I’ve been wanting to cover a particular sentiment about motherhood in our #digitaltent: the effects our mothers have on us. I’ve spoken with most of our writers about it, all of us sharing a similar sentiment: it’s complicated. When I thought about the first question for our community articles (where we ask a question on Instagram and turn your answers into an article), I knew motherhood was the perfect place to start. To see if you could find language in places we have not yet been able to. And I’ve been blown away by the answers. Below you will read some of your answers, your insights into possibly the hardest, and maybe the most intimate, topic we’ve covered. We chose these answers because they highlight the spectrum of emotions, hardships, and magic that is the relationship between mother and child. Some are heartbreaking, and some are so incredibly nurturing. I wasn’t expecting some of these, but I’m so happy you shared them. Thank you! It made me see mothers, motherhood, and especially my own mother in a different light, and I hope it does the same for you.
How does your mother live with(in) you and reflect in the way you move in the world and in the decisions you make?
I notice my mother in my behaviors and actions often. Growing up we had a very difficult relationship. Our dynamics weren’t typical, our roles reversed. I am and feel I will always be my [own] mother. I was born headstrong and argumentative, her opposite. I was gifted the qualities she yearned for. At first, she resented this, now she embraces it.
When I was young, she was in an emotionally volatile relationship with a man she didn’t love, who oppressed any creativity or freedom in myself or her. She taught me to use flirtation and sexuality in all of my masculine relationships. That freedom and partnership come with a service fee — your body.
It has taken most of my 20’s to heal from this. To realize my sexuality isn’t for trade, that mothers aren’t meant to sleep with your friends, that relationships should be based on love and trust.
For this, I no longer blame her, but I hope a space of sympathy. I’ve learnt to forgive her for not being the mother I needed and I’ve learnt to accept that I can be the mother she needs. Now I notice her in my gentleness, in my, at times, naive optimism, and in my belief that there can be a better world.
My mom was my rock. I didn’t decide anything without talking to her. She died right before I turned 30, right after I got married and honestly, I didn’t want to decide anything for quite awhile after. Now, I’m facing 35. I need to decide to be a parent soon and I’m paralyzed with fear. Every girl needs her mom when she’s deciding to be a mother. I’ve had to learn to make hard choices, BIG choices on my own, and it’s getting easier. But this hurdle…it is kicking my ass. God, I’d give anything to talk to her about motherhood. If she were here, she’d tell me to do what I felt like doing in my heart, no matter how scared I am of the unknown. Because she’d remind me that I was always more forceful about my life than she was. “You have a fire I didn’t,” she’d say. And I’d remind her that while she wasn’t loud about her goals like I can be, she wasn’t a small wallflower. I’d list off the hundreds of big deal things she accomplished and we’d laugh. The truth is, she never pushed me into my decisions ever. She knew I would make up my mind regardless of our conversation, but I know I always felt more sound in my choice when I told her. So, I’ll do what I’ve had to do since. I’ll have to choose, and then tell her while sitting in my car in traffic. That’s where I talk to her now. And hope that by some miracle, she hears me and is pushing me forward.
I have only just realized this recently, but I think I have spent the last 25 years trying to be different than my mom, to prove (to who, the world?) that I am not like her. My mom came from a village in India, to an arranged marriage with my dad who had strong feelings about what a wife’s role is. She was oppressed, in my opinion, and had little control over her life. As time passed, I thought that she chose not to fight for herself, for equality in her marriage and for power over her life, and I worked hard, subconsciously, not to let myself be like her in my relationships. My personality, as a result, is “strong” as I don’t want to be controlled. Fast forward to being married, having a baby, and being domestic, I see myself in her every day. How I feed the family, how I nurture my baby, how I let my husband make choices for our family in many ways. It feels good to recognize her in me, because my mom is wonderful.
My relationship with my mother is strained and complicated. However my cousins and cousin-like family friends tell tales of how supportive and loving and generous she is. How she has helped them transition into motherhood, and how grateful they are for her in their lives. I used to feel jealous because they are talking about a stranger to me, and also a person I wished I knew, and mother I wished I had. But now I feel happy to be reminded how multifaceted we can be. How we can be different things to different people. How we are a combination of successful and strained relationships. Focusing too much on the strained relationships doesn’t allow me to enjoy the successful ones. My relationship with my mom is not what I want, but I know she is amazing and I can see her now as a person, and be grateful for the qualities passed down to me.
I am the person I am today because of her and luckily, I wouldn’t want to change a thing, except to maybe have listened harder and earlier. She moves with me and guides my decisions no matter how far apart we are.
It’s her views of travel, the world, laughter, love, relationships, and continuous learning that have shaped my world and so many of my decisions. As I get older and our relationship becomes more open, forgiving, and real, we talk more now than ever (even though we live in different countries), I ask (and listen to) her advice more, and often the roles will reverse, with her learning from me as much as I learn from her.
She supports me in everything I do and whilst we don’t agree on everything, we now share a mutual respect that helps us move past issues with open hearts and minds (or at least be able to drop a situation without getting too hurt or upset).
People say you turn into your mother at a certain age, and if this is true, I have a lot to look forward to.
I have a somewhat paradoxical relationship with my mom. On one hand, she’s my best friend and greatest confidante. Her kitchen is my happy place. I know she would do almost anything in her power to keep me safe and happy. On the other hand, my mom is a very fearful and negative person at times, and she has a hard time recognizing those patterns of behavior in herself.
Often times she will send me messages like, “your brother doesn’t care if I die, so don’t let him know if anything happens to me” which puts me in a tough space as someone who has time and love for both of them. I know she has dealt with a lot of trauma in her life, and she has learned how to cope in her own way as we all do.
I’ve started recognizing echoes of her behavior in my own, especially as I get closer to 30. I recognize my fear of lack of financial stability, my fear of new social situations, my fear of judgment from others. These are all things I know in my soul that I don’t want to portray and yet, here they are.
I also recognize my creativity, kindness, and selflessness which she has helped me cultivate over the years. I want to hold on to these traits because I’ve seen how much value they bring to those around her.
As someone who thinks a lot, constantly, about just about everything (another trait I picked up from her), I make a vow to myself on a near-daily basis to let the negative stuff go. I focus on having a strong gratitude practice, I seek therapy for the traits that I have inherited that I don’t want to hold on to, and I remember that although she gave me life, I can choose how I want to live it.
This is such an amazing and loaded question. I live with the same anxiety as my mother — a bizarre vibrating baseline of chaos defining success. Professionally, it has benefited each of us, but personally I feel like it hurts me to be tethered to an imaginary concept of stress correlating to ambition. I make decisions with her conservative voice over my very non-conservative shoulder. The idea of being my mother’s daughter has always seemed a bit misplaced to me, but I love her endlessly despite our differences and similarities.