My Mother Is Made of Strength, I Hope I Can Follow Suit

strong-independent-black-womanI grew up in a single parent household helmed by my Mother, who was [and is] commonly referred to as a “Strong Woman.” I’ll never say that my mother was both Mother and Father, because she wasn’t. She was simply a woman who “did what she had to do;” and like many women of her time, put her children first above all else. If my Mother had any resentment, personal grievances or an inner conflict about what she would have preferred to do, she never aired them. It’s as if she wanted to spare us the guilt of having a Mother, who for whatever reason, was unable to cope or who appeared to not be able to cope with her choices or her present situation.

This also meant that there were no boyfriends calling at all hours, or male friends who would drop by on occasion. She never had to explain the awkward “I have needs too” narrative because it was almost like she didn’t have any. Was she asexual? My Mother never burdened us, her three university educated daughters with the minutiae of her life, much less tell us about the so-called sacrifices she made “for” us. She just did what she had to do. I’m sure she had moments of extreme tiredness perhaps even The Blues but we were never made to witness her despair or anguish if there was any, and let’s be honest, three young girls will do that to you if you let them.

My Mother’s outlet so to speak was the Cultural Arts. She was an avid theatre-goer and held seasons tickets for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Her tastes and interests did not match any of our friends, and we didn’t seem to mind, nor did she.

When it came to leaving my father when my sisters and I were 6,3, and 5 respectively, my Mother never went into great detail about the dysfunction in their marriage. However, knowing that their marriage might not last, she saw fit to organize her life and our lives so that the upheaval would be minimal.

She made certain that she never spoke ill of her husband, our father, and after numerous, poetic “How Could You Leave Me?” letters from my father, a God-fearing scientist and Philosopher, she opened her doors so that her daughters could have a relationship with their father. Yes, I know, my mother sounds like a martyr and a stoic, but in all reality she was far from it. I think I’d describe her as Practical and Optimistic.

When I hit the proverbial “Terrible Teens,” my Mother sought help for what she considered my wayward behaviour which entailed nothing more than the usual teenage surliness and sass-talk. Being actively involved in our emotional development meant that she followed the tenets of Tough Love [yes, a bit harsh, I certainly wasn’t a runaway!] along with Ann Landers. When Tough Love didn’t seem to work, she registered my 2 sisters and I for family therapy at the Jewish Child and Family Counselling Centre to figure out why I, the stereotypical middle child, would flush my sister’s Miss Folklorama sash down the toilet and throw a china tea cup at her head. Did I mention we weren’t Jewish?

Working full time as a nurse—shift work included—it was my Mother’s goal to ensure that we were not Latch-Key Kids and that we used whatever community resources were available to us. In many ways we could have become a burden on the system but the very idea of accepting welfare cheques and/or handouts was loathsome to my mother who on her nurse’s salary seemed to do much more 4 ways than I had ever done when I was making double her salary as a single woman. A proud woman, my Mother was indignant to the suggestion that she work less and accept government help. I suppose she saw it as an endless trap out of which there is no escape.

And then there’s the issue of my Mother not ever caving to Mothering Peer Pressure. I suppose she didn’t have time to “cry over spilt milk”—her term for labelling circumstances that describe things that are done and that cannot be undone. And like Echkhardt Tolle and many of the LIVE NOW! gurus she never looked back. It’s from her that I learned the “no regret” “no guilt” attitude towards life; even though she never used those words expressly. When I once had a grievance with an irritating co-worker she said, “You have as much right to earn a living as this woman does, work it out!”

Perhaps my Mother never had the luxury of time to wallow in self-pity, or to compare her situation to other women. Perhaps she was well aware of her so-called privilege even though her circumstances by today’s standards would dictate otherwise. Perhaps she realized way ahead of the game that getting caught up in other women’s misery is just plain miserable. I think this is actually what makes her Super.

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