Well, I don’t really know if hindsight is 20/20, but I do know that as a young woman in the 70’s, my passion for the Feminist principles of equality for women, definitely resulted in some tunnel vision. Passionate in my desire to support the movement of women out of the prescribed roles of wife and mother, to gain control over their choices regarding their reproductive health and to reach pay levels equal to men, I was quite often judgmental and dismissive of many aspects of traditionally defined womanhood. In an effort to improve the lives of women, I tended to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Militant and strident, I had little patience for more traditional views on the subject of women’s rights.
My mother, a loving, religious, strong wife and at-home mother of eight children, six of them boys, became a casualty of my Feminist thinking. She represented to me everything that I didn’t want to be. I wanted a high-powered career, a more egalitarian marriage and fewer, if any, children. I snickered at my mom’s reliance on religion as her source of strength and thought her naïve and unworldly. I loved my mom, and my large Irish Catholic family, but found fault with many of the cultural and religious beliefs that I’d been raised with.
As most children, I assumed that my parents would be around for a long time, if not forever. They’d become grandparents to my kids and the wonderful family traditions that I’d grown up with would be part of my children’s lives as well. There would be plenty of time to get to know my mother as a woman and a friend, to ask her questions about her life, her love for my dad, raising kids, regrets and precious moments. I never expected that my mom would pass away before I had a chance to ask her these questions, to know her as a woman, and before I had my own kids.
I was wrong. My mom passed away suddenly on the morning of my last college exam, about a week before Mother’s Day on May 3, 1978. We laid her to rest while my college graduation was taking place about 5 miles up the road. Suddenly, the high honors and awards for special achievements that I was to have received lost their importance. The hub, the energy that had held my large family together for so long, had fallen out. My wedding, less than three months later, seemed surreal without her presence.
Thirty four years later I am happy to say that I have come to embrace the strong, spiritual, loving woman that my mother was. My need to be her polar opposite passed many years ago and I am grateful for the traits that she passed on to me. Married for 30 years, and mother of 3, I have a much greater appreciation for the woman she was. I marvel at how she raised eight children, often alone while my father travelled for work. As I have moved into deeper faith and embrace my spiritual nature, I understand and appreciate her religious strength. Her loving, generous nature and her unfailing dedication to her family is an inspiration to me.
As Mother’s Day approaches I wish nothing more than to be able to have that conversation with my mom, hearing about her life, her loves, her joys and regrets. As a simple woman of faith, I believe my mom’s answers to those questions would be simple, focusing on the day to day joys and challenges of life, and what she made of them.