Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Your Mother’s Dreams

Image by Taymaz Valley, via Flickr
When ghostwriting a memoir, I ask my clients a lot of questions. One of my favorite questions is about their mothers. I ask them: Do you know what your mom as a little girl wanted to be when she grew up? Do you know if she achieved her dreams? Mothers are so basic, so necessary to life, that we often take them for granted and see them only in relation to ourselves. But they too have individual lives with their own dreams and aspirations. The replies I get sometimes sadden me, sometimes gladden me. And them.

To get them talking, I share details about my own mother’s aspirations to illustrate. My mom wanted to be a fashion designer. She grew up during the Depression, in a small mountain town, population around 300. All the ladies in town made their own clothes, and those clothes were made for utility and hard wear, not style. Little girls literally wore flour sacks to school, and one of those little girls was my mom. When she got to be a teenager, one of her favorite jaunts was to take the bus to the “big city” and flip through the fashion magazines in a drugstore. Then when she got home, she’d fill page after page with her own designs, trying as best she could to capture the style and glamour of the magazine models.

Mom didn’t get to follow her dream of fashion design. Instead she opted for housewife and motherhood. But let me tell you, she was a magician when it came to making paper dolls for me and my little girlfriends. What fabulous clothes those dolls had! I was famous all over the neighborhood because of my mother. I hope our heartfelt appreciation helped to ease the ache of not becoming a fashion designer. I think it must have, because when I think of her drawing those paper doll clothes, I remember her as always laughing.

Writing about your mother is such a fruitful exercise.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 12 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 45 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I removed and reposted my comment because I had left out a couple words that added to the sense of what I was saying.

    The really neat takeaway in this post, for me at least, is that we can realize our dreams in very different ways. Your mom may never have been a fashion designer in the usual sense, but her laughter as she designed paper-doll clothes for you and your friends surely grew out of that dream. She obviously enjoyed what she was doing, and she created a fabulous memory for you. Albeit not a typical realization of her dream, it was a win-win for both of you.

  3. My mother quit school in the eighth grade to help support her family. She worked in a shoe factory her whole life. I'm sure she had other dreams and aspirations, but she could never look beyond her station. Her wish for me was to be a secretary in the shoe factory. I chose to go to college, and she, in the end, was proud of me for rising to heights she never considered for herself.

  4. This is a very timely post for me as I go through the third draft of a book I have been writing about my mother's life. I have been working with Kathryn Craft in the developmental phase of this writing, and she had me asking the same question, "What was my mother's dream for herself." Thanks for the reinforcement, Kim.

    And I love the story about the paper dolls. My mother loved to draw and color, and I remember her sitting with my sister and I and drawing on the margins of our coloring books.


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