When prompted to write in celebration of care-giving women, I had to seriously contemplate who I would write about. I truly have so many women in my life that deserve celebration in this capacity.
I was conflicted. I didn’t want to be cliche. I didn’t want to boast. I didn’t want to take anything away from whomever I was writing about. So, I put it aside for a day or two. This morning, the answer came to me, clearly. And so, I shall introduce you to “Yvonne”.
I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Yvonne’s human-ness for as long as I can remember. The youngest of 3 children in a relatively poor, single parent family, she was forced into caregiving at an early age. She and her siblings often fended for themselves while their mother worked very hard to provide them with the necessities of life, while molding them into wonderful, caring people. Yvonne witnessed things, as some children do, that she shouldn’t have, but her experiences as a young person armed her with the compassion and bravery required to live the beautiful life she has.
Yvonne attended university, with the “rite of passage” trip to Europe thrown into the middle ( which required immense bravery) , and upon her return, earned her degree in Education. She meant to be a teacher. She didn’t follow that occupation in the intended manner, but has ended up being an educator all of her life.
She married, had a child, divorced - a mutual decision by her and her husband when they both discovered that she was not fully living in the marriage the way she was entitled to live. In making that decision, they both educated each-other about love, ironically....and beautifully. They remain good friends. She has embraced his new family with the level of caring she shows her own blood.
While trying to gain some experience, she volunteered at a local non profit organization focused on giving children a safe place to hang out after school and at night. She was soon offered a job. Faced with the obligations of a child’s needs, and despite being friends with her ex - not getting the financial assistance she was entitled to - she took the job and ended up working with disadvantaged kids in higher risk neighborhoods for nearly 30 years.
Yvonne made a small impact on thousands of kids, and a huge impact on hundreds. Even though she was the very busy director of many of the organizations’ clubs over the years, she never passed up an opportunity to play basketball or floor hockey with the kids or welcome them into her office for a pep-talk or a catch up. The children that attended the club were never intimidated by her. In fact, they wanted her around. She was fun, without being irresponsible, and firm without being someone they feared.
Her home was a safe place for her child’s friends to visit. They knew that they could come there to sit,hang out, talk or be quiet - sometimes just to get away from the verbal, emotional or physical abuse that they endured at home and at school. Yvonne never interfered unless there was a legal obligation to, and I believe that is why they felt safe coming to spend time at her house, even if her child (their friend) wasn’t home.
Interestingly enough, her work with other people’s children took her away from her own. Her child was a “latchkey” kid, who fended for them self, and despite opportunities, stayed mostly out of trouble, formed solid & meaningful friendships and was an eager and intelligent student. Her child didn’t resent Yvonne’s absence as they too, were independent and could visit mom at work and enroll in programs there, but often chose not to, finding other constructive ways to fill their time.
Her child never felt unloved or uncared for, as Yvonne had the gift of ensuring that her child knew that every waking minute of Yvonne’s existence and contribution to society was to ultimately provide the necessities and a better world for her child. Her child did and still does admire and respect the wonderful role model that is their mother.
Yvonne often overlooked her own well-being for others. She would push aside time that she could have spent on herself, dealing with an issue at work-ultimately helping someone else out. She never bought herself new clothes and often looked disheveled because she was always consumed with providing love, guidance and encouragement to those around her. No one noticed her neglected appearance because all they could see was her heart.
After almost 30 years at her job, she changed organizations. She now works in the administration of a special needs school. There, she cares for the travel needs of the staff and is the spokesperson for the school when her presence is required. It’s no surprise that she is loved an appreciated there.
Yvonne has a way about her, not often seen. She is about 5’4 and as strong as an ox, physically, mentally and emotionally, while possessing an incredibly gentle soul. People absolutely love her, often asking after her when she is not around. Babies melt easily into her caring arms - even youngsters that haven’t met her before. People have told me stories about how her caring set change to a course in their life. Her friends’ eyes light up when we discuss Yvonne. I have never heard an ill word spoken about her.
She earned respect from her family, friends and peers in a gentle way. She loves fiercely, yet subtly. She is a best friend. She is an amazing mother. She is a phenomenal woman. She is an extraordinary human being.
Yvonne is also my biggest hero because she introduced me to so many women care-givers that have inspired my growth in my own life. These are the women that competed with her, in my mind, as the celebrated ones.
Specifically, she introduced me to women that molded who I am today. They helped create my positive belief systems and cared for me when my mother wasn’t around.
She introduced me to her close women friends, my grandmother, and most importantly to myself.
“Yvonne” is my mother.
-Submitted by Womentum Founder, Lana Wright