Our celebration of moms continues with Vannessa Ehrlich. Born in Chile, Vannessa shared some of her challenges raising two boys, favorite memories, and most importantly, why being a mom is one of the most fulfilling parts of her life.
If your boys could describe you in four words, what would they say?
“Each kid would give a different answer. My older son might say I’m open, loving, smart, and hard working. My younger one is more sarcastic so he would probably try to be funny and say some unexpected qualities.
I asked them this same question, out of curiosity. My older son said knowledgeable, radiant, determined, and youthful. My younger son said psychology, mindset, persona, and mind. My older son pointed out that those aren’t adjectives and we all laughed. I told you he would try to say something funny.”
Speaking of funny, what’s something funny your kids do?
“I’m the only girl in a household with three boys (my husband counts as the third child). He’s set the tone and now they’re are all jokesters which means I’m the target of their sense of humor. They know I scare easily by rats, spiders, reptiles of any kind… so they love to leave “surprises” for me. A fake spider inside the washing machine, a dead rat by the garbage can, a rubbery snake inside the dishwasher—all those for me to find. They get a kick out of me jumping and screaming.”
Oh jeez, boys sometimes…comes with the territory! I think it’s safe to say that getting scared by fake spiders probably isn’t one of your favorite memories but thinking back, what is one of your favorites as a mom?
“Putting my kids to bed every night, and reading a book to them. If I close my eyes, I can see my younger son sucking his thumb, and both holding their baby blankets that I have sewed for them tightly around their baby hands.”
What an incredibly simple but special moment with your little ones. What about a favorite memory of your mom from your childhood?
“My mom worked all day so I would happily sit outside our door, waiting for her to come home. She would get off the bus on the corner at the end of the street. Before I could see her, I could hear her high heels against the pavement. Her steps were fast and light… and her presence was always followed by the scent of fresh bread because she would always buy fresh bread at the panaderia for dinner time.”
You mentioned your mom worked all day but you always had something to look forward to when she came home. How is being a mom in the U.S. different versus Chile?
“Each family is different and times are different too…but for starters, one big difference is my mom was a single mom and didn’t have a lot of money so she endured some hard times feeding, clothing, and caring for three kids.
I have luxuries here that my mom didn’t have. She had to wash clothes by hand and hang them in the backyard to dry. She would go to work by bus every day. I have a washing machine and drive my own car. She worked so much harder than I have which is why I appreciate my mother even more now. I see the sacrifices she made and how she had to go through it all alone.
In the United States, we have so many more opportunities to improve life for our kids. Free first year of community college, scholarships, and grants for hard-working students. My mom didn’t have that tool to offer us. She would feel bad for me, knowing I was a good student who loved school with the potential to excel at higher learning but she also knew it was an unattainable dream due to economic reasons.”
She sounds like such an amazing role model who put her kids first, no matter what. Who were some other strong role models in your life?
“All the strong role models in my family are women! It starts with my grandma. At 95, she takes crafting classes, goes on trips with friends, and takes loving care of her animals daily. Growing up, her house was like a playground with a variety of animals. After school, I would go to her house just to drink her special “te con leche”. It tasted like heaven. I can still close my eyes and smell the cinnamon stick she would drop in it.
My mother and aunt have been models of strength as well. I didn’t understand how strong my mother was until I had my own children and realized the sacrifices she made as a single mom of three with no money. She did an amazing job with very few resources. She taught me to stand up for myself, to be strong, and to not be a victim but a fighter. She even used to point to her own shortcomings and say, ‘Learn from my mistakes, and you do better’. She is strict but fair.
My aunt helped raise us too. She is loving beyond words and celebrates each of our achievements like we are one of her own kids. Her optimism and positive energy is contagious, even now that we are adults. She would always have a kind word even for total strangers. She showed her real strength when my cousin passed away after giving birth to her second child. Despite being devastated, my aunt was the pillar of strength for the whole family.”
Having such powerful women who lead by example makes a world of a difference in a child’s life. What’s one thing you’ve tried to teach your boys that was instilled by mom?
“I repeat to my kids the same things she would say to me growing up. I sound just like her now. The one thing she taught me that has served me well in life was to be stubborn. When I say stubbornness, I mean she taught me to never ever give up. To keep going, regardless of our circumstances and to always fight for your dreams. I’ve tried to pass that trait to my kids, not only with words but by modeling this behavior with my actions.”
Letting your actions speak louder than your words is sometimes easier said than done but you’ve had a foundation of strong women who’ve passed on invaluable lessons. What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?
“Every stage has its own challenges along the way. Trying to be the best mom can be hard sometimes. When children are little, their susceptibility to getting hurt that can be difficult for a mom. Once they become teenagers, their search for independence and sense of self can be difficult for a mom. Accepting that your babies are growing up can make you sad at times because you don’t want to let go.”
Now for the best and final question. What’s the best part about being a mom?
“It’s really hard to pinpoint just one thing since motherhood comes with a plethora of amazing moments. I guess I really enjoy when my children accomplish something in their lives, and come to me with a heartfelt hug and a ‘thank you, mom, for everything you do’. That melts my heart! Knowing that I am doing a good job to guide them fulfills my life.”
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