Yesterday on my regular afternoon outings, I passed by a mother scolding her little child in public. Out in the pandemic open with her mask on, the mother seemed very upset. The child was about 4 years old and the mother was in her late 30’s. They caught my attention especially because it was just a day after Mother’s Day, the tune of mothers as unsung heroes still permeated the air. The scene was a stark contrast of Mother’s Day heroism and this out-of-control mother in the sidewalk. What did the 4 year old do, I wondered?
Mother’s Day is widely celebrated each year to commemorate all the good that mothers do. I am a mother myself and I know the hard work raising a child entails. It is no joke. However, on this afternoon and with what I just saw, I am reminded of how many people dread celebrating Mother’s Day, a day that could remind them of the terrors they experienced at their mother’s abusive hands. I am not calling what I saw in the street an abuse but something like it. It is one thing to go down the memory lane littered with childhood abuse, it is another to pull one’s strength to pretend that one in fact, celebrates this person who abused him or her in childhood. To whip up a courteous telephone call should be easy enough. To be coaxed to a family event like a lunch or dinner should be torturous.
I remember during a group dinner date, how one of Donald’s childhood girlfriends punctuated her diatribe about how hard motherhood was by adding, “I understand now how mothers could kill their own children.” A statement that made her point very clear that raising a child was so difficult it could drive a mother to commit filicide, the deliberate act of killing one’s child.
I met my current assistant years after this compelling filicide statement. I first interviewed Dina (not her real name) when she was 19 years old and about to complete her bachelor degree. I was drawn to her because she was a design student graduating from my alma mater. It was an instant connection. Over three years now, our work relationship has become a mentorship. I hate to admit it but I feel protective of her after learning her background, that she was abandoned by her mother when she was 5 years old.
At the tender age of 5, Dina’s mother left her and her 18 months old sister alone in their house. Dina’s recollection of the incident was vague, she just remembered not seeing her mother for years. Dina said that they were picked up shortly after her mother ran away, by her uncle, and were given to her grand mother’s care. Can you imagine how heartbreaking that would be for a child?
There are times I would hear frustrations on Dina’s voice when she talked about her mother, but overall at 22, she seems to have come to terms with the abandonment. I would tell her how it probably was better that her mother left. Her mother could have been abusive or worse, remember filicide? Her mother could have killed her. Unwilling mothers should be able to opt out like what Dina’s mother did. Seeing how Dina turned out, it was perhaps in Dina’s favour that her mother abandoned her. This thought softens the blow, I think. Dina is alive and by all accounts doing good for herself.
Many women are just not cut for motherhood. Motherhood in the pure sense is a selfless act. But who does selfless acts anymore these days? Selfies, yes. Self-less? More and more young women today choose not to have children. It is a difficult but an honest choice to not bear and raise a child.
If you are a woman and want children, selfies aside, please ask yourself squarely why. It’s a biological calling to have a child for sure. It’s cultural too, that is true, but I sure hope that a woman would not choose to produce children based on society’s dictate. Please do not be bullied into motherhood if you are not sure of it. Mothers are the forerunners in moulding our society. They should be celebrated for the tough job they assume.
However, let us not forget that for every good mother there are bad mothers. If a potential mother sees it that the child is not her possession but rather a person in her transitory care, this would be a good place to start. I just wish that this scolding mother on the street understand the extent of the role she plays in this young person’s life. Lest the child grow up dreading Mother’s Day later.