Unexpected Life Lessons I Learned from My Mom

Sometimes Mom really does know what's right for you, even when she seems to be making all the wrong moves.

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If you had ever asked me what my mom would still be able to teach me in my forties, I'd have guessed it might be how to handle a moody teenager or poach a perfect egg. But how to have multiple men waiting their turn to kiss the ground you walk on? Mom wouldn't have been my go-to source for that trick.

It started when she called me with the news that, at 62, she had separated from my stepdad after 18 years. "Don't worry," I said. "I'll help you meet a new guy on Match.com." I'd been on the site since breaking up with my longtime boyfriend a few years earlier and was well prepared to educate her about dating in the 21st century. After all, I knew the best clothes to wear on a date (soft pastel sweaters). I knew the best body language for signaling that I was "open" (lean back, feet pointing toward him). I knew the perfect way to encourage a guy who'd proposed a date ("I love a man with a plan").

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I sent Mom some of my favorite relationship-skills CDs. I should have known my advice was falling on deaf ears when I found them on the floor of her car. She was listening to songs from Glee instead. I worried she would get hurt. Her approach to dating, after all, went like this…

She asked men out at the last minute. Mom once emailed a guy about a Saturday-night date—at four o'clock that afternoon! Her reasoning: "If we all had something to do on Saturday night, we wouldn't be on Match.com."

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She opened with her flaws. She admitted to men who were looking for "fit" women that she was "a little more on the squishy side," followed by "LOL."

She flirted. Shamelessly. I actually saw her type: "I enjoyed your profile. So are you a good or a so-so kisser?"

Now I was sure she'd end up heartbroken. I braced myself for her first teary phone call. Instead I got this text: "OMG! I have three guys who want to be my boyfriend!"

My mother was generous and authentic, and men loved her for it. As I watched her laugh her way through the process, it dawned on me that I had been so anxious to follow the rules for finding love that I'd forgotten the most basic one: to be myself.

So I decided to follow her lead: I asked guys out. I sent them emails with links to funny stories without worrying about seeming "too eager." With one promising guy, I even broached the most forbidden topic of all: how I still wanted kids, and soon. It didn't scare him off—in fact, we've been dating for over a year.

My mom has invited us to visit her and her new boyfriend this summer. "This one's a keeper," she says. "We are always laughing. There are no insecurities. No games." Score one for the single ladies. And thanks, Mom.

Moms Are Also Right About…

Driving and decisions: "My mother taught me to never trust another car's blinker—a lot of people don't know where they're going!—and to always keep my wheels straight until the moment I'm ready to turn. It's helped me think carefully before I make any big move, not just on the road."—Chrissie, 35

Wedding presents: "My mother always told me, 'Never buy a couple one of 12 place settings for their wedding; get the serving dish. Then they'll think of you every time they use it.'" —Marisa, 46

Tough Love (and Vitamins): "When I was a kid, my mom's just-deal-with-it attitude resulted in a lot of fighting. Mom: 'Swallow the vitamin!' Me: 'But it's gigantic!'Mom: 'Just take it and don't think about it.' Her horse-pill approach to life stuck with me: Forging ahead through adverse circumstances became second nature. That said, my kids get liquid vitamins!" —Ellen, 46

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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