Brace yourselves. This will probably be the most transparent post I’ve ever shared publicly. After all, if anybody talks about my mom, I’m ready to fight. I even feel conflicted when I tell truths about my mom because there seems to be some taboo in mom’s being less than perfect, well at least that’s how my mom sees it. So, today, while many people embrace their moms and shroud them with flowers and mother worship, I feel more of a somber emotion welling up.
There are stories of abuse and neglect and pain and betrayal and none of those are my story. However, throughout my life I’ve learned a lot about how I related to my mother. I think the oldest daughter on last weeks Iyanla, Fix My Life said it best. She cried out to her mom, “You were my god until I knew who God was.” In fact, I remember specifically praying to God during my teen years that I learned to rely on him as my rock and security instead of my mother, something that I’d never done before.
When I was fourteen, two years after my dad died, my mother experienced her own come-to-Jesus realization, so to speak. After becoming a young widow, she felt like there was nothing left, like she needed to change her life with the you only live once mentality. As a result, our relationship was breached and in many ways, I felt abandoned, although she was very much present in my life. She just began to exist as a person who I’d never known before, as she then put it, “I was a woman before I was your mother.”
A woman? What? Not God? Not born of angels and descended from the clouds? Not June Cleaver? Not Aunt Jemima (I literally thought my mom looked like Jemima because she was beautiful with a lovely smile)? Not Claire Huxtable? Not a celebrity like Oprah or to be hailed and praised as the one and only wonderful, perfect quintessential mother?
My reality was shattered with the knowledge that my mom was human, with needs and vulnerabilities, none that I’d known or considered. But at 14, could it really be expected that I would be wise enough to embrace my mother in this way and not be perturbed at the very real changes I’d seen? Was it normal to think I wouldn’t feel abandoned when my father was deceased and my only living parent seemed to be self-centered and left me to figure out the next few years with very little guidance? I still ask myself this, sometimes grappling with feeling guilt and feeling any resentment, past or present, toward my mother.
No, it’s not as bad as the atrocities I hear and yes, my mother did a good job at being the self-sacrificing and hard working mother that we children needed. Still, the impact of her failures need not be overlooked but rather accepted, and more than anything forgiven. The discussions have happened and the crying admissions and acceptance of responsibility on both parts has happened, but from time to time, the pain comes up.
What I’ve also learned over the years is that many daughters have this story or at least a story of having to deal with some feeling of resentment towards their otherwise beloved and adored mother. I think it’s mostly after these daughters have their own children that they begin to see things from their mothers viewpoint. They begin to see how relationships with the children’s father impact parenting. They begin to see how challenging balancing motherhood with having a social or romantic relationship is. They begin to see how even when being an overprotective parent, things still get missed and sometimes abuse of the children happens. Motherhood is something I’ve yet to experience but watching how this plays out in my immediate family makes me respect, though perhaps not fully understanding, how large and maybe even thankless and how unforgiving a job motherhood can be.
Will my children hang on my every word, listening to the wisdom I share? Will I berate them or abandon them? Will I be the mother that children respect or resent? Will they be grateful about all the sacrifices I’ve made, or incessantly point out my failings? It’s with these questions that I contemplate how I treat my mother and how much I wish to change the story for my children. I can start by changing things now.
But this is a daily process. I fail as a daughter. Every. Single. Day. On the flip, I want to work on being a better one, assigning her honor because though imperfect she showed us how to love, showed us how to work hard, showed us how to put children first when the relationship with dad gets sour, and how you can make mistakes and learn from them. THAT is invaluable.
I can say the last few years have been challenging but I think living with my mom has allowed us to make up for lost time. I’ve learned so much from her and about myself during our hours long conversations. I watch her and how she is with her grandchildren and I can see that she still is that perfect mother, and to them the perfect granny. She really is a wonderful person and I love her.
Love your mother daily. Don’t let the relationship go unhealed and then pop up once a year with cards and flowers. That’s fake. Pop up daily with the need to heal, and a need to give and receive love, if that is possible.
For those who have permanently broken relationships or deceased mothers, let not this day or any day plague you with reminders of what could’ve, should’ve or can’t happen. If the love of those who are still here can surround you, please let it comfort you. I embrace you…if you are a believer, know that God embraces and comforts you and can be a mother and father to you.
It’s quite late, and I’m feeling the need to cry, but know that in this life journey, it’s all lessons. Try to be grateful and thankful for those and those of your beloved mother. Be blessed.