During Engineer’s Week in February, I wrote about four inspirational women who led me to become an engineer. These women showed me that nothing stood in my way of accomplishing anything, except for myself. They showed me that engineering was a possibility for me, if I chose to pursue it. Three of the women were professional engineers, one was a lawyer, but all four had pursued and excelled in male dominated fields.
For mother’s day, I am writing about a woman who was not a professional for most of my life, but was the most influential woman in my life. This woman is my mother.
Happy Mother’s Day: To the Woman who Inspired me the Most
My mom was born into a Mexican immigrant family, and was the fifth child out of a total of eight kids. For most of her life, she grew up in a one bedroom dirt floor house my grandfather had built. They had a small farm, not to grow food to sell, but to have food to eat. They did not have toys, but plenty of siblings and cousins to play with. They did not have TV, but a lot of outdoor places to play. My mom grew up literally dirt poor, but she says she never knew it. She was always clean, had food to eat, and clothes to wear, so she figured they were doing pretty well. But she always had a drive to strive for more.
During high school my mom attended beautician school, and started cutting hair to earn money. She continued to go to work as a beautician through high school, and was the first of the eight kids to graduate from high school. Her siblings before her had left school around eighth grade to go to work. After graduating from high school, she continued on to junior college to study business. After getting her degree, she became a secretary at a large oil and gas company. All of these are great accomplishments and inspirational, especially considering the humble upbringing she came from. But she did not stop there. While she worked, she also bought a house for her parents, gave her youngest brother a car, and helped her younger siblings pay for college. Purchasing cars and houses were not things women did without a husband in the mid 60’s! But my mom didn’t care about those societal norms.
I didn’t understand how extraordinary these accomplishments where as a kid. I heard these stories about my mom’s life, and I just thought that everyone’s mother had done these things. It wasn’t until high school that I realized how much of an inspiration she truly was.
I’m not really sure where this drive came from my mom. I mean, she didn’t have the advantages I had. I had plenty of examples of women who showed me that nothing stood in my way. She did not. She was not unhappy with the way she grew up either. I think she just has a thirst for knowledge and education, something she stressed with my sister and me growing up. She taught us that God was number one, then family, then school, and all else (especially extra curricular activities) fell somewhere later.
While my sister and I grew up, she was, as I call it, a “career stay at home mom”, meaning she made being a stay home mom a career. She led bible studies and established PTOs. She was a manager, leader, and entrepreneur, though she never received any money from these endeavors. She did them because they needed to be done. People needed to be taught the bible. Parents needed to be involved in their children’s education. But she was also always there for me and my sister. She was there after school to help us with our homework. In fact, up until I reached pre-calculus, my mom was the one who helped me with math. She never expressed a fear of math or science, but instead showed me they were straight forward and interesting. She chaperoned, taught, drove, and did whatever my sister and I needed from her to make sure we could be successful. She never did the work for us, but instead set us up for success.
Perhaps the most inspirational act my mom did was something she did for herself, and not expressly for her kids. When I graduated from high school, my mom decided she wanted to get her full four year degree. She had put a lot of emphasis on my sister and I graduating from college, and she wanted to follow through herself. So, at the age of 52, my mom started college at one of THE largest and competitive universities in our state. Most people didn’t understand why it was so important to her. But I did. She was following through with what she had taught her girls. Education is important, no matter what life brings you. So after raising her family and supporting her husband’s career for 25 years, it was time for her to finish what she had started.
I now understand why my dad’s suggestion to pursue engineering didn’t scare me. I had many examples of amazing women who showed me nothing was impossible. And most importantly, his wife and my mother had been the strongest example in my life of a truly strong woman who could do well for herself, but chose her family. I do believe that when you look around, we can all find these examples. It could be a neighbor, a relative, or a teacher, but they are there. Find those who inspire you, and remember their example. It will change your perspective of this world.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for your example.