I stumbled across a random article from online magazine Madame Noire while scrolling through my Facebook timeline a few days back. It is not a site that I subscribe to nor would I take interest in much of the content, so I figure I must in some way have matched their demographic. It had to be one of those non-coincidental coincidences, because I normally just keep it moving when I see sponsored content. Anyway, the article was entitled, “The Strained Relationship between Mothers and their Daughters.” You can read the entire article here.
After pondering the main points at length, I was fully prepared to mentally dismiss the article–except that I was already writing a blog post in my head (lol). I had some thoughts about it. Actually, I had LOTS of thoughts about it. As a mother, a daughter, and a blogger, I absolutely could not let it go. So, I thought to share my ponderings because the author’s statements have deep meaning for so many of us–as parents and as home educators.
As a segue into what I wanted to share, I attempted to learn more about the author, but had limited success. What I found was that she is accomplished in her craft, well educated and widely published. I was more intrigued by what I did not see. As I suspected in reading the article, she is not a mother herself (or if she is, she guards her private life very well). I feel the need to also say this in this age of a younger generation that takes any challenge as a personal attack, I am not “coming for” anyone in writing what I thought. These are just mental notes, to be taken or left as desired.
So I read. The article dissects the relationship that mothers, specifically black mothers, have with their daughters, which, as the author states, at times resembles more of a supervisor-employee role exchange than a familial relationship. From the article, “Growing up, my mother had three jobs: provide the necessities, keep me from being “fast,” and remind me that we weren’t friends.”
It is a plight not unfamiliar to me, growing up in a house where discipline was key, and there was not much room for deviance from the rules. Indeed, in my 20’s B.C. (Before Children), I could have written this article–if I were as great a writer. But now, with children that are young adults and teens, I see things a bit differently.
The dilemma of writing your heart (or spilling your guts, dependent upon who you talk to) when family and close friends sometimes read your words is always interesting. On the one hand, I would rather not be the source of side eyes at the family reunion, or the juiciest of gossip while the ladies are sipping tea. On the other hand, my hope is to balance any ruffled feathers with enough transparency to tell my story and make my point.
Eight years ago, I celebrated my 44th birthday, and I remember, for the first time, thinking about my mom in a very different way. She gave birth to me at age 44–totally unplanned. I thought about how I felt at 44 relative to how I felt as a new mom just shy of 30. I was a different mom by that time–not necessarily a good or a bad thing, just different. I was a different woman by then.
As my father would tell the story, he married her with me in his arms. I thought about what it must have felt like to be a divorced single mom of four girls, pregnant with a 5th girl in a day and age when people didn’t just gloss over the lack of a husband as if that omission was inconsequential. I thought about all the emotions she must have had, and how uncertain things must have been for her in those months. And perhaps for the first time, I thought about our relationship in a different way. To be clear, we didn’t have a necessarily bad relationship; I just think it would have been much better if I understood some things while she was still around (she went home to be with the Lord in 1992, six months after I married, three years before the birth of our oldest child). Fast-forwarding to reading this article, I had some other thoughts:
Too often, we do not know our mothers’ stories as women. We see the results of their victories and failures, their hurts and their pains, but never what they went through to arrive at a certain point. As a personal example, I had known for decades about the suspicious circumstances under which my grandfather quickly married the woman I knew as my grandmother right after my biological grandmother passed away. I only found out in the last year that my mother bore witness to all of this at the age of 14–exactly the age of our youngest daughter. Imagining my mom at her same age, I then find that I cannot imagine how that must have affected her psyche regarding men, regarding women, and regarding self.
Our mothers need grace, and that only comes from a place of empathy and willingness to step outside of self. I talked in another post about using the many hours of driving with our oldest to her new home to talk–not as mother and daughter, but as women. Maybe because I reminisced as we drove about my own journey west as a young college grad who knew almost no one in a new town, maybe just to break the monotony, I talked about her life and the accomplishments so far. I talked about my own accomplishments, but I also shared some places that I would have just as soon left laden with dust and cobwebs. I wanted her to understand that she was not alone in this season, and that I knew, to the extent that I could, what she was going through. I wanted her to know my experiences as a woman.
As women, we need to speak more positively to and about one another. I cannot say that my mother ever said to me to not trust women, or don’t have too many in your circle of friends. But, as a woman who spent too much time “shrinking so that others will not feel insecure around me” in the words of poet Marianne Williamson, I have come across my share of women with divisive insecurities. And I know far too many women who simply do not realize their worth. Someone never told them how beautiful they are. All of the “black girl magic” and “queens fixing each others’ crowns” is fine, but I think our task is much more simple. We need to guard our tongues, and practice speaking the good about one another. The children often hear me say in the midst of their sharp-tongued back-and-forth exchanges, “Our words should be like?” The response to that is honey. It sounds hokey, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I view the world around me with rose-colored glasses. Speaking good must be practiced, because I can easily find what is bad to say. When I compliment other women, they might even think me fake. I don’t let that bother me; I look for the good to say, and I say it.
So, where am I after all of this processing? You’ll have to wait a few minutes (or days), because this post has become dreadfully long…but here it is.