

“My parents’ lives in America have been defined by hard work and sacrifice. They raised two children, made mortgage payments, cared for and eventually buried their aging parents. My mom managed to work full-time, earn a master’s degree, make homemade Persian food every night, and chauffeur my sister and me to myriad classes, activities, doctor’s appointments, and friends’ houses. It’s no wonder that in many of my childhood memories, she’s tired and worried.

“This picture represents another side of my mother. Her mischievous sense of humor, her kind heart, her zest for simple pleasures. Despite the fatigue and sometimes sadness I couldn’t help but notice, she was a warm and playful parent, always making us laugh with funny voices, hand puppets, impersonations. Once every few months, she would let me play hooky from school and take me to the mall for Icees and Cinnabon rolls. She sang me to sleep every night with a song from my favorite movie, Mary Poppins. She did kind things for others: baking cakes for the neighbors, giving cash to homeless people, inviting in Jehovah’s Witnesses for tea.

“My parents now travel a lot, and my mom still makes friends everywhere: on airplanes, on trains, in Viennese cafés. She’s good with babies and old people. She’s great with puns, even though English is her second language. She loves finding little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and texting me pictures of what she ate. She regularly makes me laugh until I cry.

“This side of my mom is what I love most about her and what I try most to emulate. If ever someone tells me that I’m warm or fun or funny, after I thank them, I always say that I get it from my mother.” — Paria Kooklan (photo from the mid-1970s)

Mothers Before book edited by Edan Lepucki

The wonderful Mothers Before comes out tomorrow. Who was your mother before?

P.S. Dads are the original hipsters, and my own mom as a very blonde college student.

(Excerpts from the forthcoming book Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them collected and edited by Edan Lepucki to be published on April 7, 2020 by Abrams Image. Book credit: ©Edan Lepucki. Text/photo credit: © Fran Melmed. Text/photo credit: © Alycia Elizabeth. Text/photo credit: © Paria Kooklan)

  1. Tshego B says...

    Still figuring her out BUT I keep finding old pics of her in bikini’s and now it makes sense why I feel totally comfortable in the kitchen cooking topless and wearing skimpy undies. Also, when I was a kid I took so many pics in a swimsuit as well. (Please note we did not a pool and we are in a land locked country.)

  2. Jess says...

    My Mom looked like the Indian version of Sophia Loren for most of her life. She was literally the most (naturally) beautiful woman in any room. Her old friends have countless stories about men falling over themselves to speak to her in university, and when I was little I remember people gawking at her when we were at parties or just out running errands – she’s always been naturally stunning. She still looks great, and about 20 years younger than her actual age.

  3. Helen Flaherty says...

    My mom was a power house – she had a talent for sports, baking, caring, school, adventure, and always wanting to be on the move. She was the third oldest of thirteen kids, and her mom passed away from cancer 4 months before her wedding day. Can you imagine? I am such a mama’s girl, and not having her around for something like my wedding day would be the epitome of loss. But of course she managed, resilient as ever, and helped raise the rest of the younger babies in that house. Until this day, she is always inviting coworkers and strangers without a Thanksgiving celebration to have a seat at our table, always baking Irish breads and scones to send over to someone she knew in her 20’s, always keeping our mental health in check and tagging my brothers and I in encouraging messages on Facebook without understanding what tagging actually is. Everyone who comes into the threshold of our house gets a plate of whatever is in our fridge, and her biggest worry about her college kids is that we’re hungry 99% of the time. She makes a mean cup of tea and makes us randomly sing happy birthday when we’re sad, and she’s always been the best, even as a kid, even before she was my mama.

    • Annie K. says...

      I sure hope she gets to see this. <3

    • Cher says...

      She sounds like somebody I’d want to know. What a lovely woman and mom. ☘️

  4. We were talking at dinner one night where my mum let it slip that she often skipped PE with her boyfriend in high school. My younger sister and I couldn’t believe it, in our minds she was this rule abiding person who never did anything wrong!

  5. Jodi says...

    Before me, my mother was a single mother who had a son at age sixteen but hellbent on building a better life for her son. She later met my dad, got married and achieved a lot. May I inherit half her strength.

  6. breanna says...

    i always wonder how my children will think of me when they are older.. my goal with them is to always make sure they know how much they are loved and always accepted no matter what they do or say. something i was not offered when i was a child.

    thank you for this post! very timely!

  7. jules says...

    my mom kinda lost it awhile back when I was in middle school (I am the 4th of 5 kids) and my parents separation wasn’t pretty. She left and we didn’t see her for years. Besides that though I have heard my dad talk about her before all of that – how fun and outgoing she was. She went deer hunting with a bow, would row the boat around while he fished, and was generally a badass. I see it come through sometimes when she will go out into the ocean and not care about how deep or harsh the waves are. And I love that about her.
    I see her often now and think I have forgiven those years (we lost one of our 5 siblings then also) maybe partially because the personal, mental circumstances must have been pretty hard for her to give up and walk away. Because she was a pretty touch chick before and I hope/think she would’ve worked it out if she could.

  8. I love hearing stories from my mom from before she had us! She was one of four siblings and they had so many hilarious-sounding escapades (because parents stop caring what you’re up to when there’s that many of you, haha).

    What I really cant stop thinking about lately, as I’m pregnant with my third, is who I used to be before my kids blew onto the scene. Is that selfish? haha. I feel some MomGuilt about it but hey, having three kids under four is sort of a sacrifice of the self, at least for the first decade or so. I used to be fun and light-hearted! Now I’m fun with a healthy underlayer of anxiety.

    BRB calling my mom.

  9. Jackie says...

    Maybe because I’m deep in quarantine with my two little girls and husband, which has been so hard and so nice, minute-by-minute, this made me cry. Oh for my former self! Which wasn’t such a great self but was trying so so hard. Oh for my now self! A better self and still trying so so hard. xoxo

  10. Annie K. says...

    I love reading these comments- they give me such hope. I have a 3.5 year old and a 1 year old. I’ve been estranged from my birth mother since I was 15, and I’m just starting to realize how little I think of “mothers.” I have a hard time believing my kids (who I love whole-heartedly, in a way my mom did not have capacity for) “need” me, or really love me and like me and might even think I’m beautiful, because I did not have that experience as a child. I’ve seen this play out badly in moments with my daughter – I can sometimes be too cavalier in my behavior toward her, as I unwittingly disregard the power I have in her life. But I’m working to break the cycle! I’m hoping that she’ll grow up and, if and when she chooses to be a mom, will understand her worth and import, deep in her bones.

    • Jackie says...

      Annie, I feel you totally. My mom was awful, and still is. I cry when I think of how I was ruined by her (or maybe just feel that way). How she has colored every day of my life with her heartlessness and inabilities. How I fear I will ruin my girls too. I am in therapy and work to push myself to be kinder than I experienced and dig into the intimacies and not just stay on the surface where it is safer and cleaner but is not enough for them. We will do better than our moms. We are doing better than them because we’re even thinking like this and talking like this. We’re in it together.

  11. Iris says...

    My sister and I always thought, nay KNEW, that our mother was the most beautiful person in the world. We thought so in person and we thought so in pictures. We still know it now. It never mattered what she was wearing or doing or feeling – she was just always so beautiful to us. Once I had my own babies I started to wonder what they would remember about me – how I sounded and looked and felt. As mothers (especially these days) I think so many of us feel perpetually exhausted and overwhelmed, so much that we don’t notice anymore and it becomes our normal state of being. I hope all mothers know how beautiful their children believe them to be, even in light of those overwhelming feelings!

    • florence says...

      I love this thought! As I am feeling those exact things, overwhelmed and exhausted, and wondering if I’m yelling too much at my kids… hopefully our children will have a different memory of this time confined to our homes.

    • kara says...

      My youngest daughter is named Iris so your comment made me hope my girls view me this way someday *sobbing*

  12. Emily says...

    I’ve always loved hearing stories from my mom’s childhood and adulthood, especially imagining her young and in love with my dad. They have just the sweetest stories which reaffirm my belief that their relationship is the best I’ve ever seen. She was– and still is– kind, FUN, funny, caring, and amazingly intelligent and successful. And totally the apple of my dad’s eye.

  13. Reb says...

    My youngest is incredibly perceptive, and he is constantly surprising me. A few months ago he asked, “Mom, who did you date before Dad? What were your other boyfriends like and why didn’t you marry them?”. I was amazed and delighted that my young son recognized I existed as my own person before becoming a wife and mom, which I think is quite hard for most kids to recognize. Anyway, I love that this book is giving us an opportunity to look back at our own parents, and to see them as people outside of their roles as our parents …

    • OO says...

      That’s really sweet, Reb! Kudos for raising a son who can recognize and appreciate that kind of individuality. It does seem unusual for a kid!

  14. Erin says...

    My mother was an insecure, hard-working, perfectionistic athlete. She was a runner, a nurse, and captivated my dad with her slim brown legs and blue eyes. I am made my more like my dad, but learned how to be a strong woman from my mom. She was a truth-teller, gentle, consistent. She called me Punky as a kid, and the other day I found myself wondering, I wonder how old I was the last time she called me that. Neither of us knew it would be the last time. Just like with many things: carrying your child on your hip, using certain nicknames, time outs, making a certain dish they request, bathing them…one day it fades into the new, next phase. In this phase my mom leaves Marco Polo messages every day (we live in the Netherlands) for my two young children, reading them a book or two, and giving me a much-needed respite during quarantine. Every day. One day she will do this for the last time too, because this too shall pass.

    • Jackie says...

      Wow, powerful description. Harsh and beautiful.

    • Elisa says...

      Ah… I think there’s much more generosity in this comment… the tough one… than in any other that lionized the mother. Generous adults see parents in their complete humanity; I think everyone, mother or not, has the right to that.

  15. Nicola says...

    As a child of ‘older’ parents* I always knew my mum had another life as a freewheeling heartbreaking hippie before she met my dad.

    Some time after my dad died she reconnected with a boyfriend from that time. While it’s always bittersweet to see your parent repartnered, to hear all the stories and see her like a young woman again laughing and swearing like a sailor(!) has been such a treat.

    *my mum was 37 when she had me which now doesn’t seem very old at all!

  16. Rachel says...

    I wish I’d known my mum before me. All the photos of her show her as light, hilarious and stunning. My father died when i was young, so she became more serious as one does when one faces a serious loss and grieves, and I’ve mostly known her as someone carrying a sadness, though with a tendency to be unconventional and at times cheeky. She looked like mixture of Kate Winslett and Cindy Crawford. Big features, a stunning well placed mole, and shiny perfectly straight long 70s hair. She used to wear bell bottoms. My favorite photos of her is her and her nursing student friends being hilarious on the hospital wards one evening and pretending to give each other needles and doing an ‘evil nurse’ photo shoot session. I suspect she was a massive flirt too. I would have totally been friends with that version of my mum.

  17. Dawn says...

    My mom married my dad at 19 and had an unhappy marriage and traumatic divorce. She doesn’t like talking about her 20s although I’m desperate to know who she was and how she felt during those years. A few years ago, my grandmother gave me my parent’s wedding album. She saved it after their divorce, thinking I would want to see it someday. It was so amazing to see photos of my mom in her 80s wedding dress, looking giddy and beautiful. Life didn’t turn out the way she planned but I love seeing pictures of her at her happiest and most hopeful.

  18. SB says...

    My mother was fiercely independent when she was young and I loved that as an adult, she revealed more and more about her life. Like the “real” parts, not just the glossed over goody-two-shoes parts that were supposed to be the “right” role model for me when I was young.

    I always admired her and the more “real” she became and the closer we got. I am so grateful that I was able to share as many years as I did with her. She passed away way too young and I just try to keep making her proud – her ambitious goody-two-shoes side and her bad-ass independent side, too.

  19. Mc says...

    It was so nice to read Paria’s perspective. I too am proud to be the daughter of immigrants although my parents didn’t have to leave their country amidst strife and they were/are safe to return as they pleased. I pray for the everyday people of Iran and I hope, if it hasn’t happened already, that Paria and her parents can someday visit their beautiful homeland.

  20. jules says...

    Breathing all this in and reading the stores it strikes me – again, because it’s not the first time but it’s always breathtaking – how much pain in this world taht women take in, absorb and carry. Often for or because of others.

    It’s changing but there’s incredible strength and power in it too.

    Women are amazing.

    • Faith says...

      Well said! <3

  21. Nicole says...

    I wrote a story once in my school days on the concept of whether my mother and I would have been friends if I could go back and time and meet her when we were the same age. An intriguing thought to ponder!

  22. Anonymous says...

    My mom was breathtakingly beautiful. She dresses much differently now but when I look back at old pictures I’m always amazed. She had glossy dark hair, perfect outlined eyes with kajal, and good camera presence. And a gaggle of young children all a year apart didn’t stop her from looking effortlessly chic. People loved to photograph her and she was once featured in the newspaper as a ‘beautiful guest’ of a party that my father met her at.

    When I ask her what was it like to have that level of beauty she brushes it off. But overhead her sister telling her how everyone stared at her when she was younger. So I guess it wasn’t just me!!

  23. E. says...

    This was a hard read. My mother was abusive and cruel and kept much of past closed off, so I’ve always wondered if her youth played a role in the person I knew.

    • Hong says...

      I definitely relate to this as well, and that was my first thought when I read this post. I alway wondered if she went through something traumatic that hardened her at a young age, something she hid from me to protect me.

    • Emma says...

      I could have written this as I understand only too well.

    • Chrissy says...

      E- I was thinking the same thing. For different reasons, but I have tears in my eyes knowing I will never admire or love my mom like these women do.

      Although I look forward to becoming I mom someday soon, I worry that my relationship with my future children will somehow deteriorate.

    • CL says...

      Mine too. And I’m so sorry.

    • rachel in berkeley says...

      Hi E. Thanks for writing and bearing witness to your life. It’s painful to feel so outside an experience and the internet can amplify it in strange ways. I suspect your hunch about your mother’s childhood is likely true. If we are loved and embraced and respected as children then the odds are better that we’ll grow into adulthood able to love, respect and embrace others, including our children. Not all the time, not “perfect” but not cruel or abusivel. I’m sorry that was your reality and I wish you some kindness to accompany what was a hard read.

    • Sally says...

      Same, not every mother is seen in a positive light by her child, unfortunately. Not everyone has a mom they can count on. Even though she’s still alive, I’ve been feeling the lack of having a dependable, supportive mom during this time of isolation and fear and it’s hard feeling like I’m missing something others have that’s so grounding.

    • Zoe says...

      I’m sure that all of your mothers have gone through something hard in their youths. It’s the childhood, that is the anwer to many mental problems we’re struggling with when we’re adults.
      It’s sad that you didn’t have a chance to get the stories behind it, I’m sure it could help you to understand why your moms acted the way they did.

    • Farhana says...

      Hugs for the ones who recoiled from the title of this post. Nobody’s negative experiences can justify their repeated cruel behavior, especially to their kids. Bad experiences and genes can predispose you, it can’t predetermine you. Hugs and prayers again. We’re here for you.

    • Hayley says...

      I completely relate. My mum is a thoroughly unpleasant person and she made my childhood so miserable that I no longer have a relationship with her today. Which also means I have no interest in figuring out what she was like as a younger person.

      The way I see it, her choices then made her the person she is today, so there’s really no point in revisiting the past.

  24. Jade says...

    I love this. Quite often my mum will respond to something I have said by saying – “I wasn’t born old, Jade.” She is constantly reminding my siblings and I – chances are whatever you are dealing with or doing (good, bad or ugly) she has been there and done that. There is something incredibly comforting about that.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Totally off topic, but I love your name! :)

  25. em says...

    that lamp tho…

    • Michelle says...

      Paria Kooklan’s warm, adoring description of her mother brought tears to my eyes. Especially since she remembers her mom often looking worried, tired, or sad. Makes me feel better since, as a parent of 3, I feel all of those things at times. All too often recently.
      Paria’s mom must feel so loved to feel truly seen and understood by her grown daughter.

    • Calla says...

      right? I am especially drawn to it because of my name haha

    • Rashmi says...

      I experienced crushing disappointment as soon as I read that this was a picture from the book!!! I just wanted to scroll down to the comments and have Joanna identify the lamp!

  26. AMK says...

    So beautiful!! I love this so much! I was especially touched by Paria’s mother and her perspective <3

  27. In her twenties, my mom got her Master of Fine Arts degree, worked as a stagehand (and didn’t take nonsense from the dudes she worked with), sewed her own wild and colorful skirts, road tripped to Alaska, loved biking to work, and for a couple of years, didn’t shave her legs!

    She is a fierce advocate for her children, an amazing public speaker, and has a dry, hilarious sense of humor. I’m now in my twenties, and I frequently find myself hoping I turn out half as cool as her!

    • Joy says...

      Love this !

    • Capucine says...

      My mom had foundational abuse coloring her life before my dad and motherhood. There is no doubt that her life post-family was far better than her life before. Her life before made for good photos – a Playboy bunny cocktail waitress, dating the U-haul heir, an interior decorator with shag carpeting she raked, a cafe guitar-singer – but she was far more broken and in toxic situations, than when she moved to married life with children. If there was any part of her life before us that was whole and healthy, my life would’ve been so different. I wish there was a truly joyful shot of her before that did not make me sad. I’m so glad to recognize she lives the healthiest life she could create today. She and I would never go back to her twenties, photogenic as they are.

    • Joy says...

      Love this!

  28. Katie says...

    when I told my daughter (at the time, 4 years old) that she was the one who made me a mama, without missing a beat, she said “yeah, cause before that you were just a work person”! Ha!

  29. Katie A says...

    How beautiful!

  30. tina crisas says...

    My Mum was care, compassion, tough and brave all in one. She too had an infectious and loud laugh, sometimes I catch myself hearing her laugh through mine. She was an immigrant who landed in a foreign country with just a suitcase and a loan but worked so, so hard, sometimes walking to work or not buying new clothes or warm socks to save every penny, sewed clothes and took in borders. With her hard work she managed to buy two four bedroom houses close to the city which are priced in the millions today. She raised my sister and I with so much love, I always felt safe and secure even though she was on the strict side. She sacrificed everything for us two and did it with so much love and all she ever wanted was for us to be happy, always pushed us to go on that camping excursion with school, play sports, have fun and be adventurous. Her kindness is something I carry with me to this day. I still recall her dragging us to old peoples’ homes to offer the residents hand made cakes and biscuits during Easter and Christmas, going to the childens’ hospitals to offer gifts, and everytime the rubbish collectors used to swing by in the mornings, she’d rush off to give them a cold beer and sandwiches. I loved that. She was always worried about everyone and never put herself first even though she was independant but old fashioned. My father treated her badly, and once he tried to slap her and she put her foot down and informed him that should he ever hit her, she will be calling a lawyer. And she meant it even though she came from a culture where women could be quite submissive. I only wish she had experienced a loving marriage and had met my only daughter who is now three and named after her. That breaks my heart and while my father is still with us, I cannot forgive him for that. I sometimes recall when she had hesitantly told me about two love interests before my father and I always wished she had taken another road than the one with my Dad. She is always with me and everytime I see her in my thoughts it’s her bopping her head at my door with a beautiful smile to wish me goodnight, holding my hand for hours when I went through panic attacks and just her eyes lighting up each time my sister or I walked into a room.

    • Elspeth says...

      Your mother sounds like she was a very precious woman! 💜

    • K says...

      This was really nice to read. I’m glad your daughter will have your memories to share with her about her Grandmother.

    • tina crisas says...

      Aw, thank you so much Elspeth and K.

  31. Ana says...

    thank you for this post….my grieving never ends…is always inside, around me, i have so many difficulties thinking about my mama…but this post made me think about softer , more kind thoughts and i am thankful for that.
    loudest laugh in the room – exactly the same – the 1st thing anyone who knew my mum would describe her by that. She was all smiles, always so talkative, making friends with everybody…before me…she broke her leg while she was 15th, she lost it (whole) and never in her life she would cry a tear for that – she was so strong, so brave, so ALIVE…she wrote a diary in her teens (as i didi a lot) and the signature after each peace was EDITH – as Edith Piaf. Her name was Edita, but since she was young she loved loved everything that was french, she loved chansons, the language (she did speak it well)…when she went on vacations to Croatian seaside (we are from Slovenia), one day she heard a girl behind her speaking French…she turned around and the rest is beautiful history…Genevieve is still there in our lives, although my mama is gone (she passed 2 years ago)…this one of a kind friendship of her is now survived by me…I’m in touch with Genevieve, we are so close to eachother althought I have never met her in person. My mama did 2 times…1 st no longer after they met in Croatia and then 40 years later: 2,5 years ago when she went all by herslef to Switzerland for health reasons…Genevieve went for her and took her to Lyon where she lives with her family… This was the time of my mamas life…and I have pictures of them from that summer vacation…so so bitter sweet memories.

  32. celeste says...

    It’s beautiful. My late mother was interested in Native American art and helped her students aim for better lives. She thought I was a worrier.

  33. Debby says...

    This made pregnant-me cry a little bit. As usual, thanks for a lovely post.

  34. Navi says...

    I love this post.

    My mom went through a lot of adversity after she was married and became a mother. As a result, my brother and I know her as a serious, brilliant, and fierce woman.

    The stories we were hear about my mom are from my grandma and aunts. Before she became a mother, she was a playful and adventurous. She grew up in rural India on a farm, and her favourite activity was “roof jumping” (quite literally, her and her brother would jump from roof to roof in their neighbourhoods). She acted in school plays, played field hockey, and just loved to discover.

    She always commenting that I’m not serious enough. And I’m proud to say, I got it from my mama.

  35. Toni says...

    My mom used to be a badass risk taker before she had kiddos.

    She was working as a secretary and didn’t love her job. So she just up and quit and had decided to have the best year of her life…and she did! She spent the winter on a mountain working ski patrol and enjoying the snowy resort and then a summer at a beach house cooking for the weekend guests and enjoying the beach. When her year of fun was up, she started her own company that she ran for 10 years. She sold the company before I was born. I knew her as a stay-at-home mom who was good at keeping schedules and planning activities but who was not spontaneous in the least. I would love to have seen that side of her!

  36. ana says...

    My mum met when my dad when he was rollerskating drunk through the girls college dorm dressed as a nun.

    That was the 1970’s but last week when they said ‘sorry we missed your call darling, you see we didn’t get in till 4am’ I knew college mum and dad live on!

    • Sarz says...

      Cool! 🤩 I hope you managed to score a photo of the occasion!

  37. Rae says...

    Love this! I have a photo on my mantle of my parents taken about 6 years before I was born. My mother is laughing and my father is gazing at her, clearly totally smitten. I have always loved this little glimpse into their pre-kids life, in a city I have never lived in, still in school, with friends I never got to know…a whole full life!

  38. Isabella says...

    I have a Polaroid that I found among my mother’s things after she passed away — in it she’s standing and her face is partially obscured by someone’s arm but she’s got a huge grin and a fantastically chic haircut, is clearly on an airplane (a window is visible), and just behind her is a shelf completely *bristling* with full-sized bottles of alcohol. It looks like it was snapped in the middle of a raging party, on what, a private jet?? What is this story??? I wish I knew, but it fits with what I know of her and her less complicated, pre-motherhood life in general. I miss her so, so much.

  39. Annie says...

    I have only ever called my mother – “mommy”.
    She was a gorgeous young woman, and she was made even more so because she had no idea how beautiful she was and is today. She helped my father get his PhD by working low wage jobs and not knowing English. Jobs were:
    7-11 – where she broke her toe by dropping a coke on it, but she didn’t have insurance, so she dealt with the pain and purple toe praying it wouldn’t fall off.
    nursing home – where every family wanted her to be in charge of their family member because she put the utmost care into changing linens and cleaning off the patients. She learned to make perfect beds from this job, and we were taught to make our beds every single morning no matter what.
    dry cleaner – She worked one full day in the Oklahoma summer heat, but because she was ~only~ a 90 pound woman, she was told not to come back, and they didn’t even PAY her for that day.
    The list keeps going, and she did, too. She managed to become an accountant and help raise my brother and me, AND help my father build his company. She was fierce, loving, and determined, and I am grateful every day she is alive to share her gifts with my children.

  40. Anna says...

    I love how international the women on the Instagram profile are — mothers from all around the world. My own mother grew up in Central Europe under communism, before raising us in the West after the end of the Cold War.

  41. Blair says...

    My mom was the epitome of joy and compassion. In her early 20’s she dropped out of college to take care of her younger brother who’s health was deteriorating rapidly from muscular dystrophy. She then became a special education teacher and at one point offered to take care of one of her high-needs students for the summer, to give her parents a much-needed break. All the while, she was entertaining others with her quick wit (and talent of smashing a beer can on her forehead.) I so wish more people could have met her, and that she could have shared a beer and taught me her trick herself.

  42. Allie says...

    Just last night I was talking to my mom on the phone and she casually mentioned that she used to skateboard while holding onto the bumpers of friends’ cars. I didn’t even know she skated, let alone attached to cars like a wild woman!

    “Oh, it was just Hawaii in the ’70s,” she responded.

    The original Mega Babe.

  43. Micah says...

    My mom was featured on their Instagram account! Submitting the photo and writing the caption was worth the time in and of itself, just to reflect :)

    • Kim says...

      They featured mine, too! I love that account.

    • Emily L says...

      Micah, I love that IG account! Can you post the link so we can see your mom? And thank you for taking the time to submit. The pictures and captions are heartwarming and make my day each time there’s a new one.

    • Annie says...

      How lovely!

  44. amy says...

    my mom was a babe! and a competitive sailor before many women were in sailing. i love looking at her old photos and thinking of the adventures she must have had.

  45. Christine says...

    Before my mom was my very own super baker, book loving, loudest laugh in the room, animal loving mom, she was orphaned by her own mother.

    My mom grew up praying to find a man with a big family, to make up for being so alone throughout her childhood. Enter stage left–my dad, the youngest of 11 siblings.

    The scars and hurt she carried throughout her young adulthood sometimes show through in her life even today, but I look at it as a reminder that this wonderful woman just needs that much more reassurance of our love, and space to be sad. At the end of the day, I like to think that we have all healed each other in some capacity just by being family.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “loudest laugh in the room” = love that. she sounds like a wonderful person, and you sound like a wonderful daughter who really sees her.

  46. Cara says...

    Aww those stories are so sweet! I think about my mother before having kids and wonder about her early relationship with my dad and what made her choose him. Since having kids myself I find myself understanding her choices more and more… like how she gave up her career and stayed home with us, which is something I used to judge, since I saw the ways in which it left her unfulfilled and her business-related talents untapped.

    Also shout out for Mom Rage – Eden’s podcast that she does with her friend Amelia Morris. When I listen to Mom Rage, I feel seen as a complex person who’s also a mom navigating the currents of both culture and biology.

    • Sara says...

      Regarding Mom Rage: YES! I‘ve never tried to put into words exactly what it is about that podcast that makes me look forward to a Monday, but your comment hits right there.

    • MM says...

      I’m full on in love with Eden and Amelia. They’re my lighthouses in motherhood. Seriously.

    • Laura says...

      Piling on to the Mom Rage love here (and I’m not even a Mom)!
      I love Edan and Amelia and the thoughtfulness and heart they have put into this (explicitly feminist) project. Their guests are amazing and the kind way they navigate their friendship and work partnership touches my heart. Seriously, I’ve learned so much from the podcast!

    • Aww, thanks, Mom Ragers!

      And, thanks, Joanna and A Cup of Jo, for featuring my book and these pieces and photos!

  47. Colleen S says...

    My mom was a quiet, shy, and non-confrontational woman who worked as a bookkeeper at a (now defunct) retail chain. She liked (and still likes) reading romance books. Before she got married, she didn’t want kids.

  48. Amanda says...

    Judging by old photos and stories, my Mom was who I am now ❤️