The “could have beens” — sometimes they can swallow us up. My own mother, yes, she “could have been” an attorney, a singer, a teacher or an actress with that kind of beauty.
But life was different in the ’70s. Many Greek American women were expected to put a halt to their education and marry, make babies — Greek babies.
My mother was no different. She found a sense of fulfillment and reinvigoration after a couple of semesters of college under her belt. And she had decided — she declared political science as her major and she would go to law school. But her parents were not happy. They found a local Greek attorney who needed a secretary. So, at 21, my mother gave up her own dreams of becoming a lawyer to work for one.
And although she “could have been” a damn good lawyer, she did what was expected of her as a young Greek woman. She listened to her parents and worked.
Finally, after working and choosing our rebellious father to be her husband, my mom started having babies: three raucous boys and one free-spirited girl. She mothered well. But there were times, I’m sure, when she wanted to wallow in self-pity while she stayed home with us — her whole life revolving around ours. But she didn’t. Instead, she chose to love us. Every day. Every hour. Every minute.
There were many nights after our bellies were filled and the dishes were done, where my mom would lie down in her “spot” on the couch. I’d crawl in next to her, and we’d fall asleep together — her arms around me. She didn’t shoo me away after having me serve as her shadow that entire day. She embraced me.
But what about getting out of her own shadow?
As we grew older, my mother learned about a local choral society from a friend. With a little background in music herself, she was curious. She wondered, “Am I good enough?” After years of doubt and contemplation, my mom finally decided that she was worth it. She found the courage to audition. My mom sat at our old piano in the dining room and sang daily. She taped herself and then played it back — over and over again. Finally, her big day came. My mother stood behind the curtain on stage and almost snuck out. But she didn’t. She sang, and despite her nerves, she sang well.
Weeks went by. Every time my mother heard the phone ring, her feet planted on the floor and her back zipped up straight. And one evening, before dinner, that phone rang again. She stopped cooking at the stove and picked up the phone. It was the choral society calling with the news. She got in.
No, my mom didn’t become the big attorney she “could have been.” But she found herself again through her voice and even in motherhood. My mom is smart. And she was right, she “could have been” many things. But she never could have been a better mother. There are days she still may question what could have become of her. But she’ll never, ever say — I could have been a mother.
Moms, don’t let the “could have beens” swallow you. Either conquer your dreams — or be the mom you were meant to be. That will always be enough.
Editor’s note: Angela Anagnost Repke is a writer living in Michigan with her two children, working on a memoir. You can follow her on Facebook here.