Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!
What do all those people have in common? They were all men. But is that somehow representative of what it means to be a Stoic?
Far from it.
Here on Mother’s Day, let us rectify this by looking at the woman who raised one of the great figures in all of history and got very little credit for it. In Book 1 of Meditations, Marcus writes about his mother Domitia Lucilla. He writes about “her reverence for the divine, her generosity, her inability not only to do wrong but even to conceive of doing it. And the simple way she lived—not in the least like the rich.” One of Marcus’ biographers confirms that Marcus’ mother was positively unusual. Imperial Romans, were told, “while paying lip-service to the spartan austerity of republican Rome, were not notable for their self-denial; they also believed in conspicuous consumption and, by living thus while possessing such a great fortune, Domitia Lucilla was in effect distancing herself from her class’s dominant ethos.”
Yet how many people even know her name? Or the names of the countless Stoic women throughout history who raised, supported, taught, encouraged and sacrificed for their families and their country? Who better illustrates the Stoic virtues of endurance and courage, selflessness and duty than the generations of anonymous wives and mothers and daughters of Greece and Rome who suffered, who resisted tyranny, who lived and died without ever being recognized for their quiet heroism? Think of what they put up with, think of the indignities they tolerated, and think of the sacrifices they were willing to make.
But that’s sort of the problem. We don’t think about that. We think about Marcus Aurelius. We don’t think about his mother.
As we celebrate mother’s day today, let us think about just how much mothers matter! Let us think about how they have shaped history as much as, if not more than, the famous Stoics we read and talk about so much here. Certainly, they had to put up with being underappreciated, misunderstood, taken for granted, and being deprived of many critical rights. They did all that on top of having to give birth…and know that they might well die going into it.
The fact that they did this, along with countless other sacrifices and daily obligations, and did so bravely and patiently for so long is proof that they are true Stoics. And not only do they deserve our respect for it—but they have a thing or two to teach everyone else about what focusing only on what you can control really looks like.
P.S. One of the most enduring concepts in all of history and philosophy is the practice of memento mori (“remember you will die”). Different generations have attempted to keep this idea at hand in different ways—in writing, art, music, jewelry and ritual. And of course, we created The Tempus Fugit medallion to be just that—a physical reminder of the powerful practices of meditating on our mortality. The front of the coin features two hourglasses—the essential symbol of the essential aspect of life: time—one to represent you and one to represent your children. On the back are the two reminders we parents need every day: “They grow up so fast” surrounded by, “All time is quality time.”
In a world of constant distractions and unlimited obligations competing for our time and attention, this medallion is the perfect reminder to hold the present tight. We want you to embrace the people you love as much as humanly possible for as long as humanly possible. Because life is short. They grow up so fast. The Tempus Fugit Medallion is designed to help you seize the moment while it’s here. Time flies. Stop letting time tickle and slip through the hourglass. Pick up your Tempus Fugit medallion over at dailydad.com/store. Carry it with you everywhere you go.