Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy 2011 ahead of her.
I distinctly remember calling my mother on the phone one morning after I had Easton and apologizing for everything I’d done to harass her, criticize her or simply exhaust her endless and unconditional efforts as a parent.
I was already coming to see firsthand how much she had given me — through the little gestures of sleepless nights we’d shared, the time she took to be with me and sacrifices that probably didn’t feel like sacrifices, although they were. I was becoming familiar with all she had actually done for me over the years and how much harder I’d made it for her.
My mother has come to my mind a lot lately now that I am following in her footsteps of parenthood. I am so grateful that she kept giving and giving to me despite the sometimes tough and thankless job of parenting. It’s deeply satisfying, but we all know that it ain’t easy!
Last night, Easton had a stomach bug that was working overtime. Need I say more? It was a long stretch of a night. A sort of euphoria set in as we’d doze and then awaken for the trek to the bathroom (yikes, sometimes we didn’t make it!). At some point, we moved from her room to the living room couch and then back again. At about 2 a.m., Mickey Mouse gave a grand performance which we only caught pieces of as we dozed in and out of a restless sleep.
Easton has not gotten sick very often, thankfully, so in a way there was something sweet about our clinging to each other through that long night which turned into morning. You know how they say that when you have a child all of those faded memories come to life again? I think that’s true.
I have a terrible long-term memory but since Easton entered into our lives, I have had those vivid and random recollections of my backyard, the smell of a certain afternoon, the daily path I walked to the school bus or my mother’s loving touch; they come back to me as clear as day.
As I laid with Easton last night, I remembered a particular evening where I’d eaten too many blueberries under the hot summer sun. I mainly recalled my mother’s care — the feel of Mom’s fingers caressing my hair as she brushed it out of my face and the soft tickles on my back as I moaned in her arms. That unconditional caring is what I’d come to recognize in my mother after I had my own child.
I always tell me friends who are suffering through the teen years with their kids, “Don’t worry! 30 is not that far off!” Okay, so I’ll say it … Moms rule! I can’t even fathom the added challenge of being a single mom like my mother. I tip my hat to you single ladies out there for doing it ALL with such care, grace, strength and a seemingly endless supply of time and compassion.
Like I said, it was a long night and so much came to mind as Easton and I lay together. My dear friend Tiffany popped up in my mind, for she is always my inspiration in parenting. It came to me that I should tell you, PEOPLE.com readers, about my personal mom hero.
Tiffany is a mom with real power! She has been a single parent for most of her daughter’s life and has had the distinct pleasure of getting little to no support along the way. She’s busted her butt in her career and has been an amazing parent against the odds … but she’s done something else that very few do. She’s taken her understanding and compassion for her own struggles and used that as a force to help others.
At a time when things were particularly challenging for her as a woman and mother of her then 7-year-old daughter, she was inspired to help herself by helping others. She discovered the wisdom that she could inspire herself by inspiring others. She created Shine On Sierra Leone in support of children’s education and women’s rights.
What I’ve admired most about her pursuit of offering relief to others is her desire to empower people to help themselves. She was on the cutting edge of micro loans and now has had the privilege of seeing over 3,000 women develop successful businesses. She’s seen how empowerment can change lives. Shine on Sierra Leone has transformed from a small endeavor to a tremendous organization. All this from a mom in need of some relief offering other moms some relief! I just love her and find her to be so inspiring.
Moms know how to lend a hand, don’t they? They know how to give when they have little left for themselves. And they know how to turn a little bit into a lot more, divide it and multiply it into sustenance and sustainability. Women are the world’s heartbeat. I’ve seen women create movements and change lives; whether their child’s or a strangers. Sometimes, hopefully both. Women have an inexhaustible power, it seems. And their compassion and ability to show love is tireless. Like, I said, moms rule!
It is a challenging world but there are many ways to still help each other. We must lead the way in supporting each other. Whether we go to our local women’s shelter or we reach out globally by supporting relief in Japan through the Red Cross (my charity of choice). Lending a helping hand not only empowers others but also ourselves and our kids who watch our every move. They will learn from us how to have philanthropic hearts that are full of compassion. They will learn the gift of giving that comes so naturally to us women and moms!
Let’s lead the way to a better tomorrow! If you’d like to learn more about Shine On Sierra Leone and/or The Red Cross and wish to make a contribution, please visit them online at www.shineonsierraleone.org and www.redcross.org.
– Elisabeth Röhm