I wrote this on International Women’s Day. Sadly, for me, it was also the 7th day I had been in the hospital with my mom, five of which were spent in the ICU. She’s a strong, 64 year-old woman, and her sudden sickness took all of us by surprise. She was taking care of me, my sister and my son, we were in bed with a terrible flu and she then caught it. The difference between her and us is that she is a diabetic and has recurring issues with her heart and kidneys. A couple of days after arriving in the ER she went into septic shock because of complications and only medications were keeping her alive. She had a 50/50 shot of being intubated and at risk for sudden death. All of this because of the flu!
Needless to say that sitting there watching her in agony was a painful and scary experience. So many things went through my mind. I felt guilt, sadness, anger, confusion but above all I had a lot of time to revisit and analyze all of my mommy issues. I decided to put all of them aside the day I made my peace with whether she stayed or died. On Women’s Day as I sat there depending on machines to keep her alive I decided it was a good day to also look at her as part of the movement, as part of our suffrage, and realize what contributions people like her have made so we can be where we are. I decided that day was the day I would forgive her and thank her for all she’s done — instead of dwelling on the errors of the past I want to look at her accomplishments and her milestones.
My mom raised four of us all on her own. She is a strong entrepreneur with excellent sales skills. She made it her mission to find ways to provide for us (very well may I add) while finding a way to be there for us. It was never a perfect science. Sales people experience lots of moments of wealth followed by months or even years of loss. She did what she could in every situation to survive, to ensure we had a good quality of life. She brought us to the US opening thousands of doors for us. She raised us completely alone. Many times though, in order to survive, she crossed lines and did things that made me very angry, disappointed, and broke my heart. All those bad choices she made filled me with bitterness and shame. I always said “I have spent my whole life raising my mom when it should’ve been her raising me.”
The eyes of compassion have the power to transform the way we see everything like nothing can; it can flip opinions and change hearts.
That week I almost lost her so I was able to look at her with compassion. The eyes of compassion have the power to transform the way we see everything like nothing can; it can flip opinions and change hearts. While looking past all those “terrible” choices she made, I saw a strong woman that had been deprived of support and love her whole life. Since the age of 14 it was her job to provide, to protect — first for her mom (a single woman in the 60s) and then for us. She never had a chance to be a child herself. My mom only has a 5th grade education. Her childhood needs were never met. The world she was born into provided no help for women who decided to walk away from abusive relationships. Both she and my grandma were victims of society. For walking away from men that could’ve killed them, they lost every chance and opportunity. They were shunned, rejected, and criticized their whole life.
Somehow my mom fought back. She found a way to provide for us, to give us the best of everything. But doing it alone meant she had to cut corners. It meant she had to rely on my eldest sister more than she should, it meant she had to take us to work with her, and it meant we were exposed to things we shouldn’t have been. Trying to find a life partner in the midst of all of that also meant we had to see her dating, and failing at it time and time again. What I never saw in all those mistakes is that she was still a child on the inside, she had just barely completed elementary school and yet she worked so hard and gave so much. It’s in the little things. She found a way to breastfeed us as kids before pumps and at the time all they had was cloth diapers. She made many of my dresses for prom and quince parties by hand. She decorated our home with everything made by hand. She helped me decorate every major event; we never had to pay a florist or decorator.
More importantly, she tended to us while she worked, she gave us tons of love, and was a good provider. She has more skills than she knows what to do with. She has diplomas in floral which she used to open a flower shop and event planning business, she is a licensed hair stylist, she was a professional model, she had a linens company where she hand sewed every piece that came out of her factory, she is a seamstress and she can sell ANYTHING to anybody. All this with no help from anyone, never being able to be fluent in English, and never having completed her high school education.
I wrote this sitting next to her bed and while I was listening to all the beeping coming from the machines, as I heard her complaining of pain my eyes filled up with tears and I felt nothing but proud of her. She was born in 1950, she grew up in a time where women had little worth outside the home and when children had no rights. She was abused in many ways by many people and she managed to keep herself sane for our sake alone. Somehow, in spite is all, she raised us all to get college educations. She kept us out of trouble and taught us to be good people. She made mistakes, but we all have and will with our kids.
There is no perfect parent. More than that, women have come a long way and our parents had to struggle more than we did to get ahead. If nothing else we must feel grateful for the way they paved for us, for the struggles they went through so we didn’t have to. We can sit and wallow in our self pity, we can think of all the ways they could’ve done it differently and how badly they messed up but we have another option. We can be thankful for their lives. We can thank heavens we have them, we can still do good by them, and give them back for the pain they endured when they gave birth to us, for all the sleepless nights when they were tending to us or worried for us, for all the times they nourished our minds and bodies. My biggest issue with womenhood is how often we have a hard time supporting and uplifting one another. Mommy wars and glass ceilings instead of serving each other as support systems. Let’s start with our mothers. Let’s give them a break for being human and for messing up.
If you still have her, cherish her, make her feel loved, wanted, and cared for. If for no other reason than because one day you will be her and your children will carry a list of your faults and mistakes. If you can’t find it in your heart to forgive her today, at least thank her for her struggle, for her hard work for all women, and how her contributions have made our lives better. In many countries Women’s Day is Mother’s Day, because after all, mothers are the ultimate women. Let’s celebrate them and let our issues rest in thoughts of gratitude so we can appreciate them for their power and beauty.
UPDATE 5/9/15: After her bout of 18 days in the ICU she was readmitted twice thereafter and has undergone a heart ablation. her legs don’t work like they used to, she gets fatigued quite easily but she is recovering quite well. It’s quite miraculous. As I get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day I keep thinking back to this post to remind myself how lucky I am to still have her. Have you hugged your mom today?