My grandmother often told my mom—who would go on to tell me—that a mother should give her children two things: an education and wings to soar out of the nest. The message was clear: A mother’s love is critical to their child’s long-term success.
This was the theme of an essay contest held by The Sister Accord, a nonprofit with a mission of helping 1 billion girls and women learn how to love themselves and each other. The contest, inspired by founder Sonia Jackson Myles’ mother, encouraged people to write a one-page essay highlighting the ways their mothers’ love contributed to their success.
We selected one out of the seven “A Mother’s Love” essay winners to highlight on mater mea. Congratulations, Carol Tonge-Mack! You’re our winner!
This essay has been edited.
My mother is an immigrant to this country and gave up her life in Antigua to seek better socioeconomic opportunities for her children. I couldn’t imagine the anguish, heartache, and love it takes to leave two children in the care of their grandparents for years, without knowing when she would see us again.
Although I didn’t understand as a child, as an adult with children of my own, I know this was truly a sacrifice.
I recently learned that when my younger sister was 5 months old, my mother left her in the care of a mother figure and friend to finally return to Antigua to help her other two children (my sister and I) begin the process to join her in this country. I know it took unconditional love and determination to leave a newborn to ensure the lives of two other children left behind.
There are no words in the English dictionary to describe or express how much my mother means to me.
Almost 30 years ago, my life changed forever. I was pregnant as a first-year college student and became a single parent. This meant I had to leave school to figure out what was best for me.
My mother took care of me, bought maternity clothes, prepared me for the birth experience, tied my shoes when I couldn’t, and bought baby clothes on a maid’s salary.
I thought, There’s nothing else she can do for me, but I was wrong.
I wanted to finish my undergraduate degree, but how would this be possible? I had no money for college and what about childcare?
As I was being indecisive about my return to college, my mother volunteered to care for my child full-time until I completed my degree. I was speechless! I didn’t know how she would succeed on her salary along with raising my younger sister.
I marvel at her courage, strength, and determination, and her ability to look past our mistakes and defend her grown children.
A mother’s love should never be underestimated—it is THE best feeling in the world. I was able to return to college (eight hours away in Vermont) and complete my degree. I was then able to pursue not one but two Master’s degrees while my mother continued to care for my daughter until she was able to join me when she was 10 years old.
I was mentored, coached, and advised by people who cared deeply about my academic success. I would not have been able to complete my three degrees without that support, or secure my first professional job, which led me to Cincinnati where I started as an assistant director in academic advising. With diligence and perseverance, I was promoted to assistant dean a few years ago, an incredible boost to my career trajectory and professional goals.
None of my academic or career success would’ve been possible without my mother’s love and support. She continues to show up when we need her most. And as grown children, we know it’s not how she can help but when she will step up to the plate once again.
I marvel at her courage, strength, and determination, and her ability to look past our mistakes and defend her grown children. A mother’s true love has no boundaries or time limit. Regardless of my age (over 40), when I travel, she tells me to make sure the door is locked, closet checked, don’t answer the door to strangers, and do not drink any beverage after I’ve walked away from it.
We talk almost daily and I love her so much! There are no words in the English dictionary to describe or express how much my mother means to me.