And Why We Sometimes Change The Way We Choose To Live Because Of Our Mothers
I don’t know how to describe my mother really, for she, like most mums, sways between upholding patriarchy and smashing it-sometimes in the same breath. I could call her a reluctant feminist….
Mother’s day is a difficult day for me. The forced festivity of it all is awkward when no one in your family likes to express emotions. If my relationship with my mom had a fb status, it would definitely be ‘complicated’.
It is stupid to apply a one-size-fits-all approach for moms when some mothers are 18, others are 98. So I can only write about my mum and share with you what lessons I took away from her life and decisions.
Here are five life lessons from my mother.
1. On Education….
My mom discontinued her studies at 12. No particular reason. Just one day she decided she no longer wanted to go to school. With 9 other siblings to raise, her parents were all too happy to oblige. No one bothered to find out the inner workings in the mind of this child or what would become of her without proper education. It was the 80’s after all and a girl’s future only had marriage in it.
Perhaps that’s why mothers are extra vicious when it comes to their child’s education. My mum too, made sure my sister and I never skipped a day in school. She became our tuition teacher (a strict one at that), our counselor, our mentor until we were capable of finding our own paths. The lesson I learnt from her is not to take my education for granted. It is a privilege to be able to to go to school and university and to have someone who cared enough make sure that you do.
2. On Puberty….
Unlike many mothers who celebrate a girl’s coming of age with the onset of menstruation, my mum blatantly disapproved when I became a ‘woman’. She was flustered through those initial months. Sometimes even hoping that let it be a one off, a bloody error in my physiology, as I was still ‘too young’ at 14 to be thrusted upon the outer edges of womanhood.
And true, the folds of childhood cocoon an innocence that would never come again. But maybe I am writing this because I am not a mother yet but when this time will come upon my daughter, I would embrace her growing body as if she was reborn, that instead of wishing she forever remains a benign existence in society, I would prepare her for the challenges ahead. Alas…What do I know of the sheltering pangs of motherhood?
3. On Self Love….
Mothers and self love are oxymorons in a culture that associates motherhood with selflessness. It is as if as soon as you push the baby out of your body, you also eject your sense of self. Your life better revolve around your kids until they are 20? 30? 100? Or else you enter the realm of bad-mother-dom. Your spare time too, should be spent doing motherly things like watching cooking shows on TV or sewing etc. My Mother internalised this line of thinking when she raised us.
She may hate me for it, for she still believes if she hadn’t been hands-on with us every single minute of the day, we wouldn’t be half as accomplished humans as we are, but I do think a mother is not a selfless angel; she remains an individual and her peace of mind should take priority. No one should be expected to sacrifice themselves the process of raising the next generation.
4. On Ambition…
My mother never emburderned her two daughters with any household chore. Unlike our classmates, we were never taught how to make roti or salan or made to feel like we should know these things. This freed our minds to dwell on other things. For me it was books and poetry, for my sister it was her career as a doctor.
I am not belittling the talent to cook. The ability to feed oneself is a survival skill and should be taught to both boys and girls.
But since I wasn’t expected in the kitchen, I naturally didn’t take fancy to cooking up elaborate meals and nor did my sister. It was as if my mum thought it would distract us from aiming for higher things, to mull over worthier conundrums. By doing this, she allowed us to aim for the skies, the aims she never knew girls were allowed to have or could have. She just let us be, treating us no different from my brother. None of us are good cooks thanks to my mum’s obstinacy that her kids never have to succumb to the daily drudgery of so-called ‘domestic bliss’.
5. On Love….
There was a time (really early on) in my parent’s marriage when my mother realised that unless she takes some drastic step, she would forever be bound in a loveless relationship. She could have, then done something that would have made today’s feminists nod in approval. But back in the 90’s girls hardly initiated divorce for ‘trivial’ reasons.
She sarcastically berates my ‘women empowerment’ tirades by adding how I wouldn’t be here had she not stayed wedded, how this family wouldn’t have formed. Just the thought that maybe my mum saved my life by sacrificing her happiness gives me chills. My mum chose her own battles, and this makes her as strong as any woman who decides to break away from an unhappy marriage.
Happy Mother’s Day to the entity I fight the most with but can’t imagine by existence without!!!!
Read this heartfelt letter by a mother !!!
Maleeha is based in Lahore and pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She snacks on books, films, cookies and anything artistic under the Lahori hot sun. Her ultimate goal is to get a room of her own and a fixed annual income in her name (as per Virginia Wolf’s recommendation) to write forever, without falling prey to capitalist trappings. You can follow more of her ramblings on Instagram and twitter