By Nila Devaney ‘17
Today I am thinking of when I learned about my mother’s mother. I remember sitting across the room and watching my mother’s fingers on fabric– opening big curtains to let in morning rays. She didn’t look at me as she talked. I was eight or nine years old and I saw my mama as security and stability, a lady of true blue in whom I could trust. She reminded me of a moon– changing faces and phases, but always a moon. She existed in an in-between space; holding all the answers but yet was mysterious and wearing many masks. When I was very young, it was hard for me to imagine the way that mothers could be different from the one I knew. The mother that my mother described to me on that day challenged what I had been told by stories and movies, Mother’s Day advertisements and the culture around me. She told me about experiences of trauma, and how her mother hurt her, and how her mother scared her. She told me how she had to leave her mother. She told me how her mother didn’t protect her, and how she had to learn how to protect herself. She told me how sometimes on Mother’s Day she felt a need to appreciate something which she didn’t want or know how to celebrate in the way that was expected, and I learned that you don’t owe your mother anything just because she holds the title of “mother.”
Many of the people I know, in some way or another, feel a sense of guilt towards their mothers. It’s a heavy weight to carry– to realize that there is a person who is responsible for your existence– and how could you ever repay her? Or what if you feel as though there is nothing to repay or you don’t want or need to repay at all? I heard a close friend talk about experiences of trauma. She was mad and hurt, but couldn’t let herself experience her grief because she felt the need to comply to an expectation of an unconditional love which exists without boundaries. In hearing her speak, I felt protective and angry because I saw her grief as legitimate, regardless of the causer of her pain, and her mother as not worthy of roses on Mother’s Day when the primary reason was because of the position she held as her “mother.” It’s difficult for me to identify where this social pressure comes from exactly, but I think Mother’s Day makes room for one type of love,constructed by a capitalist society and marketed for a specific type of appreciation, in which a “good” child will forgive. This idea isn’t realistic nor reflects the various kinds of mother-child relationships that exist.
My observation is that the maternal archetype is not solely good and nurturing. It is worthwhile to think about the persona of “mother” as not either evil nor perfect, saint or sinner-- but rather all at once. Some of us will find mothers in bits and pieces from different places and relationships, receiving nurturing and maternal energy and collecting it all to create what we need. Mother’s Day could be a space to honor, consider and even question the many different types of relationships-- the mother like a moon, a sun, like a big sky, something for those without an ideal mother present in their lives.