Here’s to all the moms who hugged us when we got our acceptance letters, listened to us cry when we thought we’d never make it through that one class, and who will cheer the loudest when we walk across that stage in our caps and gowns.
With kids that don’t live at home anymore, Gator moms reflect on why they are looking forward to spending time with their college students this Mother’s Day.
Marji Sachs, an attorney from Boca Raton, reflects on being a Florida Gator mom this Mother’s Day amidst her first family vacation in four years. Because Sachs lost her mom last year, she said she’s excited to spend Mother’s Day in the company of her two kids.
With their kids’ busy schedules and newfound freedom, some UF mothers said it gives them a reason to cherish this Mother’s Day a little more.
Social media manager Natalie Galpern, 49, knows exactly what it means to be a college mom.
She said the pandemic increased the amount of time her children, who are pursuing degrees at UF, spent at home. But when they returned to campus, Galpern found it difficult to adjust to life without them there.
Her quiet home that used to bustle may sound like a dream to some, but for Galpern, it left her wondering what to do next.
“The most challenging thing for me is just figuring out what my role is now that they don’t live at home,” Galpern said.
With two kids who are now Gator alum, 59-year-old elementary school teacher Beth Jaffe has been a Gator mom for the last ten years.
As a graduate of the University of Southern California, Jaffe grew up knowing nothing about Florida schools. As soon as her oldest son was admitted to UF in 2012, there was no looking back.
“I was a Gator fan as soon as my son accepted his offer at the University of Florida,” Jaffe said. “Now I’m a total Gator mom.”
For Jaffe, Mother’s Day means looking forward to her kids finishing their semester before the holiday arrives.
Even though their family never misses spending a Mother’s Day together, Jaffe admits that the dynamic shifted once her children became adults.
“Of course Mother’s Day changes,” Jaffe said.“From homemade handprint cards to being told in a Hallmark card that ‘Mom, I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.’”
For Galpern, Mother’s Day is a reason to gather the entire family in one place. From sisters to aunts to grandmothers, she said everybody in the Galpern family enjoys dinner together on Sunday to celebrate the special day.
If there is one thing better than the food, it’s definitely the company.
“I don’t care what we do, as long as we’re together,” Galpern said.
April Woodward, 48-year-old spa CFO, doesn’t consider Mother’s Day a time to celebrate herself. Instead, she’s looking forward to cherishing what might be the last Mother’s Day where her graduating daughter can make it home.
“When I wasn’t okay was the day I realized I will no longer be the mother of a child in school, which is a very strange feeling,” Woodard said.
This time next year, Woodward’s daughter may live somewhere new and have a lifestyle different from the unstructured nature of college life.
Woodward is excited that she still has one more Mother’s Day left with her Gator.
“As a college mom, Mother’s Day means time to be with my daughter,” Woodward said. “It’s not really about me, it’s more about the time that I get to spend with her.”
Just because these moms are looking forward to one special day with their children doesn't mean they’re set on keeping them home forever.
Gator moms said they feel the proudest when watching their children pave their own ways and create their own successes. They said they love watching the people their children have become on their own. But that doesn’t stop them from wanting to play a small role in their lives.
“There’s a fine line when kids are in college. They need to be adults.” Woodward said. “They need to be self-sufficient, but at the same time, their parents need to learn to give them advice when it’s necessary and when it’s helpful.”
Even after the holiday has come and gone, Woodward expressed an easy way to keep your mom close even while the semester is in full swing: pictures.
“I needed to see that she was happy,” Woodward said. “As long as I knew that she was happy, and smiling and having a good time, I was happy.”
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