the Mother's Daughter
guest post, by White Rabbits.
I am a 36 yr old housewife.
My youngest sister is 13 and lives at my parents home.
The other day she and I were looking at pictures and at one point Sis said “you are a lot like Mom.” “Mmm” said I (not sure how I felt about that statement). Then Sis tossed her head and said “I’m like Dad.”
That little convo yanked something inside of me. See, I had wanted to be like Dad too. Growing up. there was no question which parent I wanted to emulate. Dad was frequently on business trips, traveling, out in the world, experiencing life while Mom was home and overwhelmingly close-meshed in the gritty details of our lives (most frequently in the form of constant nagging about picking up our rooms or doing schoolwork.) A nightly dinnertime routine was Mom asking Dad “What’s happening in the World today?” I am sure Mom was just trying to help us be informed. But the bottom line that came through loud and clear: it’s Dad, not Mom, who knows what’s happening in the world. (A point re-enforced every election season when Dad gave Mom meticulous lists of who and what to vote for. When, as an agsty new feminist, I confronted her about this, she sighed and said “he is so much more informed and well read than I, and has so much more time to search out the facts…” ) Dad ran marathons and played tennis. Mom was too consumed by the endless routine of housework, cooking, cleaning, homeschooling eight kids, etc to have much in the way of extracurricular activities. (Btw, have you read Linda’s recent post on hologram women? Yep.) Dad was lean and healthy. Mom was not overweight but her lifestyle had taken it’s toll (Dad would frequently tease her about the extra padding on her bottom.)
Yes. I wanted to be like Dad. Not Mom.
But my sister is right; I am very much like Mom. Not so much stuff from the aforementioned list (I am well traveled, building my own business, continuing my education, a triathlete, and as informed as DH on current events/issues). But every time I open my mouth I hear my mom’s voice, her manner of speech, her familiar phrases, come out. We have very similar personalities and inclinations, and similar ways of interacting with other people. Her and I have gone in different directions, but with so much of the raw underlying stuff the same. Sometimes it scares me. I am trying to embrace this. To honor those similarities. There is so much that is good and strong and worthy that I inherited from my mother, I struggle against the aversion toward her that was embedded in us. All the condescending little things Dad would say (in a loving way, of course) about her forgetful-ness, her careless-ness, implications of a simple mind, how “she means well, but…“, (and all the mild complaints about her cooking too). These take their toll. They leave their mark. “I’m not like Mom, not like Mom” (desperately wanting Dad’s approval, to be LIKE HIM.) I am trying to string those little aversions out, tease them from the mess of a patriarchal tradition that so benignly belittled her. Tease those things out of my OWN heart. Learn to appreciate all the good things that I am that I got from her.
Meanwhile, I see the same story playing out in my younger sibling still at home. “I’m like Dad.” Another daughter who doesn’t want to be like Mom.