My mother and I always had a very feisty relationship. Growing up, I remember fighting with her. We would argue over chores, school, and my very opinionated attitude. I felt like she loved my brother more than me and I felt like the one person who was supposed to love me the most, didn’t know me at all. Ironically, my mother and I look like twins — the same high cheekbones, the same caramel crème skin tone, and the same big brown eyes. We are also both very sarcastic, mask pain behind a smile, and care deeply about the ones that we love.
I didn’t see these similarities until years later, after I became a mother, because the constant conflict hid how my mother and I are alike.
I used to blame my mom a lot for not being perfect. I looked at other people’s relationships with their mothers and thought to myself, “why can’t she be like their mother?” I wished I'd been able to talk to my mom about everything. I wanted to share with her my first kiss, the first time I had sex, and the first time I had my heart broken. I wanted to share with her my fears and my hopes. But, my mother wasn’t that type of mother. She wasn’t raised to be that type of mother. She was born in Central America where children were seen and not heard. She grew up being taught that a child does whatever their parent tells them, especially if that child is a girl.
Before I had my son, I planned to be the perfect mother. I was going to be the type of mother that made baby food from scratch, never let him watch T.V., didn’t let him eat sugar, and had 100% honest conversations about life and love. I was never going to get upset with him, and I was going to have rational conversations whenever he did something that required discipline. I was going to utilize the naughty step and make homemade science projects that would make Bill Nye the Science guy proud. Eight years later, my son has lived through the divorce of his father and me, moving between two homes in two separate cities, and I can probably count on two hands the number of times I hid from him in the bathroom because I needed a break. Most people save up for college, but I am also saving up for therapy because I am sure he is going to need at least of a couple of sessions.
Because like my mother, I’m not perfect. I’m just not that type of mom.
I have grown up a lot in the eight years since my son was born. I have forgiven myself for being less than perfect, and in turn, I have also forgiven my mother for her shortcomings. This forgiveness didn’t come easy. I have spent several therapy sessions listing off how I felt that my mother had failed me and crying about how I failed my son. My therapist helped me to see the story that I continued to play in my head about growing up differently. That my feelings were valid, but that I am also a different person and that my mother was a person, not a saint.
She encouraged me to talk with my brother about his experience growing up in the same house and to talk to my mother about the things that I felt like I couldn’t share with her when I was younger. I also learned about setting proper emotional boundaries with my mom. Through these explorations I found out that not everything that I believed was true and I gained a clearer more honest understanding of my mother.
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Through therapy, I was also able to see the amazing ways in with my mother made me into who I am today. My mother has taught me about unrelenting strength and the benefit of hard work. She has taught me about the importance of education and family. She has taught me about the joy of trying new things and visiting new places. She also raised two amazing children (if I do say so myself), so, in her way she taught me how to be a fantastic mother.
There is a post on the Instagram account @femalepositivity that says, “Heal your inner feminine by forgiving your mother for the times that she let her own pain manifest into yours”.
Becoming a mother taught me how to see my mother as a human and has led me to forgive both of us for our turbulent relationship.
As a result, we have a more honest and authentic mother/daughter relationship as well as friendship. I used to think that she was mean and insensitive. I now know that she was dealing with her own issues. That she made the best decisions that she could with the time, money, and emotional maturity that she had at that time. Like all of us, she had her own struggles, her own story, her own upbringing, and her own thoughts and beliefs about being a mother and a woman. It would be hypocritical to expect my son to forgive me for my imperfections as a mother without also forgiving my mother of hers. It would be silly for me not to recognize that who I am today is because of who she was and without our turbulent relationship, I would not be able to appreciate the link that we have today.