I've been thinking quite a lot at the moment about the way I feel about my mother, specifically as a woman. Talking to my friends, it seems like we tend to see our mothers in a negative light, in that we don't want to grow up to be them, without looking at how much they've managed to achieve. I don't know quite why this popped into my head, I guess it was when I was trying to think about what made me a feminist in the first place. I was drawn over and over again to the moment when I first realised that my mother was a woman in her own right.
That sounds really selfish I know, but it was easy to miss (especially for a self-obsessed adolescent girl). I think on the whole, mothers are quite easy to take for granted. However, there was one morning when my mother was driving my sister and I into town. She was a in a bit of a funny mood and had been snapping all morning and as we were going round a very large roundabout, suddenly exclaimed "I'm fed up with people treating me like I'm a mother and not a person!".
It really shook me, to hear her say it, because I'd never considered before that she was anything but my mother and it seemed awful, because she'd been there for me and I had never been there for her. And suddenly, I seemed to have access to my mother as a woman. I could see how brave and funny and self-doubting she was. I could see a woman who had given up whatever career she might have had for her marriage and then family. I could see her frustration and her anxiety.
Now, I try and encourage my mother to do things she didn't think she could do. After having passed her maths GCSE at an evening class, she's doing teacher training and runs evening classes of her own. When she doesn't think she can do it, because she's not good enough, I try and help her to see that she is. I tell her that I'm proud of her, because I am so very proud indeed.
On the negative side, I think it's made me more scared of having a family of my own. I'd always assumed that I'd be me, and people would treat me as me, but there'd just be children and partner and pets... Now I understand that most women think that, but it's so easy to let yourself get snowed under and feel like you've disappeared. Like everything in life, remaining recognisably your own person seems to require some work. But, at least now I know, from my own mother, that the process doesn't have to be irreversible.