It recently occurred to me that if my mother had not been fed one narrative her entire life – that she has to have a “complete family” by a certain age – she may not have had me when she did. She may not have had me at all.
Obviously, it takes time to process something like that but I have to do it because it is the truest of all facts there are. I can’t run away from that thought because it’s ‘too existential’. That would be irresponsible.
My mother comes from a very different world than what she raised me in. Or, in many ways, the world she made for me.
I can look people in the eye and tell them I don’t want kids, I am not maternal enough. She couldn’t. Now, the interesting part is that she is probably the only person I can’t say this to.
How ironic. My mother gave me the confidence to face the world but not the courage to face her.
For the longest time, I hated this. I still do. But I am not as angry as I used to be, because, with age, I have started to understand her better.
Women are sexualised and discriminated against from the day they are born, if they get a chance to be born, that is. We start understanding this early on. Some of us are displeased about it, some of us accept it, but none of us are oblivious.
However, the beauty of being a woman and the sadness of being a woman in this world dawns on you slowly.
These two thoughts combined, form the theme of our lives.
At some point, it hits you like a train and your understanding of your mother’s life changes almost completely.
She is not the deity you thought she was when you could barely walk. She is also not a villain. She is simply a person…but a person who was let down.
When someone is overworked to the point of breakdown and they are told that it’s their ‘duty’, it changes them.
When someone is given little to no autonomy over their bodily choices, it changes them.
It changes them to be told that their opinions don’t matter so they might as well not develop them at all.
I am not going to justify any problematic opinion my mother has. That would be absolutely unfair, but I can dig to the roots. Why does she have those opinions?
Can it be because she was married off at a very young age? That she was never allowed to go back to college to learn new things? That she was sold sexism as something ‘natural’?
It could be, right? It is.
While discussing someone’s mindset, it is important to see things from a perspective because this helps you to call them out with the calmness and kindness they deserve.
That is also something I have learned with age.
My mother has learned a lot with age, too. She has changed a lot – and that, while being a pleasant thing, breaks my heart.
She just needed someone to explain things to her, she was not rigid, just uninformed.
For the most part. Of course, there are some things she could have probably changed on her end and she didn’t.
But how do I differentiate between things she refused to understand from things she was not given a chance to understand?
It’s not easy. Lines become blurry all the time, and I am afraid one confessional write-up won’t change much.
This will forever be a learning process and I am fine with that.
My mother is complicated and a lot of it is not her doing. She was thrown into circumstances that would transform not just her life but also mine.
When people talk of patriarchy, they often forget about this. The damage never stops at one person, it becomes generational. The nature of the damage changes according to where people of subsequent generations are placed but it’s almost impossible to get rid of it entirely.
However, as someone who was given a different, still broken, but a far better world by her mother – I try to do my bit. I have to understand her, to help her, myself, and any kid who is now born into the family.
I read somewhere once that most people grow up to be adults who could have helped their parents if they had met when the parents were young.
That’s the hope.
Note – These are the author’s personal views on her life and are not meant to generalise people’s experiences or diminish someone’s larger/different struggles.