My Mother, My Friend

Over the years, some of my most favorite bloggers participated in Listen to Your Mother shows. It’s always been something I wanted to do but never badly enough to put myself out there in that way. Until this year. This year, I decided to push past my anxiety about the process. I auditioned way back in March for the first-ever Orange County show.
I didn’t (obviously) get selected to participate in the show but I’m still so glad I auditioned. Writing an essay completely from the heart, sharing it with women who cried along with me as I read, leaving a piece of myself behind – it was all so powerful.
I thought about putting my essay away for another time or just sharing it privately with the person who inspired it, but that didn’t seem right somehow. It was meant to be shared so today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I am doing just that here on the blog.

One day, your mother will be your very best friend.

My Gram said those words to me when I was 4, maybe five. I was just on the other side of an epic battle with my mom that involved a box of 64 Crayola crayons and goddess knows what else. We didn’t speak for a long time after that fight.

It wasn’t the first time we’d fight like that, nor would it be the last. My mom and I have traveled quite the broken road in our nearly 40-year relationship. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I’ve thought a lot about it.

Maybe it’s because, right out of the womb, I was a daddy’s girl. Even now, my dad gets allowances from me that I make for no one else in life. I can see how that could have been tough for her to take – it certainly can be for my husband.

It could be that my mom was always that kid who was concerned with being who she was supposed to be and forgot to stop and figure out who she really was. Adding a baby to the mix is hard enough, even harder when you’re still struggling with your own identity.

Or, there’s always my dad’s theory, the one where my mom and I have clashed since day one because we are so very much alike. Nature absolutely won out over nurture. It may be reason I look in the mirror and see my mother – both literally and figuratively.

At any rate, we’ve come a long way. People who know us now can hardly believe there was a time we didn’t get along. They’re shocked to hear that there were a lot of years when I might have used the words “hate” and “my mother” in the same sentence.

So what changed? A lot of things, really, but the thing that changed us forever happened in the spring of 2008 when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant in the middle of planning a wedding. I cried the night I found out because I was so damned worried what other people (my mother among them) would think.

Most people reacted the way people should when someone announces they’re pregnant, over the moon excited for us and not a second thought to the fact that I’d be 6 months pregnant when I walked down the aisle.

But one person, someone whose opinion mattered way more to me than it probably should have, had a completely different reaction. They lectured me (at 30!) about sex before marriage and birth control and called us IRRESPONSIBLE. They made me feel shameful about something that should have been joyful.

I struggled a lot with that. I thought about it incessantly. I found it hard to be anything but embarrassed by my pregnancy.

That’s when my mother stepped in. She told me to enjoy every moment and not to let anyone else’s thoughts or feelings impact the way I felt about the baby. She told me not to lose a single, precious moment of bonding. And then she told me why it was so important.

When she married my dad and announced her pregnancy with me, her own mother (my Gram) didn’t take it well. My mom allowed herself to take on that negativity. She has always believed THAT is the reason we didn’t bond well.

That was a surprise to me. I had always assumed something I had done, something SHE had done, was what came between us. The idea that it was something else entirely was a new one for me and I didn’t quite know what to do with it at first.

As my baby grew, so did the strength of our relationship. We talked about life in a way that we never had. We shared hopes and fears and life stories and it was amazing. And then the baby came and I, for the first time in my life, knew what it was to need my mother.

When I passed out on my bed that first week from a combination of exhaustion and stomach flu, my mom was there to hold my baby and do my laundry.

When I called her and said that I didn’t think I could handle one more minute of screaming baby, she jumped in her car and came to my rescue.

When I was at the very end of my rope and on the brink of postpartum depression, she brought me Starbucks iced tea and helped me focus on the good stuff.

She took on the role of Grammy like I never expected she would, but more importantly, she was MY biggest fan; the person who told me I could go on when I wasn’t sure I could. She had faith that I’d make it through, and for that I am forever grateful.

When I finally came out the other side of those sometimes joyful, sometimes awful months and the postpartum haze lifted, that’s when I knew. My Gram had been right all those years before. My mother had not only become my best friend, but the best friend I’ll ever have.

My Mother, My Friend |


  1. Helen Valencia says

    Well I join all the others with my tears. I didn’t know you were pregnant but I would of told you as long as you and Sal love each other to HELL with every one else. I Love you Jess, and I am so happy you and your Mom are now as close as you are. Gramma Valencia

    • says

      Thanks for saying that. I’m really glad I shared it.

  2. says

    That was so beautiful and moving. Great job on auditioning and for sharing this beautiful story.
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  3. says

    This is so heartfelt — my mom can be opinionated, but when it counts, she’s my biggest advocate too. I’m so glad that your relationship strengthened — there’s a reason for the tough stuff we go through, perhaps that was one of the reasons. :)
    Cori @ Let’s Eat Grandpa recently posted…Kitchen Update – Week 13My Profile

  4. says

    Beautifully written. Moms and daughters will always struggle with these things.

  5. says

    Beautiful!! I can relate to so much of this! (including NOT being chosen for LTYM lol) Thank you for sharing this beautiful essay!
    Sarah B recently posted…All Kinds Of MothersMy Profile

  6. says

    First, congratulation to auditioning to the LTYM show. It takes courage.

    And I love your mom. You had that safety net when you most needed it and awesome it was one of your own, your mother.

    It’s so easy to judge and lecture, especially when expectations are set on someone who we want to never fall, but something I just realized from this post is the ‘negative’ effect this judgment can be on a future mother-to-be. How wise of your mom to explain all that and to de-rail your thoughts from shame.

    Lovely post.
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