In my eyes as a child, no one — not even my dad — was more powerful than my mom, who I nicknamed “The Strong Woman.” She couldn’t lift elephants with one hand like the “Strongman” at the circus who lifts weights with his nipples and animals with one hand, but her personality and presence were striking enough that when she needed to intimidate or make an impression, she sure did.
Just ask the kids I grew up next to who made the mistake of teasing me, only to find my mom outside their front doors yelling in her heavy Brooklyn accent. When you’re raised by a strong woman, there is no doubt that these 13 things will happen to you:
1. You’re the one person saying stuff that nobody wants to hear.
When you’re raised by a truth-telling, strong woman, you grow up expecting that people will want to hear and can handle hearing the truth. Guess what? Most of the times, they can’t.
One day, a boy from my high school showed two photos of babies to my mother and he said, “Yeah, those are my kids.” For some bizarre reason, this guy thought that would impress my mother, me, and our friends who were gathered in my family kitchen.
My mom said, “Hmm, with a small penis? I don’t think so. My guess is these are yaw (“your” said in Brooklyn-style) cousins and you think it’s cool to pass these kids off as yaw own.”
All of us laughed … except him. Fact was, my mom was right but did he want to be called out on his own sh*t? Nope. Now here I am as an adult woman, and when it comes time to hold back my words, I struggle.
2. You aren’t too empathetic.
While my mother is a kind listener and empathetic to people, growing up when I messed up, my mom was not always there to say, “I’m sorry.” Instead, she told me, “Boy was that stupid!”
She was right — most of the time, whatever I did was pretty stupid, but eventually, she came back around to offer the empathy to ease the sting.
I’m a very empathetic person, but I’ve grown to adopt my mother’s method: backwards. I offer empathy first and then say, “Why the heck did you do that?” in a gentler way.
I’m almost afraid sometimes to be too harsh, so I tend to sweeten that last bit of news a bit too much when more often than not, I should be direct.
3. You worry about men meeting your Mom, not your Dad.
My dad is mild-mannered in comparison to my mother. Besides, he was working a lot so when guys came to my house I didn’t worry as much about what he might think. But I sure worried about what my Mom did.
Even if my dad didn’t like someone, he wouldn’t make it as obvious as my mom would. If my mom suspected anything about a person, she directed questions, showed skepticism, and verbally disapproved if she felt it was appropriate.
The worst part was when I could see the “I can’t stand this person,” or, “I don’t believe this person’s BS” look all over my mother’s face because I knew the second that person left, I was going to get grilled.
Later on in my life, I found that I show everything on my face, and if I doubt someone I don’t hide it. It can be frustrating because sometimes, I’d like to keep my feelings under wraps. But I think people find my honesty refreshing (sometimes).
4. You learn that forgiveness is not always warranted.
My mom is stubborn and forgiveness (besides for her children) does not come easy to her. You’d think I would be the same way, but I’m actually the opposite: too forgiving. I wish I could draw the line in the sand the way she did.
In high school, a friend of mine lied to her about something I was doing that was harming me and my mom never forgave him. He turned out to be a terrible “friend” to me.
When I was in my twenties, I gave chance after chance to men who were most often abusive. I didn’t know how to cut bad people out of my life. My mom would always tell me, “Laura, people are not as honest or as genuine as you are. Trust me.”
Sadly, she was right. While I’ve gotten better, to this day it can be hard for me to let go of bad people and situations.
5. You become the intimidating woman.
I ran into my elementary school crush a few years ago and joked how he was supposed to marry me. His response? “You were always too much of a woman for me, even in third grade.”
When you’re raised by a strong alpha woman, you become one in many ways. You become the girl boys are freaked out by and the woman men are intimidated of.
You hear how men probably won’t ask you out because you scare them away. You hear you’re too “smart” or “loud.”
You wish that some days you could be a sweet little wallflower that all the men will take to, but when you realize how difficult it would be for you to change, you say “screw it” and move on.
6. You fight battles for folks who can’t fight for themselves.
At twelve years old, I punched a boy twice my size in the face because he was choking a helpless kindergartener. At twenty seven years old, on a bus back to my college I heard a man verbally abusing his wife. She sat there, quiet as a mouse and took it all. Finally, I stood up and put this man in his place.
My mom always stood up for us, whether it was neighborhood bullies, crappy teachers, or terrible boyfriends. She never shirked from anyone and taught us to fight back if we had to.
When an eighth grader smacked me in the face, and I was a little first grader, my mom told one of my older sisters, “Find her and don’t forget to take out yaw earrings first.”
7. People come to you for advice.
Despite my mom’s honesty being too much for people, they still came around to ask her for her two cents. Person after person sat at our kitchen table while my mom listened and cashed in her opinion.
Now, I’m often the one at the “kitchen table” listening and cashing in. As a writer, I get messages from strangers about their marital problems and even though I don’t know them, I still try to respond to each message.
8. You try to get people to open up to you.
My mom has always had the ability to get people to talk to her, and this is a good thing. The more people say, the more you know about them and whether you can trust them, love them … or not.
I’m the lady who strangers approach to share their life stories with while in the supermarket, nail salon, and Starbucks. For the most part, this makes my life interesting, although sometimes I wish people would just SHHH.
9. You find yourself attracted to men who are easy-going.
My mom is the feistier and hot-tempered half of my parental duo (although my dad is outgoing and funny), and when you grow up under a strong woman and become one yourself, you tend to be compelled by a man opposite of you.
A quiet or shy guy always intrigues me. Maybe it’s my mom in me wanting to get them to tell their stories, but it’s rare for me to date a man who is as extroverted as me.
10. People assume you can handle anything.
My mom took on a lot as the working mother of four girls and was seemingly indestructible despite having her own serious heartaches in life. Now, as a working mom myself going through a divorce, people often comment on how happy and positive I seem.
Of course, behind the curtains, my close friends know that I’m not always happy and not always positive, but when you are raised by a strong woman and grow up to be one, people expect you to suck it up more than they do for other people … and it can really suck.
11. You learn to cringe on the inside.
Sometimes, my mom could be too tough when delivering her “medicine,” so I learned to cringe on the inside. If she saw my disapproval it could be bad for me.
12. You find your life passions.
My mom encouraged all of us girls to fight for what we wanted and loved, even if sometimes she thought we were kooky. She let us be our unique selves.
Thanks to her, I’ve always gone after my dreams and have never shied away from attacking a goal by its teeth until I succeed.
13. You speak up for other women and value them.
Thanks to my mom and her politics, which were heavy on women’s rights, I believe in championing women no matter what the choice or cause. I support my friends and speak my mind when I think people are being sexist or shaming another woman.
I also find myself cherishing my female friends and realize how important it is for us to lift each other up.
I will never know what it’s like to be in the shadows of a meeker woman, and thankfully, since my mom raised me to be as strong as her, I have my own spotlight and will never lurk in the crowd.