even though sometimes she goes the wrong way about it

I hope she’s a fool – the mother

Dear Monika,

“Paradise lies at the feet of your mother”, that’s what we are told as children. Thepurpose of such a phrase is to emphasise the importance of serving your mother. But the emphasis very rarely sinks in. All my life, I felt misunderstood by my mother but recently I’ve been wondering whether it was the other way around as well. She’s a woman just like me. She went through what I’m going though, maybe worse. In the future I may have a child who feels just as misunderstood by me as I did by my mother, but is it fair? Why is it the sole responsibility of the mother to resolve misunderstandings? And why is she always the one to blame if they remain? Why is society so quick at passing judgements about the way she has raised her children if something goes wrong?

A woman exclusively endures all the pain of child birth sometimes years before even thinking about having a child. She starts bleeding at a young, fragile age when she’s still too young to understand why she’s bleeding. She goes through uterus cramps at an age as young as 11 years old. My sister started having them at 9. Yes, that’s a single digit number and now she’s 22 and a baby is not coming soon. Once the woman gets pregnant, her 9 months of extreme misery begin. She’s happy and sad, angry and enthralled, she gains weight and loses weight, her limbs get swollen, she’s nauseous, depressed and craves impossible things at 3 AM. Her belly stretches so much that she can’t even stand without supporting her back. Her bladder gets so pressurised that she spends more time in the bathroom during a day than she would normally spend during a week. Meanwhile, what’s the husband doing? Not being pregnant. Nothing he does can compare to this. It’s a nine month contract and there are no breaks. No sighs of relief or happy hours. Yet, after enduring all that pain she forgets it all when she first lays eyes on her baby. But between 9 months of misery and one second of immeasurable joy, there’s a couple of hours of unimaginable pain. It’s called labour. Meanwhile, what’s the husband doing? Not giving birth.

Labour, childbirth, delivery - whenever I think about these words all I can see is pain, death risk, extreme physical and emotional stress. Stretch marks, drooped breasts, perineal tears, postnatal depression and much more. My mums colleague was pregnant and after delivery she had high fever for several weeks. The doctors were unsure why the fever just wasn’t coming down. Finally, they decided to remove the uterus via surgery to bring her back to normal. When they got to the surgery and made the incision, they discovered a massive infection. Her whole abdomen, uterus, intestines and bladder were are infected and full of pus. They cleaned out the pus and stitched her back without performing the surgery because they said it could be fatal to do so. My aunt had twin babies after 8 years of trying and went into postpartum depression of a severe type. My uncle had to take a couple of months off because she was so serious. She wouldn’t let anyone touch the babies and wouldn’t feed them either. She would leave them crying in hunger pains with herself and her babies locked in a room so no one could reach them. This was a woman whose pregnancy was celebrated by the whole extended family because it was so highly awaited. This was a woman who tried all kinds of medical procedures for years just trying to get pregnant. 

Once the baby has finally arrived, now the mother starts slaving day and night making sure he/she is fed, cleaned and taken care of. After experiencing a life threatening experience, now she has to stay up nights for the baby and at the same time has to serve her husband who in most cases goes straight back to work. In most cases, she receives no physical or emotional support from her family. After giving birth, she goes back to cooking, cleaning and serving her husband, her family and now her newborn baby. I am sure most woman love their children and this love is more pure than any love in the world, but the point is that the woman doesn’t get a break. Her life’s purpose is to serve and that’s all it will ever be.

As young children, we are stubborn and unreasonable. But, our fathers experience none of it. Our stubbornness and unreasonability is spent on our mothers. We don’t have the courage to argue or demand with our dominant fathers so we target our weak, helpless mothers. We express our disappointment and hatred for not getting what we want and our mothers have to take it. Of course, it’s their job. That’s what they are for, to listen to us complain, whine and scream. Once we start going to school, it becomes more apparent. Our behaviour towards people in school is so different from our behaviour towards our mothers. “Mum is always wrong, she never understands me. My friends understand me, maybe dad understands me, but mum never understands me. Dad gets me whatever I want, but mum, she always says no.”

But in reality, dad doesn’t put in half the effort mum does. It’s the mother who stays up nights making coffee for the child’s all-nighters. It’s the mother who wakes up early to make lunch for her child and iron his/her clothes. It’s the mother who stays by the child’s bed for hours while he/she is sick. She is the one who has to withstand his/her rants or outbursts no matter how illogical they are. The father doesn’t. In our culture, the father is considered to be the master and mother the servant. The father is bringing in the money, he owns you, you won’t survive without him. You can’t so much as look him in the eye with complaints. He owes you nothing. The mother, well that’s her job. It’s her job to cook for the child, stressing about what he/she might want to eat today.

After the child graduates school or even university, they usually don’t even look back. They leave and don’t come back to even thank their mothers for the years of slavery that they served. Usually the mother is either stuck with her bitter husband who now hates everything that lives and breathes and won’t even look at her, or, she is left widowed alone in an empty house. If she asks her children for anything they respond with, “What have you ever done for us?” Even if she moves with her children, she is mistreated by the family. She feels like a burden and she’s indirectly assured she is one. She isn’t involved in any conversations or activities. Her grandchildren aren’t allowed to waste time with her when they could rather be studying. 

She now awaits her death, hoping it might be better than this life as a woman she just went through.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

F