Thursday, 9 May 2013

Mother Russia

With yet another mammoth Hallmark occasion up ahead, sons and daughters from all around are flocking towards gift shops, florists and novelty stores to celebrate the single most important woman in the world. Roses, lavish breakfast buffets, appliances and weekend spa treatments. Nothing says "We love you mom" quite like throwing a bit of money at the problem, and while most moms would prefer a homemade breakfast in bed or hand-made card professing her child's undying love and adulation, spoiling this extraordinary woman for just one day a year should not be spared any expense. 

The mother-child dynamic is quite a turbulent one with many bumps along the way. One day you're the world's greatest mom and the next, public enemy number one. It's particularly alarming during those precarious formative years of pre-teen and post-adolescent angst. Instead of seeing our mother as the role model and wonder woman she truly is, we blame her for almost everything that goes wrong in our lives. "I hate you. You're ruining my life. You'll never understand. No wonder Dad left you!" These are just a few delightful phrases a mother has to endure the minute her teenage terror decides to turn on her.

Modern day mothers have it even worse. The quest for balance is virtually impossible, what with so many single working mums and lack of father figures. The levels of commitment and dedication get higher and a mother has to be carer, nurturer and disciplinarian all at once. She really is a Super Woman! The pressure is on not only from the children themselves, but from teachers, over-zealous housewives and bored mothers-in-law who have nothing better to do than to criticize and judge their parenting skills. Without a handbook telling you what and what not to do in these circumstances, how does one even begin to compete for Mother of the Year?

I never really appreciated the benefits of having a stay-at-home mother. All I saw was the cook, the taxi driver, the nurse, the bank account and the entertainer. I always thought my mom was lazy for not getting a real job like the rest of my friends' mothers and often compared her to a woman I used to call Mother Russia. Of course, I was a total prat back then, full of scorn and resentment and blamed my mother for absolutely everything; my stint with bulimia, body dismorphia, depression, the reason I ran away from home, the fact that I didn't get into the Waterfront Theatre School. For some reason I thought she wanted to sabotage my dreams because she didn't have any of her own. Her goals and aspirations were simple and conventional and the last person I wanted to be like was my mother.

One day, I sat her down over a cup of coffee and began to tell her things, things about myself that probably added a few more lines to her already-creased visage. I told her about the rape and the drugs, the night clubs and the numerous men without names. She took it in her stride as only a mother can and listened without judgement. Of course, she had already suspected or known most of what I had told her, but she was grateful that I had finally opened up to her. What I found most comforting was her unconditional love and how she had suddenly stopped being the enemy and started being a friend.

I once asked her what she wanted to be as a child and she said she wanted to be a singer. Her voice was something of a legend in the Portuguese community but what I hadn't known was that a talent scout had once approached her before she got married and offered her a chance to sing in a band. My father was in the army at the time and encouraged her to take the opportunity but my grandmother refused and frowned upon the idea. Good Portuguese women become mothers and wives. That's it! She resigned to the fact that God had clearly had another plan for her, something greater and more fulfilling. It was at that moment I realised that what makes a great mother are the selfless sacrifices she has to make in order to be the best that she can be.  

It takes a long time for a child to reach a certain maturity level where he or she can truly appreciate the selfless love of a mother. Lord knows that not all maternal relationships are perfect and some apples are better off falling far, far, far away from the tree. No matter what she says or does to hurt you, a mother usually knows best. She is after all the only woman who knows your heartbeat as well as you do, the only woman strong enough to love you no matter what wrongs you do unto her and the only woman mad enough to get up extra early every morning to cut the crusts off your sandwich just the way you like it.

When it comes to the world's greatest role model, I couldn't help but wonder, is one day really enough?

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