I’m deep in a nostalgic sadness that has nothing to do with the holidays or New Year’s-related reflection, but instead grieving my mother who passed away a few years ago today, and continuing to process the complexities of our relationship.
Much has been written about mothers and daughters in patriarchy, where mothers, who have been indoctrinated into male supremacy, prepare their daughters for a non-threatening version of independence while simultaneously teaching us to quietly ignore and accept our oppression. Like their mothers taught them. And their mothers.
Exploring and expanding my feminist consciousness has helped me better understand so many aspects of life that I used to find confusing, including my complicated relationship with my mother while she was alive, and my thorny grieving process now that she’s gone.
My mother was born into a well off military family and educated by nuns. Her arranged marriage to my father was typical of their culture at that time. Our relationship was never simple and often strained, and while I understand my mother loved me and wanted the best for me, it has become clear to me how male supremacy shaped her idea of what “the best” that was available to me looked like.
In many ways my mother was as selfless as patriarchy demands of women, but in many situations, including a life-altering one, she acted in ways that privileged the men around her at my expense. I spent much of my life angry and bewildered, alternately blaming myself and punishing her by withholding my affection.
My healing began when I violated one of patriarchy’s rules for women, I decided to stop the pretending I did to make life easier for people around me. This difficult decision strained the relationships it didn’t end, but ultimately, it broke me free from the cycle of women brushing our pain under the carpet for the “good” of our families.
Even after that decision, without a clearly defined system of analysis, I was confused about what happened, often asking “why” and answering how women in patriarchy are taught to answer: by blaming myself.
Now, looking back through my feminist lens I understand what happened and why. I understand that, like so many mothers, my mother did the best she could. And I see that as long as mothers and daughters are oppressed in patriarchy, the best we can do will never be enough.