Parenting

An ode to my second mother

With Mother’s Day this weekend, Katie wants to take a minute to say thank you to an important person in her life.

Katie's daughter Sophie makes a Mother's Day card.

I was a lucky girl growing up: I had three siblings and never wanted for a playmate (although I did want to be an only child for one day, more on that later); I had a huge backyard, a friendly (if somewhat territorial) border collie, and a wicked tree house; schools I loved with teachers who challenged me; and a close-knit extended family big on laughter, quick wit, a little sarcasm and a lot of love. It doesn’t get much better, really.
 
I was especially lucky for the women role models in my life. I have an amazing mother, who insisted I be a participant in my own story, rather than just a bystander; I have a true matriarch for a grandmother (who is still incredibly stylish at 81); and I have brilliant, successful, determined aunts who have forever been what I aspire to be. As our online managing editor Nadine would say, they are my “avengers” — the superheroes in my life who have always nurtured, protected and pushed me.
 
But while I’ve written before about the female force from which I come, I wanted to take a minute to write about someone else, outside of my family, who is as important to me as a relative. A woman who scolded me, encouraged me, laughed with me, and celebrated with me for my entire life. She’s the woman I call my “other mother.”
 
Joanne lives across the street from my mom and dad. She and her husband Dave lived in two different houses on our street, with their three kids (who made our childhood years so much more fun) — one kitty-corner to the house I grew up in, and then one just across the street where they still live now. I don’t know when Jo became more than just a neighbour; she is one of my mom’s closest friends (my mom says she’s her “sister of the heart”), and she was the go-to when my parents needed a hand quickly, so maybe it was this way from the beginning. I remember the night that border collie I mentioned was hit by a car and broke her leg. It was Joanne that stayed with us while my parents took Maggie to the vet. Joanne was the only non-family member we were allowed to get into a car with, without her having the secret stranger-danger password. She has just always been there.
 
She became even more important to me when I was in university. When I really started to struggle with anxiety, my mom suggested I also talk to Jo. She listened without judgment, and never made me feel like I should be ashamed of how I felt. As an adult and a mother now, I respect that I wasn’t even her kid and she always seemed able to make time for me. I guess it’s no surprise that I’m always as excited to share news with Joanne as I am with my mom: when I got my first magazine job at Chatelaine, when I got engaged, when I got pregnant. (She was the only person outside of my family who knew for the first 12 weeks.)
 
I wore Jo’s bracelet on my wedding day, as my “something borrowed.” I suppose it was completely fitting, given that she has been my lifelong “something borrowed.” I would not be the woman I am without her, and I just thought she should know. With Mother’s Day around the corner, it seemed the best time. So — in addition to love sent out to my mom Vikki and my aunts — Happy Mother’s Day, Jo, and thank you. I only hope my friends can be for Sophie what you’ve always been for me.