Real Life Lessons I Learned (the Hard Way) from My Mom

A Tribute to a Strong Inspirational Woman

Before I begin, there are a few things I’d like for you to know about my mom. She raised four kids of her own and then in her early 50s, adopted a baby girl who is now four. She’s a full-time LPN (which she says stands for the Low Paid Nurse), loves the Beatles and red wine, and has a heart of gold. Oh, and I think the world of her.

Growing up was sort of rough. Now, this isn’t a “woe is me” sob story, but powdered milk, a trailer with no running water and custody battles were all part of my early childhood. And, out of those ashes arose mostly normal, productive citizens. As a teen, she was famous for telling me that, “she’s my mother, not my friend” and that one day I’d “understand where she’s coming from.”

Now that I’m a mother, I understand the lessons she was painstakingly trying to teach me.


If you want something, you’ve got to earn it. We didn’t have a lot of money to spare when I was growing up. Mom made it undeniably clear that if I wanted something (prom dresses, college tuition), I had to earn it. At 14, I got my first job and haven’t stopped working since. She taught me about hard work, the value of a dollar and the importance of saving.

Do the best with what you’ve got. This is a tough lesson to learn as a kid or an adult. There are so many things that we think we want: big house, fancy cars, nice clothes, cruises to far off islands and bling. “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Sheryl Crow and my mom must have been reading from the same rule book.

It’s good to be honest. Mom has always been a straight-shooter — she’ll tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. In high school, I used to try to get away with all sorts of things and got caught quite a few times. “It’s harder to remember a lie than it is the truth,” she would say. Fast forward 20 years, and I’m teaching the importance of honesty to my five year old.

There are consequences for your actions. Mom had a great deal of patience, but zero tolerance for lying, back-talking and fighting with my siblings. I also believe that she had eyes on the back of her head, because she knew everything! I spent many weeks grounded, without phone privileges or TV, and did a lot of cleaning. But eventually, I got it.

And my favorite Mom-ism …

Usta Died (yew-sta). “But, Mom, you usta let us do that,” we’d whine when we wanted to do something, yet Mom had said no. “Well, usta died,” she’d reply. Tough love?

The point is, just because we “usta” do something, doesn’t mean we can or should still do it. Sometimes we need to reevaluate what we’re doing and decide if it still makes sense. And, moms are allowed to change their minds. So, there.


Yes, Mother’s Day was yesterday, but shouldn’t it be every day? I don’t know who, what or where I would be if it weren’t for my mom. One thing is certain … I am a better person because of the lessons she taught me. It’s now my hope that I can instill some of these same life lessons upon my own daughters and that someday, when they are grown, they’ll look back with the same admiration and appreciation.

Posted in

Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jim Baptiste says

    Parents teach us so many lessons that are valuable in life, but as you say, sometimes we don’t realize it until we’re using them. – and repeating them to others


Pin It on Pinterest