Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
In the first few weeks of May, the grocery stores are filling up with “I Love My Mom” balloons and flowers that are bundled together with “Happy Mother’s Day” ribbons. It’s that time of year again— when every son and daughter is on the hunt for that perfect gift to give their moms.
We interviewed Wendy Strgar, founder, and CEO of Good Clean Love as well as a mother of four, about motherhood from her point of view—a mother’s point of view.
Tell us a little about each of your children.
Wendy Strgar: I have two sons and two daughters, so I was really lucky to not only have an interesting balance between genders, but also a window into how different same-sex children can be from each other...
My eldest daughter Anastasia (we all call her Ana) is 29 and is an ESL teacher living in Anchorage, Alaska, with her husband who is also a teacher. One thing that I have always been grateful about Ana is that she is one of the kindest people you could ever meet. And anyone who knows her, including all her siblings, agree. When she was a teenager, she once told me “This is where I bite my tongue so I don't say something mean to you.” One of the things I most enjoyed as her mother was helping to cultivate and enjoy her musical gifts—she played the flute and sings like a Disney princess. Now her elementary students adore her, partly because she lives so deeply from her heart, but even more, I think because she sings to them.
My eldest son Ian is 26 and lives in San Francisco where he works as a financial software analyst which was his dream job when he left high school. Ian has always had a drive that has propelled him and he is not only a really quick study of anything he wants to know but always had an amazing ability to read the larger field. It made him an incredible goalie when he played soccer and a powerful tennis player later on. But, what I most enjoy about being Ian's mother is how funny he is. No matter what we are doing it is more fun and funny when Ian is present. Ian and I had our ups and downs, but the fierce love that we cultivated as he grew up taught me what words like patience and resilience really mean. Now, we share a meditation practice when I get to see him that always brings me to tears.
My younger son Luke is graduating from University of California at Berkeley this month with a computer science degree. Luke has always loved to learn—in grade school he loved his homework as much as he loved his soccer or basketball practices. All through his education, and even into his college years, I had the amazing chance to learn with him. He would call and share a document he was working on... or tell me about the challenges of equations I could never understand. And Luke is a generous listener and such a good friend and fair-minded advocate for whenever anything erupted, as it often did when they were all four growing up together. He has grown five inches in his college years and towers over me now. I try to reconcile this brilliant young man with my vivid memories of the sweet boy I knew him as. Letting go of the past is hard when you love it so much.
My youngest daughter Emma is a junior at Oregon State University, reveling in producing and creating new media, and before long she will be Instagram famous, like the book I just got her. She was born the apple of everyone's eye. She was always creative and artistic and could make anything beautiful. From drawings to collages to baked goods, we all clamored around the sweetness she added to every occasion. The requests of her brothers for their favorite cookies got old and she switched to photography. She has taken almost every good picture you can find of me online—lucky me. She always makes me smile, my real smile. And she isn't afraid to come in very close, which makes me smile more. I love her passion and enthusiasm for finding beauty—and I am grateful that she still shines that light on us on our Instagram. I always feel lovelier near her.
Are there things you miss about your life before kids?
Wendy Strgar: I can hardly remember my life before my first child—I was 26. One thing that I do remember after first having Ana is how it hadn’t dawned on me that I had to plan almost every move, even going to the bathroom, ahead of time to account for the baby...I don't think I understood the freedom I had before was gone. And now interestingly, I am struggling to take back that freedom. I had become so at home in knowing where I was in relation to all my children that I don't quite know how to fill up all the space. It’s easy for me to become sentimental about my past and believe that my years of child-raising were the best I will ever have. And in some ways the love affair that happens when you grow up together with your kids is unparalleled. But I am hoping in this next period of my life, I will learn how to have that inside myself. I am very interested in learning more about being still and quiet.
What is the hardest part about being a mom?
Wendy Strgar: For years, I called our family life the laboratory of love in my life. Family life is some of the most challenging aspects of relating—we all bring some baggage from our history into them, often unconsciously and slowly, with patience, we unravel it and find new ways of getting close. But it doesn't always look good or feel good. Having four kids is at least 16 relationships—the more people in the family, the more relationships going on in every direction. It is an emotional multiverse, so it can be overwhelming and exhausting. But also, rich and full. For me right now, the hardest part is letting go of them. But that’s the job, giving them the strength to take the next move. Standing back for them to go on ahead, but not too far back in case they fall.
What is the most rewarding part about being a mom?
Wendy Strgar: Our deepest and most intimate relationships are a kind of mirror and I think our most gentle teachers. I can't imagine who I would be if I hadn't had and loved each one of my children. I remember their birthdays so vividly, the hours leading up to them arriving, the days afterward. Babies are magical creatures and young children are always fully present. Being with my kids trained me in presence—and fun. Given a safe space, children will tell you how it is and they are usually right. Teaching them how to identify and name what they felt taught me too. For me being a mother will always be the grace of my life.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to have their first child?
Wendy Strgar: The only regret I have is the advice I would give—pay attention. When I think back, that's the one thing I wish I had done more. I wish that I had paid closer attention to the moments that seemed to wear on forever. While inside the endless days that run into sleepless nights, it is easy to check out and not realize how fast it is all going to go by. And then suddenly it does.
Also, sleep when the baby sleeps. Everything else that has to happen will be there when you wake up. And while I was quite the picture taker (back before digital), think about putting away the recordings and bringing your whole attention into the moment of holding onto someone for dear life. And gazing into the eyes of a tiny person.