I have spent much time thinking of how to put down all my thoughts about mothers on this special day to acknowledge and celebrate them.
My first thought was to acknowledge the pain that some people feel on this day. Those who have lost a mother, those who haven’t had the mother that they had hoped for, those mothers who have lost a baby or a child and the experience of being a mother to someone being taken away from them and those desperately longing to be a mother. From this, we can take, just what a momentous privilege it is to be a mother and to be mothered.
My second train of thought was that mothers are not just our biological female parent, they can be grandmothers, nannies, aunts, adopted parents, step-parents, guardians, fathers, friends, friend’s mothers, foster parents, teachers, colleagues, mentors and many more people. We do not have just one mother, there are many different people at various times in our lives, who fulfill the role as a mother to us.
My third train of thought then was ‘what are the qualities that embody a mother?’. The essence of a mothers is safety, warmth, fiercely protective, steady, nurturing, endless forgiveness, empathy, imparting wisdom, patience, blind pride and unconditional love.
I have been lucky enough to have been blessed by a biological mother that embodies all these qualities and more. My mother has also been a mother to her own siblings, my cousins, friends and communities. I remember various times where I did not want to share my mother with cousins or communities as I did not feel that I had enough time with her but I have made peace with the fact that my mum was born to be a mother, carer, educator and to impart her wisdom in educating and mothering others. I am now so very proud of the passion that she has had throughout her life to mother her younger siblings, my cousins, all the children with special needs that she taught, the support she gave to her female comrades during the dark apartheid years, during her years in leadership in the education system and now as a creator and facilitator of the Wordworks early literacy NGO that she works for now, in her 70’s.
When I was younger, my mum wasn’t my only ‘mother’. I had a number of wonderful women fulfilling various roles that I perceived my own mum not to fulfill. My maternal grandmother, very glamorous and always wore jewelry, perfume and lipstick; my own mum was a feminist and thus wore none of these. My best friend’s mum was an amazing baker and for many years, baked incredible birthday cakes for me; I started baking my own birthday cakes at 10 because mine were ‘less embarrassing’ than my mum’s organic carrot cakes that sank in the middle. Other friends’ mothers were doctors and always answered all my questions about the body and took a keen interest in my studies. Various aunts have been mothers when I have lived in different parts of the country. A bestie shared her mother with me when I lived in Joburg. She brought cabbage leaves for my engorged breasts when I had mastitis, popped by with a bag of freezer meals and held my son so I could have a shower. My other bestie is in the UK and has lent me her mother to help decorate my home. My childhood home was always chaotic with mostly second hand or passed down furniture, nothing matched. I was always envious of my friends with their ‘perfect Biggie Best’ rooms. I have wise friends who nurture me like a mother when needed and share their wisdom with me.
I mothered my little brother. I read him stories, made him food after school, lifted home around once I could drive and have always been fiercely protective and proud of him, just like a mother. I have always wanted to be a mother; it felt like one of my life purposes. When my son was born, I desperately wanted to be the perfect mother. I tried too hard. The perfectionist in me wanted to breastfeed him as long as possible and was absolutely devastated when I had to discontinue after ten days due to a severe infection. I perceived this as a failure as a mother, instead of it being part of life’s trillion things I cannot control. I have now, mostly, accepted that it is perfect to be a ‘good enough mum’ who will continue to make mistakes, but everything I do, is with my best intentions and endless love.
Hope you had a good Mother’s Day.