Op-ed | Celebrating Mom on this special Mother’s Day

Mother's Day
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On this special Sunday, I joyfully recognize my mother. Happy Mother’s Day, mom! 

A few months ago, I went home to visit my mother after she had just returned from spending a few days in the hospital. She had been sick and I asked her if she still felt sick. She responded immediately and matter-of-factly, “Well, it seems I have recovered!” 

In truth, she had not yet fully recovered but she did not want to be a burden or cause for worry. More importantly, she does not want anything to prevent her from experiencing the joys of life.  As she says often, “life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Indeed, she does not “rehearse”. I am so proud of the way my mother has forged her own path in life. Somehow, she balances everything. From motherhood to working full time to pursuing her passions, she has done it all – and done it during a time when most women did not work.  

Take reading, for example. She has always been an inveterate reader who consumes a minimum of one to two books a week, and often more on the beach vacations she loves. Combining her passion for books and reading with work, she decided to spend the first part of her career as a librarian at a Hebrew day school. This choice enabled her to prepare dinner every night and eat with her young family. To this day, I meet former students of hers who would tell me how much they enjoyed spending time in the library where they sought out her advice on books and more. 

An academic environment was ideal for her. She loved helping kids learn.  Even when I was away doing my own activities, friends would regularly come to our house to ask my mother to edit their school papers or talk to her about courses they were taking. 

My mom has taken great pride in being a lifelong learner. Our dining room table was perpetually filled with her course books and notes as she studied for the several master’s degrees she pursued. A catalog for McGill University’s continuing education courses is always present in the house when I visit.

When she was not studying, she played bridge weekly with her closest girlfriends and attended the philharmonic to satiate her love of classical music. Of course, none of this interfered with family time. Beyond the weekday dinners, she made sure that we gathered as a family every Friday night for Shabbat and made it special by serving dinner in the dining room. (She actually removed her papers so we could eat there.)  

She made time, too, to attend my sporting events. Poor woman, though, as she always seemed to have miserable timing. After much prodding, she came to one of my hockey games, only to see me speared in the face and then leave for stitches. She came to one of my rugby games just as I was emerging from the bottom of a large scrum. 

After my brothers and I left for college, she pursued her other passion: travel. She bought a small travel agency and turned it into the premier travel agency in Montreal for those seeking to travel the world. She had traveled extensively and then lived vicariously through her clients as she counseled them on places to go – of course, to many of the places that she herself had visited. 

I have always been proud of my mother and how she balanced motherhood, family, her work, and her passions. In my mind, she has been a role model for women. And, I know her influences shaped who I am today.  

She introduced me to New York City. Concerned that my brothers and I were too focused on sports as kids, she planned an annual weekend in New York City where we would be inundated with culture, often seeing four Broadway shows in three days. In between shows, we would go to museums and movies. My love for New York City stems from those trips as a young boy.

From the postcards that she would send us from around the world –from India to China to Russia, at a time when few were traveling to those countries – she piqued my curiosity to explore the world. When I was 11 years old, she encouraged me to participate in a school trip to Ireland and England for top students in the grade’s history class. She may have been more excited than I was. When I returned, she wanted to know my impressions of every place we visited. 

On the night that the province of Quebec elected a government committed to separating from the rest of Canada, my mother told me to keep my grades up as I should aspire to attend a top university in the United States. Years later, my mother wrote away for applications to various schools I had never even heard of. After I had submitted the first two applications, and told my mother that I had finished the application process, she encouraged me to apply to others. Maybe mothers know best. I ultimately attended a college that was not part of the initial applications I had completed.

I often wonder where my life would have headed had I not had the good fortune and privilege of attending university in the United States. And I think about how much more fulfilling my life has been because of the influences of my mother. 

So, on this Mother’s Day, I say thank you Mom. I love you. 

Eric J. Gertler is Executive Chairman & CEO of U.S. News & World Report. 

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