I come from a culture where motherhood is revered, and where the narrative of sacrifice, patience and perfection in one’s mothering is both inspirational and overwhelming. On days like Mother’s Day, the weight of all that mothers are supposed to be can feel like a blessing and a burden. The talks and sermons at church are beautiful. The children’s singing has us all in tears. The flowers and chocolates are a delightful acknowledgement. The beautiful tributes and video clips everyone posts on Facebook, my own included, bring more tears and smiles. And yet.
What if your mother wasn’t like that? And worse. What if you’re not like that? And perhaps, heretically, are not sure you want to be?
I wasn’t raised by a perfect and patient woman. I was raised by a vocal, often strident and obstinate woman. Flawed and passionate and opinionated, her gift to me wasn’t the same as the narrative of motherhood I have heard all my life. Her gift to me was a life of faith in spite of a litany of flaws. Her gift to me was the capacity for honest and hard conversation on any subject I brought her way, even if she didn’t understand what I was on about. Her gift to me was zero hesitation to cry when it all fell apart, as life frequently did. Her gift to me was honesty about her fears and stresses and traumas.
I have watched my mother’s world collapse over and over. And I have seen her and my father, with their fiery, complex and yet unified way, put it back together again. And again. And again. Sacrifice yes — in abundance. Right there in partnership with my father. They worked so hard, gave up so much for my brothers and me. Their sacrifices in some ways, were made all the more beautiful to me because of their distance from perfection.
There are beloved women all around me who I watch and learn from every day. Who are truly representative of those beautiful qualities so iconic to the title of Mother. I need them, love them, revere them. But as my Mum reminded me today when we spoke, we all come to the families we need to. I guess I needed bold and bossy and strong.
And Mama, I wouldn’t have you any other way.
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