This Mother’s Day, I’d like to celebrate the women who loved, mentored, and supported me despite having no blood relation—the moms who aren’t Mom.
I bet you’ve known some women like this at different points in your life, maybe a teacher, a friend’s mother, or a mentor at work. I had the best biological mother a girl could ask for, but there were additional, important women in my life who mothered me in their own ways.
The first was my mom’s best friend and my godmother, Franca. Like a sister to my mother, Franca is like an aunt to me, but the best aunt ever. I grew up with her kids, her daughter was my first friend, and we still spend holidays together.
Franca showed me unconditional love from the day I was born. I had no genetic claim to it, all I did was show up, and she was happy to see me. She operated on the assumption I was a great little person to be around, and it made me strive to be one.
Our relationship has become more special to me as I’ve grown older. I trust her implicitly and appreciate that I can get her advice without the pressure of a mother-daughter interaction.
She’s a great listener, because it’s not her job to have all the answers.
If Franca isn’t family, I don’t know what family is.
Sometimes you need a mom who’s completely different from your own. That was Nan, my riding instructor when I was a teenager. I was cautious, a perfectionist, the type of kid who didn’t give her mother anything to worry about. That virtue has its limits. Nan taught me to take measured risk, to step outside of my comfort zone and push my abilities. Unlike my mother, Nan didn’t think my falling off a horse was a big deal. Not because she didn’t care if I got hurt, but because she knew I’d bounce.
Under her unworried watch, I got better and braver.
Among the many life lessons Nan taught me: ask for what you want, “and mean it!” Don’t dwell on a mistake, just “collect yourself and try again.” She taught me to trust myself and value my judgment above any blue ribbon, high score, or even her praise.
I knew I’d ridden well when I heard Nan call out, “Feel the difference?”The approval I needed was my own. I haven’t ridden seriously in over a decade, but I’m still grateful for Nan’s voice in my head. Laura is my grown-up mom, by which I mean, the mom I need as an adult. Laura is a former book publicist, now my mom’s assistant and BFF. To be clear, Laura is not old enough to be my mother. But she’s wiser than I am, and I rely on her experience for everything from publishing to city living.
You’d think having a mother who’s a bestselling author is all the professional mentorship I’d need, but you’d be mistaken. She’s an Italian mother first, a writer second; she’s too biased to be of critical value. And a daughter is a daughter forever, so when my mom does give me feedback, I take it too personally, and it’s an instant fight.
Laura is objective, relatively. We love each other, but she can tell it to me straight, and most importantly, I can hear it.
She’s a font of practical knowledge. Laura knows what to say in that work email, when to call the electrician instead of the super, and when it’s high time I dump that loser. She’s the most together person I’ve ever met, and she makes me appear more together to my actual parents.
Laura is like my cheat-sheet on adulthood.
I don’t know how to properly thank or repay these women. But I do hope I can pay their love forward and be a similar, positive influence on my close friends’ children.
Rebecca, my best friend from college, has a one-year-old daughter, Nadine, whom I absolutely adore. I love watching Nadine get excited to pet Pip, and I have an iPhone full of pictures and videos of her sticking out her tongue to imitate his panting. Rebecca never had pets growing up, she jokes about having to get Nadine a dog someday, and I can’t wait to be the one to help them find the perfect pup—or pony!—or anything her little heart desires.
Just like I would love to teach Franca’s grandson to paint watercolors when he’s older. And how I can’t wait to meet my childhood best friend’s baby who arrives this fall.
If any of them grows up to be a writer, I hope they know who to call for (secretly, harmlessly biased) advice.
In whatever way these kids need me, I’ll be there for them, just like my not-mom moms were there for me.
For Franca, Nan, and Laura, being so involved in my life was a choice.
For me, it was an honor and privilege.
Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day.
Copyright Francesca Serritella 2019