This piece by Cheska Stark is the first in our three-part Mother’s Day series exploring how becoming a mother to daughters can change your view of your own mother.
Since becoming a mother I see my own mother differently. I don’t just see the beautiful, kind, giving, loving woman that she is – I now see her strength. When my little girl was a few weeks old, she was screaming for a reason I couldn’t figure out. I held her in my arms and I rocked and sang to her (despite my terrible voice) until I felt her fall asleep. Her soft body dropped heavy in my arms and I knew she had succumbed to my comforting. I began to weep as it dawned on me that I was the person to her that my mother is to me, and I was overwhelmed.
I now see strength when I look at my mum. I see her body caring for us for hours on end. I see her heart answering my joy with enthusiasm, and I see her feeling my pain, desperate to make it better. As child I’d see her walk through the door, a tall, blonde woman who always knew the answer. Now I also see the commitment, the sacrifice, the fear, and the joy that her journey of motherhood must have bought her, and I wish I’d asked her more about those feelings.
Until having my own child I didn’t realise the feelings and responsibilities that motherhood is actually about. I thought we had dinner together every evening because that’s what a family does. I didn’t realise the gift it was and the security it gave me. I thought my mama lifted us home from school because there was no-one else to do it. But she talked to us and opened herself up so we would confide in her. I realise now that none of this was accidental; it taught us to be mothers of patience and commitment. She was the person we could count on, not just because she was biologically our mother but because she did her best to be that person.
She made it look so easy, but now I know it couldn’t have possibly been. I remember watching her get ready for a night out. I was in the bath and she was wearing a black off-the-shoulder dress, her perm in place as she sprayed YSL Opium on her neck. I know now that was a rare occasion: the babysitter planned, the crying child soothed. The desperate search for the strength to actually spray that fragrance. I remember taking it in turns with my two sisters to sleep in her bed when my dad was away – she must have slept as little as I do now when my toddler comes into my bed at 4am. She sewed us three girls matching outfits for every occasion and now I outsource my toddler’s outfits to her, puzzled by how she did it with three little girls and no Pinterest!
My mama tried to start a few businesses while being a full-time mom. Now I know that, like I do now, she probably wished our nap would just last a little longer, but all I remember is her laughing with her business partner while eating homemade chocolate biscuits. I remember her scrunching my hair up, loving my curls and asking me not to straighten them. I have my own curly-haired toddler now, and I realise the heartbreak I must have caused when I embraced the GHD.
A strange thing happens when you become a mother – suddenly everything makes sense. You understand all those things your mother did and said. You understand that nothing was accidental, that she thought about and decided on everything, because she was doing her best. You suddenly understand the love your mama spoke about. I know now that her worries were greater than I ever imagined.
I hate to admit it but I took my mama for granted. I never thought she was weak, but “strong” just wasn’t a word I used to describe her. I’m ashamed of that now. My mama, who raised three women who would become mamas, is a strong woman. She held it together, making it all look so easy. Now I know it couldn’t have possibly been easy – being a mama is wonderful but hard.
By Cheska Stark, co-founder of Kimmy and Bear.
The second piece in the series, by writer and editor Lynette Botha, touches on the unique nature of a mother’s love.
The third, by Zodwa Kumao-Valentine, shares the lessons she learnt on parenting from her mother.