A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Mother Knows Best: 16 Wisest Pieces of Advice We Ever Got from Mom

Whether your mom is still with you or not, her pearls of wisdom will always ring true.

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Just like the oxygen mask on an airplane…

“Always feed yourself first, so you have the strength to feed your children.” —Esther’s bubbe. “My grandmother passed this on to my mom, who passed it onto me. It is a translation from Yiddish: Shtendik kormen zikh ershter azoy ir hobn di shtarkayt tsu kormen eyer kinder.–Esther Gurien Krutzel, Brooklyn, New York

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Take that!

“People are who they are, and we don’t live their lives for them. Live and let live. Everyone deserves happiness.” —Alice Chan, Hong Kong. “When people would wonder out loud why I was gay, this is what my mother would always say to them.” —David Eng, New York, New York

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Yes, Virginia, there really is a (Cuban) Santa Claus

“Everyone should have a Latin lover, once in their life.” —Alice Chan, Hong Kong, about her brief, first marriage to a Cuban man, which was admittedly more about lust than love to her curious son, David Eng.

These hilariously bad pieces of advice are the opposite of what you need.

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My son, the biologist

“If you open it, close it. If you turn it on, turn it off. If you take it out, put it back. If you empty it, fill it. If you fill it, empty it.” —Kathryn Malter, St. Paul, Minnesota. Mrs. Malter shared this with her son Henry, a laboratory director, who uses a version of her advice as work rules for his staff.

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Better find a better security system

“You can lock your door against a thief, but you can’t lock your door against a liar.” —Gertrude Duffy Neail, Glen Cove, New York. To her daughter, Pamela Neail Thomas

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Silence is golden

“The world is full of people all too eager to put you down. Don’t join the chorus and say bad things about yourself, to yourself. Your soul is listening.” —Sepora Hacohen, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Let it rain

“Never forget your umbrella” —Ruth Kagan, Brooklyn, New York. “My mother always used to say this. She meant it literally, and figuratively. For her, and eventually for me, it was about being prepared for whatever life decides to rain down upon your head. I say the same thing to my daughter over, and over again.” —Sepora Hacohen, Tel Aviv, Israel

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You, not you

“Don’t marry someone because of who you think you can turn them into. If you don’t like who they are now, marry someone else.” —Kaneesha Williams, Dallas, Texas

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Make me a grandma already

“Your biological clock is ticking, son.” —Mary D’Angelo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here’s how to say “grandma” (and “grandpa”) around the world.

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Wallflowers need not apply

“It’s OK to be shy, but it’s not OK to never try.” —Deb Capone, Montauk, New York. Here are 11 quotes about mothers that will make you want to call yours.

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To thine own self…

“The universe wants you to be happy, so don’t waste time being anything other than what you are.” —Sepora Hacohen, Tel Aviv, Israel

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It’s fun until someone loses an eye

“Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you should.” —Mary Leonard Whelan, Debary, Florida

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Never do this

“Never say never, because never always means maybe.” —Cathy Cammallere, Brooklyn, New York

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Push it not

“Every relationship takes compromise, but don’t push down parts of yourself to make your relationship work. It takes two equal people to be partners, not one person, and one half-person.” —Preya Patel Silverstein, Los Angeles, California.

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Put a lid on it

“There’s a lid for every pot.” —Donna’s grandma. “My grandmother, who was a very proper lady, used to say this and it really stuck with me. I know this was a fairly common saying, but it made me think that everyone, no matter how weird they were, had a mate out there somewhere.” —Donna Cicale, Dover, Delaware

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Potty mouth

About potty training: “She will not walk down the aisle wearing diapers.” —Charlotte Parker, Mineola, New York. “My mother gifted this one to me. At the time, I was struggling with my first child, a little girl, who refused to learn to use the potty. My mom would say either that quote, or, ‘She will not go to kindergarten wearing diapers.’ Clearly, she knew more than I did!” —Donna Cicale, Dover, Delaware

Corey Whelan
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer and reproductive health professional who has worked with infertility patients and adopting parents for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in multiple media outlets, including Reader’s Digest, The Healthy, Healthline, CBS Local, and Berxi. Follow her on Twitter @coreygale.