In Africa, my part at least, hating your mother is a taboo. “How can you trust someone who dislikes their own mother?” one of my cousins asked when I expressed my fanship of Eminem in the early 2000’s. His hit ‘Cleaning out my Closet’ didn’t do for her what it did for me in my fervor of teenage angst. On the contrary, every African artist worth their fan base has sung at least one song about their mother’s love.
It is expected that we love our mothers, how could we not? They birthed us, bathed us, carried us, took care of us when sick… you see this is essentially about us?
Which makes me wonder, what about those who didn’t have their mothers do these things for them? The absentee moms, the moms gone too soon, the moms who just weren’t cut out to be motherly and delegated to others? But above all this I wonder, what if your mom wasn’t a mom. Would you still love her? Her as in her person, because before she was your mother, before anything else she’s a woman. Would you love her work ethic, her decisions, her character, her style? Is the love we often profess for our mothers dogmatic, incomplete because we mostly love them in gratitude, because of their mothering rather than who they are in all?
I for one, think truly loving your mother is often a learning process. You may love her (with a lowercase ‘l’) intrinsically from childhood for who she is to you, but as you grow you learn to know her more, develop opinions for yourself and this determines if you truly Love her (uppercase L).
You will need her to be more; to be someone you respect, admire, enjoy spending time with, a role model, someone who understands you and what you are going through, who lets you be you and lots more.
Often times our mothers fail in these plethora of roles and it is only when we’ve reached a certain stage in life ourselves that we can truly appreciate how difficult it had been for them to maintain those limited roles they did succeed at.
A friend of mine recently shared an idiom (can’t trace the original source) which brings another perspective to this. It goes:
As all man go talk sey e mami na the best, na who e own be the witch wey di fly for night?
Loosely translated to English this would be: Given that everyone claims their mother is perfect, whose mother is the evil/flawed one?
This brings to mind another ‘taboo’ of sort in our society, speaking anything but positive of certain people. This is includes people such as your mother, father, husband and everyone that has ever died. Should our president ever pass on you will get a first-hand lesson on this form of hypocrisy. But back to my point…If we cannot honestly criticize our mothers how can we claim to love them? Shouldn’t we preferably say we love what they do for us?
In my experience, I grew to love my mother more from thinking of her as woman first. Recognizing the needs she has that would mostly go unsatisfied unless she takes things into her own hands, respecting her strength in the face of everyday inequalities, appreciating her self-reliance, drive, hard work and take-no-nonsense demeanor all of which would have been criticized at one point or the other in our patriarchal society.
Above all, it was by seeing her flaws (the ones I’m not allowed to acknowledge much less talk about) and gaining permission from her being flawed to be somewhat flawed myself, it was in understanding how she came about those weaknesses and appreciating the power she wields despite- perhaps because of- them that I truly learned to love my mother.
This month began with two close friends of mine entering the world of motherhood as they birthed their first children. They are beyond ready and eager to be the best they can be. So I just have one wish- that they remember they are women/human first and realize that they can allow their children to see them as more than just mommy, it may help them.
To those currently working on their relationships with their mothers, consider looking at them as just human, to an extent product of circumstances, flawed as a prerequisite and just trying to make it through this thing called life too. We expect them to have all the answers but at some point the only answer they will have for everything is “I am here”. And that too might do.
Leave a comment below and tell me, why do you love your mama?