My First Role Model: 5 Lessons I Learned From My Mom

With International Women’s Day behind us, it’s only natural that I take a moment to celebrate the woman whose shoes I aspire to fill every day - my mom. A treasure trove of wisdom and empowered energy, to know her is to love her. Through words as well as actions, my mom has laced her best lessons throughout my youth and young adulthood. Here are my personal favorites:

1. Your body is a temple.

Growing up, Whole Foods became somewhat of a second home to me. “Don’t panic, it’s organic!” reads the sign above my kitchen stove, and with my mom, this certainly rings true. At times, my mom’s health-nuttiness was a source for light-hearted teasing, but now more than ever, as a college student 400 miles away from home and living off microwave ramen, I miss her Sunday meal preps more than anything. My mom has always been the biggest proponent for self-care and prioritizing mental health. Through example, she’s taught me that my body is my temple, and temples are not meant to be treated like shacks. We have only one body and one life. Eat some veggies and get some sleep for a change.

2. Breakups are best treated with brownies.

When I was a little girl, my mom always told me that when a boy inevitably broke my heart, she’d have a batch of warm brownies waiting for me when I walked through the door. I always wondered why. When I went through my first major breakup with my boyfriend of nearly two years, I came to discover the answer. It was hidden in the chocolate brownie set on my nightstand when I couldn’t get out of bed. Heartbreak is a gnawing ache that leaves you empty, but brownies and love are sweet and filling. Sometimes we need to be gentle with ourselves. Things get tough and life happens but we’re only human after all. Indulge in those feelings. Cradle them and take care of yourself, paying close attention to the places the world might’ve wounded you.

3. Kill them with kindness.

Backtrack to fifth grade as my mom is driving me home from school. Enter some crazy lady who just couldn’t stand the fact that my mom was going an insanely fast two miles over the speed limit! In her infinite wisdom, she began to brake-check my mom. Yikes. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my mom as a soft smile crept onto her face. When we pulled up to the light, I couldn’t help but gasp as the crazy lady pulled up next to us and started screaming at my mom, flashing her the finger. “Watch this,” my mom said to me, calm as ever. She turned towards the raging woman… and smiled. My mom smiled and waved as if running into an old friend, and I’ll never forget how enraged that made the lady next to us. “Kill them with kindness,” my mom later said to me as we pulled into the driveway. “Save yourself the energy.” Years and years and many annoying people later, I still try to keep that same mindset every day.

4. Blood is thicker than water.

I’ll admit that I experienced my fair share of “teenage angst” in my adolescence; however, no matter how much I slammed doors and prided myself on rivaling my parents, my mother’s love for me never ceased - even when it probably should’ve. My mom has always been there for me, working to support me and raise me up to become a good woman in ways both seen and unseen. While plenty of people have exited my life just as quickly as they entered, my mom has stood by my side through it all - even when I didn’t deserve it. Her unfailing love has taught me that family is forever, and that’s a fact.

5. Stand up for yourself.

Maybe it’s the ‘Rican in her, but when it comes to defending all that she loves and believes in, my mother will fight back with an impassioned fury comparable to none. As wise and calm as she is naturally, good luck to you if you should say something that triggers her rapid hand gestures and New York accent. I love how deeply my mother cares. She puts her whole heart into everything she does, and she’ll go to her grave defending it.

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Through her lessons, my mother has devoted all of her days to raising me to become a strong, confident young woman - just like her. I’m so beyond grateful for her presence as my first role model in this life. Mom, if you’re reading this - I love you more than my luggage! When I celebrate International Women’s Day, I celebrate women like you.

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