The following is a reprint of a post I wrote about my mom for International Women's Day a few years back. I think it works for Mother's Day, too.
Here's a picture of me and my mom. I'm sharing it because it's International Women's Day [Edit: Actually it's Mothers' Day], and she's had a profound influence on me as a writer, and more importantly, as a man.
My mom grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario, and when she was young, her parents told her to aspire to work at the cosmetics counter at Sears as a career. Nothing wrong with that, but my mom wanted something different.
She moved away from home, went to university. Got her teaching degree and taught at a school for blind kids for a while before going back to school, med school this time, and getting her MD.
She gave birth to me and my brothers in the final years of her residency. Then, while raising three boys, she worked as an accomplished forensics pathologist (and later general pathologist) all across the country, finally becoming the Director of Laboratory Medicine for the province of Prince Edward Island. She retired in December and is finally taking a well-deserved break.
[Edit: Right now she's actually back working part time in the hospital again, but she says she's retiring for good this summer!]
I'm sharing her story because it has always inspired me. I'm sure her parents didn't mean to limit her by suggesting she aspire to work in retail, but I think it's emblematic of the subtle ways in which we as a society dissuade girls and women from reaching their potential.
Writing as a young man, it was always tempting to write female characters as fantasy figures (we all know the types). What has kept me grounded, though, is the desire to do right by women like my mom, my partner, and the many, many accomplished and strong women I'm lucky to know.
I won't pretend to write perfect female characters, but it's something I strive for and take very seriously, and something I'll continue to keep in my mind. It's important to me as a writer, and as a human being on this planet.
Thanks for reading. Happy Mothers' Day.
PS: I have to shout out my dad, too. He's a remarkably accomplished man himself, but it should tell you a lot about him as a person that he wound up with three feminist sons in a family that was 80 percent male.