The Vital Life Lessons from my Grandmother

From 2nd grade through senior year, my grandmother (Mimi) was my legal guardian. She took in me and my 3 sisters (ages ranging from 18 months to 11 years) in a tumultuous time for our family. She gave up her role as the fun grandma we’d visit on weekends to a mother role well after her own children had left the nest. 

I could fill a book (or two) about the lessons, sacrifices, and hilarious conversations I’ve had with my grandma, but for the sake of brevity, I will narrow it down to just a few. 

The importance of work ethic

As you can imagine from a single teacher taking care of four grandchildren, my grandmother’s work ethic was unmatched. We learned how to take care of a household as a family, which propelled us into the workplace. We all had jobs by 16, and have all held one ever since. It was from her shining example of the importance of commitment and follow through that we are assets to our employers. 

Seeing all sides

Growing up with someone who was two generations above me and on a different end of the political spectrum from most of our area, I was able to have real conversations about a variety of issues. I learned that my opinion is important, but it’s important to know facts and my “why” behind why I may or may not support something. I learned a lot by her emphasis on empathy and walking a day in someone else’s shoes. 

Learn for yourself

Now as a parent myself, I often hear about “protecting” our children or just having things taken care of for them. This was not my grandma’s motto. While I hated it then, I am thankful for it now. Before I left home, I could fill out my own financial aid forms for college. I could change a tire, I could use maps (real maps, not GPS) to get myself to New Orleans or Baton Rouge from Houma. I could book my own flights. I could apply to colleges on my own. I even learned how to budget rent, books, and other expenses with the money I earned from working and from scholarships and grants. While it may have taken longer, she gave me the ability to make mistakes, but figure it out along the way. I want my own children to experience the same thing, even if it’s to the detriment of my own patience. 

Faith over feelings

Every Sunday we attended 10:30 mass as a family. Whether we were at a sleepover at a friend’s house or exhausted from a soccer tournament that weekend, it was expected that we would go to mass and lunch together afterward. I didn’t know it then, but the connection we established with our church parish through that consistent attendance would be the foundation of my faith. Mimi taught me that it’s not about how you feel in the moment or the inconvenience it may cause, but that maintaining our commitments and relationship to the faith is a priority. 


It sounds cheesy, but it’s that simple. I knew, and currently know, many families who did not hear “I love you” too often. Not in our household. Each night, after every phone call, and even after every argument, we heard that we were loved. The sacrifices my grandmother made to support us, cheer us on, provide a good education, and ensure we were ready for the world when we left home will never be able to be measured. 

I am so thankful to have my grandmother. She is a force. She is a big ‘ol personality. I hope I can be half the parent she was to me, and I hope I never take her for granted.

Jessica Hauerwas
Jessica is a nonprofit leader who loves bopping around Lafayette for the best burgers or bands in town. She is the Executive Director of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited where she runs the day-to-day nonprofit. She and her husband Chris have three littles at home (Jane, Clark, and Louise) where there is lots of giggling and always a cup of coffee brewing. Jessica is passionate about community-building and empowering working mothers. Jessica also volunteers for various organizations, is a member of the Lafayette Re-Entry Coalition, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette, and a survivor of being a mother of three under 4.


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