29 Things My Mom Taught Me (And 5 Things She Wasn’t Right About)

All the best advice in a handy list. (And a few things to avoid.)

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With all due respect to all of your moms, I have to claim the mantle of having the best mom in the world. (Yes, I know a lot of us think that! We are the lucky ones.) I’m obviously no longer a child, but I tend to listen to my mom and still think she’s right about most things. In fact, I call her to consult on almost all major matters in my life. So I got to thinking: What are my favorite things she taught me? There are only a few things we really disagree about, so most of her advice here is sound and can be passed on to any child (or adult!).

29 Things My Mom Taught Me

  1. Recycle everything.
  2. Always make homemade desserts. (Store-bought ones are unacceptable.)
  3. You must eat salad after a main course.
  4. Take your kids to see live theater.
  5. Buy books (but wait for the paperback).
  6. Keep in touch with old friends.
  7. Eat dinner together every night—with whom you’re “together” is up to you.
  8. Learn another language.
  9. Write well.
  10. Show up for people.
  11. Be loyal to your friends.
  12. When someone is sick or hurting, call them.
  13. Try again.
  14. Drink tea in the afternoon.
  15. Enjoy good wine.
  16. If you like a shirt, buy it in four colors.
  17. The person who cooks doesn’t clean.
  18. Talk it out—with a friend or a spouse.
  19. Use cloth napkins.
  20. Stand up for things you believe in.
  21. Say “I love you” all the time.
  22. Let your kids be who they are.
  23. Invest in high-quality clothing.
  24. Make time for exercise.
  25. Put wet laundry in the dryer for at least 10 minutes so it doesn’t wrinkle.
  26. Read, read, read.
  27. There’s no shame in watching trashy TV.
  28. Walk whenever and wherever you can.
  29. Take notes.

5 Things My Mom Wasn’t Right About

1. Tea bags need to steep for more than three seconds.

My mom has a thing about dipping her tea in hot water for so little time that there’s no way it tastes like anything other than…hot water. It’s gross. I am a firm believer in steeping tea for a long time for a really dark, deep taste.

2. Not all religion is bad.

Okay, this one is rather heavy and controversial, but my mom is fervently anti-religion. She grew up in a communist home, but in adulthood I’ve taken great comfort in some aspects of Judaism. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we will never see eye-to-eye on this—and that that’s okay.

3. T-shirts do need to be thrown away when they have holes in them or are totally faded.

My mom still wears T-shirts from the 1990s. Since she is a writer who works from home, she rarely needs to fully put herself together. This means that when my sister and I recently helped her clean out her closet, we found a lot of shirts with frayed necklines…that she didn’t want to throw out. Not okay.

4. There’s no need to keep newspapers.

My mother has devoutly been holding onto newspapers for as long as I can remember. Every few months she clears out the massive pile from the closet. Why not just recycle them the following day?

5. It’s not good to hold grudges.

My mom is really good at holding grudges, sometimes (?) for good reason, which has made me think it’s okay to hold grudges. Not so. What’s the point? You are only making yourself miserable. Let it go.

Abigail Rasminsky
Abigail Rasminsky has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Cut, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Marie Claire, among other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.