For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me.
But the passage of time has an uncanny knack for bringing us back full circle.
My mum had a lot to answer for. I internally blamed her for everything that was wrong with me. I blamed her for my bad grades and failed relationships. It was all because of who she was and how she raised me.
It wasn’t until I became a mother myself, and then far more profoundly at her passing that my entire perception of reality shifted.
Foreigners in a new world
My parents were your typical 70’s, European immigrants. Patriarchal. Traditional. Forever stuck in time between the old world they left behind, and the new world they now found themselves.
Dad would go off to work laying bricks. Mum took care of the house. Dad made all the important family decisions. Mum made dinner.
You get the picture.
My mum’s parental focus was teaching me how to be a good little wife, mother, and happy homemaker.
But my brain couldn’t correlate between mum’s diatribe on prized womanly virtues and, what seemed to me, her daily role as an unpaid, powerless servant, sentenced to a subservient life in the shadow of her husband.
I’ve lost count of all the teachable moments I had to endure as I carried out home chores.
A good man likes a woman who takes care of the house and keeps it clean and tidy.
I’m not doing dishes for no man, I’d mumble under my breath.
As I got older and bolder and full of teenage angst, my retort would be, “there’s no way in hell I’d be with a man who considers my par excellence with a vacuum cleaner good-catch material!”
Over time my resistance grew. I didn’t realise then, but my housewife rebellion was beginning to affect my decision making, my actions, and my relationships, piece by piece.
It subtly yet surely coloured my world view.
I grew into a defiant young woman, full of fire and fury. In part, because I come from a long line of hot-blooded Spaniards, but mostly I give credit to a burning need to prove something.
I wasn’t going to be anyone’s shadow.
Life became a force to be reckoned with. My at-the-ready, knee-jerk defences met conflict at every turn. Outside, I appeared strong and self-assured. Inside, I was lost, confused and alone.
What is wrong with me?
My mother is what’s wrong with me. If she had only raised me differently, I wouldn’t struggle through life the way I do.
But life has a way of showing us the truth, over and over again, until we finally take the blinkers off and decide to get real with ourselves.
That time came for me when I became a wife, a mother, and a homemaker.
Losing my identity
At first, it was a struggle. I clawed and scratched and limped my way through this new identity. Who am I now that I’m not working out there in the world? I felt myself disappear into the abyss of baby spew and stinky nappies and milk stained dresses. I was at the mercy of my husband, who was now the sole provider of every single basic need. I felt so vulnerable and exposed. Underneath the post-baby belly, lay a completely terrified inner child.
It was all my mother’s fault.
But slowly, over time, something inside me began to shift. I noticed how much joy I felt nurturing my husband and my children. I noticed how much pleasure I felt taking care of my home and breathing love into it for my family. The more I let go of my fear and surrendered myself to being supported and provided for; the more space opened up for pure joy to enter.
Then it hit me like an avalanche.
I was now a mother. I was now living the same experiences as my mother before me. I was in her shoes. I no longer judged her from a daughter’s perspective. I looked back at her through the compassionate eyes of one mother to another. I made her human, just like me. Messy and fallible and trying to figure life out as she went, just like me.
For the first time, I saw her as a whole person. I understood her struggles. I empathised with how hard it must have been to navigate her new world. I could now see she didn’t consider herself subservient or undervalued in her role. She saw it as a place of honour. She saw nurturing and acts of services as feminine gifts to be honoured, revered and respected.
And she wanted nothing more than to show me I have those beautiful gifts within me. Gifts that brought her so much joy.
I was the one who saw mum’s role as wrong, less than, powerless. I was the one who chose to fight against it. It was my reaction to it and to every other situation like it since, that painted my world, and coloured my life experiences.
The way I reacted to my whole world, then, was borne out of a false truth of my own making.
Becoming a mother helped me find peace with my childhood. I play out early memories from my parent’s point of view, and it has completely changed the landscape of my reality.
The blessing of time.
My mum has now passed away and her death has brought broader perspective still.
She was the most loving, kindest women I ever knew. She gave me gifts I’m still receiving. I’ve cried many tears of shame and guilt for all the years spent blaming her. But there’s been an equal number shed in joy for the wisdom I gained because of her.
Age has taught me I’m one hundred per cent responsible for my life. It’s a wonderfully liberating thing to know, because I get to choose how to react, think and feel in every single moment. I’m the master of my reality.