Ask A MUTHA

Published on August 16th, 2013 | by Mutha Magazine

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Ask A MUTHA: Yr Mother!

MUTHA asked some mothers how becoming a mother has affected their relationship with their own mothers.

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The first thought I have is: “I have always asked her for everything and she has given it. That has not changed.” Though I have become a mother, I am still childish with mine.

The best things my mother gave me were love and forgiveness. I have not given her these back always in equal measure. But, I have (so far) given them limitlessly to my own daughter.

Certainly I have a different appreciation for the challenges my mother faced when I was a child. But also a realization of the divergent ways we approach our role. I live in a culture, both general and local, of over-studying how we parent. My mother did read books on being a mama, I think she read Dr. Spock and she also gave me, while I was pregnant, this amazing late ’70s pregnancy guide with all these real photographs of dyed fetuses at different stages that appear to have come in many cases from abortions (or miscarriages?). God, I wish I had it now to quote. But, I know she just muddled along, like I do too despite the library I’ve acquired on the topic.

My best early memories of her: I am playing, on a rug somewhere, immersed in myself. She is in the background. It is a warm feeling. In my neighborhood, now, there are often more parents on the play equipment than children, following them in fear. I am trying not to do it. Yet, despite the lore of easy going parenting of the old days, that desire to be close and to cushion my child is driven by the same love I know my mother gifted to me. She provided me a sense of the consequence and responsibility of mothering.

My mother used to always say that she didn’t like babies. Babies were boring. That she liked children when they started to talk back to you. She was a schoolteacher, though she wanted to be a journalist. That is still what she says, now retired and a grandmother. She had a storied 30 plus year teaching career with students who were inspired to become teachers, who stopped me in college when they heard my name, or come to her out of the Facebook swarm to thank her. But I’ve heard her still say she was a teacher, but she wanted to be a journalist.

I’ve inherited her habits of regret. Though her ambition was thwarted long before I was born. A D&C helped to get her pregnant at the “older” age of 29.  I never felt it held over me. Maybe it should have been. – MEG LEMKE

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The thing that blew me away the most was how effortless my mom made being a mom seem. She never let me or my brothers in on any of her struggles. I feel like it’s obvious to my son that I’m figuring this shit out as I go along. I’ve always thought of my mom as being an amazing mom, but what I discovered is just what a real natural she was/is. – BETH LISICK

There’s sort of a paradox when I think of how my relationship with my own mother changed after I became a mother myself. On the one hand, I felt no less than stunned that my mother had done all of the things for me that I was doing for my child.  In the early days, when my daughter was a newborn and I was up until every hour imaginable, I would think of my mother all those years ago, alone, like me.  Bleary, bone tired, ragged, un-showered, rocking our daughters even though they were asleep because it’s impossible to stop no matter how tired you are or what hour it is, knowing that you should just go to sleep while you can. Across 35 years my mother and I were together, the same.  In many ways it dazzled me.  I’ve never thought of my mother as heroic or as a supermom but across those years in the middle of the night I would ask myself “how did she do it?”.  She was younger than I was, only 23.  She had no therapist, no college degree, no liberal progressive family or friends and worst of all, no internet.  And even though I had all that plus my trademark resourcefulness, I was still in awe that she pulled it off with not just one, but two babies born two years apart.

And then there’s what’s on the other hand.  On the other hand, my mother was not heroic and was not a supermom.  In fact, during my teenage years my mother would throw me under the bus in a startling emotional betrayal.  The details are too complex but I can sum it up thusly:  my mother had unknowingly put me in harm’s way and then, knowingly, asked me to stay there. Holding my own daughter in my arms, my mother’s behavior felt foreign to me.  The question “how did she do it?” took on a different meaning.  I was baffled because I knew from the deepest part of me that I could never, would never, will never betray my children or do anything short of protecting them as long as I’m alive.  And that has, unfortunately, distanced me from my mom in my heart of hearts.  I still talk to her and see her as much as always, but there’s a part of me that I’ve withheld.  It’s sad actually that motherhood is the very thing that has both connected us through time and through generations and separated us as women. – ANONYMOUS

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 Photos by Elisha Shea

 

 

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Mutha Magazine

Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.



2 Responses to Ask A MUTHA: Yr Mother!

  1. Gretchen says:

    This isn’t talked about a lot, but it’s such a worthwhile consideration. For me, it falls in line with the “things I swore I’d never do” idea. My mom struggled with depression and had a nervous breakdown when I (the youngest of three) was 5. I was so scared of her sadness, and the crazy shit she’d scream at my dad. When I had a baby a year ago I promised myself I would never act that way in front of her. But having a baby, especially as a writer and a recovering addict, is fucking rough. And to think my mom had three. I so totally sympathize with her struggle now, and while I’ve mostly held it together, my daughter has definitely seen some crying and slammed doors and vacant gazes (those were the worst!). She’s only one now, so I tell myself she won’t remember it and Ill get better and be better for her, but then, that’s probably what my mother told herself too. All of this shit moves in cycles. Realizing that makes a more compassionate person, which will (hopefully) make me a more stable mother. Hopefully.

    • Charley says:

      Thank you for this article, and thank you, Gretchen, for your comment. I also grew up with a mother who struggled with rage, mental health issues, and depression for years and to this day (although I didn’t realize this until about ten years ago, and most of the time I think I’m the only one in my family who recognizes that this is what she suffers from). Before I had my daughter two years ago, I used to think, how could anyone say the things my mother said to me, and how could my mother abuse my father the way she did in front of me? Well, I gave birth, got exhausted, got severe PPD, and every day since her birth have had to fight (often losing) depression, rage, and grief. I am not proud of the fact that I’ve often snapped at my daughter and husband, said mean things, thought awful, angry, im-gonna-punch-your-lights-out thoughts. Not exactly what I imagined. It’s all very complex. I think part of it is that we inherit patterns and biology, and part of it is that being a mother is just effing hard, especially in a world of male privilege and society with very little support for mothers. So glad this space exists for these talks to happen, so we can stop pretending it’s all about Pinterest-worthy nursery rooms and high-end strollers.

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