Growing up I never once questioned that a woman would have a passion and a career of her own. It never even dawned on me. Because my mom had “grit” (passion and perseverance in the pursuit of goals) before it was a thing.

Only once I was older did I realize just how lucky I was to be raised by such a determined, passionate and dedicated woman.

I was 7 my mom went back to school. At the time I resented the boring sandwiches made in assembly then stored in the freezer minimizing week-day prep. I didn’t understand, nor did I appreciate the thought and consideration that went into making sure things moved like clockwork as she pursued her dream to become a teacher. Nor did I fully comprehend just how much effort it took on her part to not only be a full time student, but also keep things running (relatively) smoothly at home.

But what I know now is that my Mom was teaching me three of my most important life lessons:

  1. It’s never too late to follow your dreams.
  2. You can do it all (with a few sacrifices, and a village).
  3. Speak your truth – even if you’re alone at first.

It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Up until I was 7 my mom was primarily a stay at home Mom. But when she was 40 a move to a University town meant she could finally go back to school and pursue her dream to become a teacher. True to form (my Mom has NEVER done anything half-heartedly as far as I can remember) she continued on after her Bachelors of Education and earned her Masters of Education (with honours) then became a supervisor of other young teachers in training.

She went on to have a 20+year career as a teacher who was adored by her students and admired by her colleagues.

She wasn’t just a teacher. She was an educator.

She put her heart and soul into her classroom. She was a passionate and dedicated mentor to her students. And an advocate in her school. Whenever I saw her with colleagues I could tell just how admired she was – and it made me so proud. I didn’t have the words for it back then, but I do now. It’s only upon reflection I can really acknowledge her dedication and commitment.

She retired over 10 years ago and still bumps into colleagues and students who want to stop and speak with her. That’s lasting impact.

Following my dreams and making a lasting impact are what drive me in my business today. Five years ago I was at a cross-roads. Take a safe and comfy corporate health contract or start my own business. Because of my Mom I knew which path to take. I followed my passion and my purpose – and I could not be more grateful. Creating a lasting impact doing something you love – there is no greater gift in a career!

You can do it all (with a few sacrifices, and a village).

As a now-40-year old, thinking back to the era and just the work and sacrifice it took for her to go back to school astounds me. She gave up a lot to make it happen.

I remember her sitting at her little grey circa 1985 Apple computer for hours, tucked in a corner of their master bedroom working away. First on assignments, then on her Masters Thesis, and then on beautifully thought out detailed lesson plans and units for her students. She put her heart into it. And it showed. But it came at a cost.

Mom didn’t spend a lot of time on frivolous things. She didn’t have time. I don’t ever really recall her sleeping in or doing things like getting her nails done. She was focused on family and her students. Committed to working as a unit to keep our family chugging. Making healthy meals for us (even if we groan about the redundancy of yet another dinner of salad with imitation crab and yogurt for dessert …they were healthy, fresh and we were incredibly lucky). Making sure my sister and I got to all our various activities and helped with schoolwork while Dad worked long hours in his job. It was a lot.

Mom also had “a village” before that was a thing. Mom-friends who carpooled and neighbours who we exchanged cups of flour with and also helped make sure us kids were in check when she wasn’t home.

I’m grateful beyond words that she role modelled what being a working Mom looked like.

I will say that my Dad was an equal partner (go Dad!). He was often seen to be doing laundry, ironing and picking up groceries. Never did I see them argue about who should do what around the house – they just worked as a team to get it done. I guess I have them both to thank for that!

But while I remember the blessed freezer sandwiches, carpooling and hours of Mom at the computer, I also remember beautiful family moments. The hours she’d spend preparing beautiful holiday meals. The way she’d make sure every birthday party and celebration was truly unique and special. Family games or movie nights. Those are the memories I cherish. Mom knew when it mattered most.

As an entrepreneur and Mom of two young boys myself now – I come back to this lesson regularly. Know what matters. Make it your priority.

Speak your truth, even if you’re alone at first.

It’s because of my Mom that I’ve never been afraid to take the road less traveled. To pursue my passion for health and fitness – and speak my mind about what I think needs to change about the industry I love.

My Mom’s Masters Thesis and passion was around helping girls see themselves as scientists. At it’s core it was a feminist conversation with the intent to break down the gender barriers within science.

Her work was ahead of it’s time. She’d never call it that – but it was innovative.

She had students draw a picture of a scientist both before and after completion of a science unit. At the beginning most of the pictures were of males with crazy hair in white lab coats. By the end the scientists varied in age, gender and many of them looked like the child drawing them. Mom gave her students a new lens with which to view science. I have no doubt that lesson was transformative for many of her students.

Just like my Mom I’m passionate about changing the conversation. To give people a different lens with which to view the world – and hopefully make it a better place in doing so. But speaking my truth and raising conversations no one really wants to have can be lonely. Being innovative can be lonely. But because of my Mom – I know it’s worth it.

Without my Mom paving the way – I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m stronger, more passionate, more determined and a heck of a lot more innovative and resilient because of her.

And I could not be more grateful.