Today we celebrate Mothers all over the world. We celebrate motherhood, the art of being a good and worthy mother. At a time like this, mothers are remembered all over the world with gifts and with great shows of love and appreciation.
Yet, most times we take motherhood for granted. We see mothers more as our right than our privilege. That is why today, we need to reflect more deeply on what it means actually to call or be called “Mother”.
The journey into the world of motherhood actually starts from the month a would-be mother discovers that she is pregnant. She begins to attend the ante-natal clinic. Her entire psychology begins to change. She is no longer the vibrant, chirpy young girl she used to be. Her demeanour turns into a combination of fear, anxiety and hope.
She fears that she may die in the process of giving birth. She is anxious that like other women her age, she would one day be called “mom”. She is hopeful that after all the pain of childbirth, she would have someone on whom she would expend all the love in her heart, someone who would look after her in her old age, her own flesh and blood.
Medical journalists have written volumes on the ordeal women pass through in the process of childbirth. They range from labour pains to complications in childbirth that have sometimes led to the death of the mother or even mother and child. There is also the post-natal trauma experience which many spouses are not conversant with in developing countries, especially in Africa.
I remember that once my trusted building contractor of over 20 years defaulted in a job I had asked him to do for me. I had paid him as much as £600 to buy some Alumaco windows for my country home. He failed to do so. He kept manufacturing tissues of lies for me. He said the glasses had actually been bought and that they got broken on the way as he was transporting them to my house from the market in the city. But I knew it was all lies. And so, I made my own private investigation to know what actually happened that turned my once trusted contractor and friend into an unrepentant liar.
It turned out that his wife had given birth to a bouncing baby boy and a few days after, she suffered post-natal trauma. Her semi-literate husband believed that his wife had actually gone mad. He took her to a native doctor who “confirmed” that indeed the woman had gone berserk. The native doctor demanded a huge sum of money to be able to “exorcise” the devilish spirits that were tormenting the woman. The poor woman was tied hands and feet and given twelve lashes of cane every morning and some herbs to drink. And my contractor had actually used the money I gave him to pay this native doctor. When I learnt about this, I was very upset, but that is a story for another day.
A child is born. After the pains and sweat the moment of triumph arrives. But it doesn't end there. The child has to be looked after and shown love. That is when the real challenges of motherhood begin. The moment a woman gives birth she begins to have that existential realisation that the days of 'all about me' are over. It is no longer all about her anymore. Her purpose has been served. The child begins to grow. Everything is a phase.
From day one, the child defecates on mother and she dutifully cleans up the child. Then come the pre-teenage years when the children are usually carried away by youthful exuberance. Mom is always there to direct and guide, like a guiding angel. That is how she would stand by showing her care and anxiety until the child is full grown and able to stand on his own, marry and raise another family he can call his own.
But it isn't always easy to be a great mom. There are often times when it is difficult to be a mother, not to talk of being a good one. Sometimes, children are influenced by the home or school environment, and they begin to get nasty. They no longer have respect for their parents and elders. They begin to use swear words. By the time you know it, they have joined the wrong gang of friends and the relationship between them and their parents are irreparably damaged. When that happens, all the blame is heaped at the feet of the mother.
With this and similar challenges facing mothers, especially in African traditional families, there are times when the initial anxiety of becoming a mother fizzles out into regret and for many days or weeks a mother sits in agony, wishing she had never been a mother.
The most elevating and yet most agonizing experience of a mother is that bonding relationship between her and her child. In this relationship, anger and the tendency to dominate the child's life are two of the bad qualities a good mother must distance herself from. For instance, although a single show of displeasure once in a while should ordinarily not produce a difficult relationship between mother and child, no child likes it when mother is angry. And it becomes a problem when a mother consistently uses angry words and approaches to control family members.
When anger or uncomplimentary words overshadow everything else at the home front, children live in a constant state of fear or alert, waiting for furious emotional outbursts. This could be psychologically damaging for the children. There are many adults who still panic in the face of their mothers' anger and who grew up feeling they were constantly in the wrong. This feeling of always being in the wrong often damages the psychology of the children and they grow up not being confident in themselves or in their abilities. If this possibility is not addressed in good time, the problems can continue into adulthood, and again mom stands to be blamed.
Then there are the types of mothers who will try to take charge of and dominate every aspect of their children's lives to the extent that she tells the children what to see, how to feel and what to want. In a healthy relationship between mother and child, control is used sparingly to shape general values the child would appreciate and set down specific rules in the family. Such rules and regulations must always be informed by listening to the child. It must respect the growing child's ability to take sensible decisions by himself.
Yes. It could be quite difficult being a good mother sometimes. But we must keep trying and keep encouraging mothers to become better. We must continue to encourage them to share that love that has continued to sustain our universe. So, as we share our little lines of love poems, and as we sing our warm songs of appreciation, and offer mothers all over the world our little gifts today, let them remember that we too appreciate all they go through for our sake. Let them know too that we know it is difficult being a mother and a good one at that. Let them know that we will continue to encourage and support them to live out their lives in the love of Creation, of which they are a very essential part. Let them know that there will be no need to despair as Mother and that whatever it is that is at stake, whatever it may take, at the end of the day, it shall be well.
It is well. The joy of motherhood will continue to be celebrated throughout the universe, not only today. We must celebrate mothers every day.
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