When My Mom Needed a Mental Break

Before there were mom blogs, there were mom books — motherly meditations to help moms power through the monotony of the day. 

In 1981, shortly after her third and fourth child — me and my brother, Ted — my mom sought refuge from the mental stress of motherhood. I know this because today my mom shared with me books she recently rediscovered. Books that rejuvenated her as a mother to four young children (before her fifth child) in her early thirties.

Grandma Val books

The books written for the “harried homemaker” and promising “laughs from everyday life” certainly delivered the medicine my mom needed.

“It gave me self-worth because no one gave you credit for anything,” my mom shared as we talked over why she couldn’t bear to give the books away. “It made me feel good knowing other mothers were having the same type of struggles. I wasn’t alone.”

Motherhood is certainly a journey, one that cannot be taken alone. That’s why it was so comforting for me to hear my mom sometimes struggled, too. As I flipped through the pages she leaned on 37 years ago, I found a passage from one of the books that spoke to me…

When the Handwriting on the Wall Is in Brown Crayon

By Susan L. Lenzkes

Though I lecture and harp at my children and have not love, I will be background noise to rebellious thoughts.

And though I wisely warn them not to use the street as a playground, or they’ll be killed; and though I patiently explain why snails live in mobile homes, and I give endless answers to life’s other mysteries; and though I have faith that can remove mountains of ignorance — yet never hug my children — I have taught nothing.

And though I slave over a steaming stove with balanced diets and complicated recipes and even burn my fingers — yet never smile as I serve — I have not really fed them.

A truly loving mother suffers through unfinished sentences, clutter, nicks on furniture, sleepless nights and adolescent insults, and is kind enough to think her kids are the greatest. A loving mother tries not to resent her children for being free like she used to be, and she doesn’t brag about how she never talked to her mom that way.

Real love: considers a childish nightmare more urgent than her need for sleep; is not shattered by the title “Meanest Mom”; doesn’t shame a toddler who breaks training or a teen who still spills milk; steadfastly refuses to entertain visions of escape; and does not smirk as her child trips over the toy he refused to put away (but with silent wisdom rejoices in the effective lessons of experience).

Mother-love has arms strong from lifting, a heart large with believing, a mind stretched with hoping, shoulder soft with enduring, and knees bent with committing.

True mother-love never fails to point her child to the Author of Love.

Almost four decades later, these words ring true to me as I strive to be a better mom, slow to anger and quick with patience.

Hidden between page 28 and 29, I found a stack of half-used stickers — gold stars I assumed were used on our childhood chore charts.

I asked my mom what the stars were for and her reply was golden. Those stars weren’t for children who made their beds, they were for other moms. She handed them out to moms after a giving a pep talk for motherhood to make them feel appreciated.

mom gold stars

They are many more gold stars left to be handed out today. And with this Mommipop story, I’d like to pass them out to you, moms, who need a mental break and a message of appreciation.

A mom’s work may never be done and may not feel valued at every moment. But a mom’s worth is as good as gold. My mom told me so.


  1. Nancy Benefiel Bode

    Today is MY baby’s 30th birthday. My one and only. This is a paragraph that I would sometimes read on frustrating days. It is still bookmarked today:

    Be glad and honored that your baby needs you so much. He is probably the only person in the world who will love you 100 per cent without criticism or reservation. Enjoy his company; he is probably the only person in the world who always wants to be with you and would never prefer anyone else. Make him feel good and let him make you feel good, too. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
    — from “Your Baby & Child” by Penelope Leach

    from one of the Worland Kid-birds (Nancy Benefiel Bode)

  2. Heather Long

    “Slow to anger, quick to patience” is my motto too. The reality is what makes motherhood the ultimate journey in life! Wouldn’t trade it for anything. Great read Emily!

    1. emilypmiller

      Yes, a great motto to live by! I’ve been repeating the phrase all day. I figure if I say it enough times, I’ll start living it! Thanks so much for taking time to read and reply. It means the world.

  3. Tamara Bogue Voris

    Mottos and Love: Love reading your thoughts Em! Your babies are so lucky to have you and you them! The generational “mother love” continues….as it has for eons. How great it would be to see and understand that “mother love” as it was/is personalized backward through time and Emily-Valerie-Agnes-Mary-etc.-etc.-etc.-etc. As for mottos, my refrigerator motto was: “process over product.” Translated: It was more important (in the long run) HOW the shoes were put on than that the shoes were put on at all. Fun and love for a little one trumps agenda, calendar, and time. Putting that emphasis and mindfulness in play when and where ever possible in a Mom’s busy day is the challenge. It was about “being there” and living the love.

    1. emilypmiller

      Brilliant! Patience and mother love seems to come so naturally to you. And I often think about your mom, Marge, and how patient and loving she was too. It definitely flows from one generation to another!
      How thought-provoking to think “process over product”! I often thought the reverse in my career life so it’s definitely a mind shift. Thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom and your loving, patient example too!

  4. Tamara Bogue Voris

    The Power of Love & our Capacity for it: When you think of it…the power of generational mother-love that you were directly and indirectly exposed to and potentially, culturally and instinctually absorbed, can be seen in the shear numbers of generational mothers: Emily=1(Val), 2(Agnes, Stella), 4(Mary, ?,?,?,), 8(????????), 16(????????????????), 32(????????????????????????????????), 64( ), 128( ), 256( ) -etc, -etc, -etc. to almost an infinity (in our comprehension)…need some thinking time here. An iota of the love that might pass on from that long generational line and is potentially absorbed culturally & instinctually……..makes one imagine how great the capacity for love that may reside within our characters. Limitless… Note to self: may we continue to pass on that power of love. p.s.Thanks for your patience as I am not a mathematician. Keep up the great work!

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