Here is something I did not admit to myself until recently!
The older I grew, the more I resented you, mom. You scolded me ALL the time! You were the one who wanted me in the kitchen, sweating and ‘tanning’ under the heat of the gas cooker (and in the unfortunate incident of gas finishing half way through a meal preparation) your old kerosene stove. You were the one who woke me up in the middle of the night to ask me if I had transferred the soup from the fridge to the freezer. When I replied that you hadn’t ask me to, it earned me mouth-lashings about my lack of insight in relation to simple household issues.
You started most Saturday mornings with scolding me for not vacuuming the seating room while NEPA was being coporative- regardless of the fact that I am allergic to dust. You shouted at me incessantly for failing to run this errand, or that errand regardless of the fact that my brothers were there, loitering- doing nothing! You were the one to shout at me for not picking up ‘that dress for the umpteenth time’, for not taking the initiative to empty the bin or do the laundry till I was asked to and most of all for grumbling at you, at your errands! You seemed to have my name at the tip of your lips all the time! You picked on me all the time, every time or so I thought.
This got worse when I grew older and I suddenly thought myself wise, I knew a thing or two about how babies were made, about marriage and more so about being a woman. It got worse when I moved to an international school, interacted with people from different worlds, backgrounds, ideologies- I suddenly was exposed- more exposed than you, mom would ever be. I thought. I discovered feminism and subscribed to their message! So that when you sent me on an errand, I took offense that I was the one sent instead of my brothers. Why should EB, my younger brother be comfortably seated and I be sent up and down, in and around the house? I figured it was because as you said a few times ‘I don’t want you doing this in my husband’s house!’ How that sentence irritated the hell out of me (and my father!)
Daddy would rebuke you angrily, even before the words made their way out of your mouth ‘ Husband? Please if that man cannot get ‘so-so-so’ himself he had better stay in his father’s house! Is OMA with all this education going to be his maid?’ I agreed with Daddy- he was my hero. Does mother think that with all this education, I will be a housewife- running around to the whims of my husband? He had better be able to do cook, wash up plates after dinner, do the laundry and vacuum the house, as well as fix light bulbs, put on generators and take care of his children too. No body has time for a man who will just sit down, cross legged- probably watching his favourite football team, and perhaps more irritatingly with a few loud friends, barking orders at the defender to do his job, while the husband occasionally barked orders at me to see to the wailing baby and at the same time bring them some more beer from the fridge! Not me! Definitely not me!
As I grew out of ‘teenagehood’ and into ‘ladyhood’ (womanhood is too enormous a word! Not sure I am there yet!), the waves of our tumultuous relationship ebbed, you scolded me less and I did things more willingly- you reminded me less and less that ‘you are a woman’. I also got to understand a few more things about you. Everything I detested and didn’t want to be- ‘a weak woman’ is what you are Mom. A woman who stayed home, stayed with the kids, a woman who gave up everything, after all the education, especially one with such bright prospects, every hope and dream of achieving the high rungs of career, rubbing shoulders with influential society women, every dream of inspiring the youth of today, moulding and mentoring young women till they are women with high career ambitions like me- ALL of this you gave up mom! Only because you took one look at me, at my siblings and she made a choice to focus on us. You chose big headed me and my equally big (or bigger?) headed brothers over money, career and influence, and you did it for close to 20 years without as much as a complaint.
Understanding why you did it only meant that I was less judgmental of you, and more accepting of your now occasional scolding. Somehow, I remained judgmental of girls my age who thought they would be willing to give it all up for their husbands and their kids ‘ What about yourself?’ ‘What plans do you have for yourself?’ I would scold, my veins pumping and my head unable to comprehend why women failed to ‘dream big’, to aim higher than their marital homes. However after a chat with a very insightful friend, I have understood better that just like working at a million dollar law firm is a full time job, which requires intelligence and dedication, so is being a full time mom! It is something to aspire to just like any other career is- and there was nothing wrong with aspiring to ‘housewiving’ in the least. If a woman given all the options and equal opportunities believes she is happier and more fulfilled as a mother, a house wife, a stay at home mom, who am I to condemn? To scoff? To question her judgment?
I look at you mom and you had dreams- career dreams! You didnt dream of ‘housewiving’ and being co-director to father’s dreams. You had your own dreams! And when I look at myself, at my siblings and my father and why you made your choices to leave your dreams and concentrate on us and I am grateful- extremely grateful. I know that it is not every woman that has to give up her job, some can juggle both, given the right circumstances. But circumstances made you choose, mom, and you chose me- big headed, big mouthed and very opinionated me! I am flawed by that humility and selflessness.
So mother, this is all I have left to say to you- I am awed by your selflessness and humility. You were not weak mom- it takes as strong a woman to run a fortune 500 as to make that decision you made. I only hope that with all my dreams, my degrees, my exposure, my knowledge, all my future wealth, influence and etc- I will be half the person you are- half of your humility, half of your selflessness and only then will I be a complete woman.
Forgive me for all the times I thought you a ‘common housewife’. I was colossally ignorant, arrogant and mistaken!
Your infinitely grateful daughter,