10 Unforgettable Lessons I Learned From My Mom

Love, Self

Never wear white shoes after labor day.

It's been almost six months since my mother died and she's still everywhere. It's difficult to distil the wisdom of 91 years, but the rules of life I learned from her are my constant companions.

This is just a sampling.

1. It Never Hurts To Match

Whether partnering a purse and shoes, blouse and skirt, or clothing and jewelry, avoiding clashing colors, patterns and styles is the key to looking smart and successful.

Not referring specifically to partners in life here, she thought the same about those. You can't live successfully with someone with whom you clash on basic values and beliefs. Or clothing.

2. Every Pot Has Its Cover

Here she was clearly speaking metaphorically — you will find your match. This came up as I agonized over someone or other so long ago I can't remember the specifics.

It's one of those aphorisms that comes back to me when I talk to friends and clients. It's like one of the Ten Commandments. I took it on faith and it got me through many a dark day. Now I know it's true.

3. Never Wear White Shoes After Labor Day

So, about those white shoes ... there are so many rules of fashion.

In addition to matching and seasonal requirements, there are outfits and accessories one wears or carries for certain occasions, like clutches and pearls for weddings. Used clothing, even "lightly worn," appalled her.

I believe her rules for attire were also metaphorical; if you do the right thing you'll never be sorry. It's the Jewish mother version of taking the high road. She was so right about that.

4. Turn The Other Cheek

When someone hurts you, don’t hurt them back, just walk away. When someone hurts you, unless they're a complete idiot and don't know it, her philosophy was, just move on.

She knew that one need not state the obvious. Like the time she overheard me tell a friend I hated her because of my early curfew. She mentioned it only years later when we could have a good laugh about it. Sorry again, mom.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing the piano an hour a day was required, even as a six year old. Perhaps my memory exaggerates the duration, but certainly as I got older I was required to practice that much or more, much to my brother's dismay.

My mother didn't expect perfection, but she did expect my best effort and persistence. We didn't call it grit back then, but she certainly taught me to have it. It's come in very handy.

6. You're Never Lonely With The Arts

My mother did not graduate from college, but I grew up surrounded by the arts. They were the loves of her life and they're loves of mine.

On a rainy day with no place to go, how can one survive without music and a good book or movie? Where better to begin a visit in a new city but a museum? The arts are constant companions, always providing opportunities for creativity, learning and connection.

7. Eat Your Veggies With Every Meal

At every dinner there was a vegetable and salad. The veggies weren't terribly exotic, no Brussels sprouts or cauliflower. This was not a choice and no conflicts ensued. It was part of life.

It was also a lesson in parenting. As a parent, when you present things "matter-of-fact"ly, you tend to get a lot more compliance. I learned to eat vegetables regularly, which has served me well. With no conscious intention, I practice the "matter-of-fact"ness in my own parenting, and honor the need for veggies.

8. Believe In Your Children

Not big on self-help books, I'm not quite sure how my mother acquired her parenting skills, though probably from her mother, whom she adored. I doubt that my mother would have ever said, "You should believe in your children," but the message was there.

No matter what harebrained scheme (as my father would say) I came up with, and there were many, she accepted my choices. She might ask a few questions, after which she would support me unequivocally. I wouldn't be where I am today without her belief that I could do anything.

9. Grandparents Are Not Like Parents

My mother did things with my son she'd never done with me. Incredibly artistic and creative, she spent hours making things with him. Because she worked, didn't have as much time for that with me. Whenever possible, she gave him anything he wanted.

As he got older she'd slip him money, first for snacks, later for gas. Just the other day my son mentioned how she was, "the great spoiler." Inquiring into what he was up to, she listened, giving his activities the weight they deserved, in a way parents often don't. She taught us how the generations work together and how each has something important to give.

10. What Women Can Do

Although she would not have called herself a feminist, my mother showed me what women can do. Women work. Women have important relationships with other women.

Women take trips with their friends, without their husbands, even to Europe. Women put family first. Women live apart from their husbands when the situation calls for it. Women have their own ideas. Women are sexy, smart, witty and creative.

She taught me that women can do everything and are freakin' awesome. She did not use that word, or the other "f" word, except under extremely rare circumstances, one lesson I never mastered.

She's with me when I read a great book, play the piano, see the lurking photograph in a view and decide what I'm wearing in the morning.

My mother is ever-present, not in a bad, sad way, but in an empowering, comforting way, though I miss her terribly. I (mostly) follow her rules with the hope that I can be half the woman and parent she was.

Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at drjudithtutin.com where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and wellness to your life.


Explore YourTango