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Fayette-Mom: How Elizabeth Edwards shaped my life as mom

Posted December 7, 2010 1:11 p.m. EST

I can’t stop thinking about Elizabeth Edwards.

Truth be told, I have long been fascinated with her life, not because of the political ambition, the wealth, the power, or the scandal. It is instead her role as mother that has meant the most to me, has had the most influence on my life.

I read “Saving Graces” when I was knee deep in diapers and baby formula, trying to shift gears from the fast-paced life of a career woman to the comparatively slow-as-snails existence of a parent to a newborn. Edwards’ memoir, at times a love letter to her deceased son, introduced me to the idea of parenting with purpose.

She labored over what to teach her children about the world, how to show her kids the impact just one person can have on their surroundings. She put careful thought into the books they should read, the activities to which they should devote their time.

Long before her cancer diagnosis, Edwards wrote letters for her kids to read later in life, detailing what she hoped they would look for in a spouse. Her devotion to her children is not unique. We all, as mothers, love our kids more than anything. It’s how Edwards translated those feelings into action that pushed me to look beyond the everyday details that clutter a parent’s mind and focus on the bigger picture, on just what kinds of people I wanted my children to become. To put it simply, Elizabeth Edwards made me a better mother.

What must it be like to know that your days are numbered? It’s a reality we all share, but I can’t imagine how one feels when faced with a definitive answer. And for a mother to realize she will leave behind her young children? It’s unfathomable.

My heart breaks for Elizabeth Edwards. Because I have followed her story, I know how important legacy is to her — she writes with great admiration of the lessons imparted to her by her parents, and of what she hopes her kids will learn from her own life.

She is an accomplished lawyer, a best-selling author and a celebrated activist, but I will always remember Elizabeth Edwards as the mother who inspired me to make every day with my kids count. I hope she knows what an impact she had made for so many.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.