When my daughter Cathy was in grade school, she wanted me to be “a chocolate chip cookie mom” like her friends’ moms who had cookies waiting on flowery plates when they got home. I was hardly that. Divorced and struggling to be “mom and dad”, I woke up at 5 and stayed up till my pen squiggled meaningless marks on the page! Unlike those “stay-at-home moms” who had “go-to-work dads”, I was working to make a living, take care of the three of us, and be the best parent I could... all at the same time. But how?
When I was a girl, my mom was an alcoholic and my dad was a workaholic so I knew I couldn’t go on automatic and do what they did. What could I do to help my children succeed? When I began my career as a researcher at NIH, I committed to shadowing Highly Successful People (HSPs) so I could discover the skills they were using, and start using them myself. I had just initiated my research when my husband was offered a job that was too good to refuse and we moved out of the area… and away from my job. A few years later my husband and I divorced and the reality of being a single mom set in. I would have to put my research on the back burner and devise a new plan. I decided to go back to school to earn a teaching certificate. Working in my daughters’ school would mean we would have the same schedule, plus holidays and summers off together!
Sad to say, my girls could only understand how my plan affected them at the time. They were the only kids who wore house keys around their necks so they could let themselves in after school, eat a snack and watch TV till I got home. They couldn’t yet see how my “being a different kind of mom” would help them in the future. As they grew, I was able to devote more and more time to my research. Over the years since then, I shadowed HSPs, developed and taught The Technology of Success Training in over 3,000 corporations across the country.
When my daughter Margaret finished college, she went to work for The Upjohn Company. One morning her director called to ask me to speak at their regional sales conference. After we pinned down where and when, he said he had something special to tell me. "We will be honoring your daughter Margaret as our top sales rep that day. When we told she won, we asked what her secret was. She said it was the 10 Success Skills that you discovered Highly Successful People use consistently, the 10 Success Skills Margaret saw you use her whole life. We want you to teach your skills to rest of our team. There’s just one thing… we don't want them to know you're Margaret’s mom till it's over." I chuckled and agreed.
At the end of the day, I was standing in a crowd of participants when I heard her director announce, “I’ve asked our award winner Margaret Collins to say a few words.” And my younger daughter slowly stood up and pointed her finger straight at me, "That's my mom!" The room went silent for a moment and then everyone shouted, “No fair, Margaret. No wonder you won!” You’re lucky that your mom taught you the Success Skills we all need!
Fortunately life is long and our childhood perspectives continue updating as we become breadwinners, parents and spouses. Cathy is happily married and has never personally experienced the pain of divorce or of supporting her family and parenting alone, but some of her close friends have. When she began seeing her “chocolate chip cookie” days from a new perspective, her old childhood disappointments started melting away. We giggled that she had become a “chocolate chip cookie mom” herself. Cathy is known for nurturing everyone who needs it with a tray of her now-famous vegan chocolate chip cookies.
This Mother’s Day, as Cathy’s son was about to graduate from college and her friends were finally living new and fulfilling lives, Cathy texted me an even more up-to-date perspective, “You are a great mom. Thank you for all of your sacrifices. I know there were many. I love you.”
And I cried. I had always hoped this day would come, and it had.
Susan Ford Collins is the Founder and President of The Technology of Success and author of The Joy of Success (#1 Best Seller Kindle), Success Has Gears, and Our Children Are Watching. “Susan Ford Collins is America’s Premier Success and Leadership Coach”- CNN.