Wow, I have become my Mother

1 Jun

In a couple of weeks it will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. The dull feeling of grief is not there anymore but I still miss her. Recently, i have been thinking of her more, perhaps because i was taking stock of my own life.

Peonies remind me of June in Germany.

I started coaching the summer my mother died. Soon, it will be 10 years that i have been a coach. I love my work and i love my clients. It makes me happy to know that i make a difference in their lives. The acknowledgements i receive for my work are ambrosia for my soul. I feel deep gratitude that i have found what i was looking for for many years: my calling and my passion. And, it occurs to me that, interestingly enough, in many ways i have become my mother, something i actively rejected as a teen and young woman.

My mother was generous, big-hearted, and never stopped championing her children. She was intelligent and a free-thinker, and in her life prior to motherhood she had been a respected professional. But, growing up, my mother was more of an anti-role model for me. She did not care about appearances when everyone else did. She believed in authentically being yourself even when doing so brought you into trouble. She was kind, and i saw that others-—her children included—-could all too easily take advantage of her. I loved her with all my heart, but, as a teenager, i wanted to be anything but my mother. I wanted to be in control of my life and craved the power needed for that, and i also wanted attention and admiration from others, things that my mom did not seem to need at all. She was a Mother Theresa, seemingly without any need beyond caring for others and doing good.

Growing up under my mother’s protection i was allowed to have my own reaction to situations and people. But i was not immune to the judgement of others the way she was. She seemed to shrug it of and continued with her life. I was far from having that true independence from others’ approval. I remember that when i was 11 and had recently started at a new school, my mother invited a classmate to come home with me, hoping to help me cultivate a new friend. To my mom’s delight, the invitation was promptly, reciprocated. And that is when the girl who was groomed to become my friend—but with whom i never bonded—introduced me to the power of comparison and judgement. While her mother asked me friendly questions, my classmate noted to her that my mother wore neither lipstick nor nail polish, and later incredulously asked me why my mother’s appearance was so generally unglamorous. I hated the girl for being so shallow, and i hated my mother for not making efforts at glamour at all. How could it be that she did not care?

I loved beautiful things, followed the latest fashion, and enjoyed adorning myself. I wanted splendor and beauty in my life-—things that later motivated me to become a fashion designer. As a teenager i suffered much frustration being surrounded by schoolmates who mostly came from wealthy backgrounds and had everything beautiful that money could buy, while i had to be creative to bridge the financial gap between them and me. I came from a family with 5 kids living on one retirement income. My parents shopped at the cheaper stores to make ends meet. The clash between my family’s financial limitations and the material circumstances i was surrounded with at school was difficult for me. It was not only the reason for my frustration, it was also the cause of shame. I did everything i could to hide my family’s meager means and to pretend that i was like the rest. I worked hard tutoring younger kids to earn the pocket money i needed to afford hanging out in cafés with my classmates and living the bohemian life they did. I began to sew my own outfits to save money and still be fashionable.

In these years, appearance mattered a lot to me. Plus, always having to be the understanding one who has to share and make room for her needier younger siblings, left me frustrated. I craved attention. My mother’s model of self-sacrifice in the name of family did not suit me. I wanted a different life for myself. I defined myself and what i aspired to in opposition to my mother. I wanted splendor, attention, and bohemian carefreeness.

Yet, when i look back today, i notice how much of my mother is in me. Yes, beauty is still one of my core values and i still care how well my top goes with the rest of my outfit. But, i realize that many of the things my mother did for me i now do for others. During my formative school years, when i learned to step into my power and to change my frustrating reality, my mom was the one who sustained me, cheered me on, and celebrated my achievements with me. She supported me and held my hand, while letting me take on responsibilities and walk my own path–which i realize now are some aspects of my work as a coach.

I give myself credit for the good work i do. And i know that i would not be doing any of it, if it hadn’t been for my mother and her strong ethical values. I now know that the financial limitations i experienced early on, and the juxtaposition of my lifestyle with the lifestyles of my classmates was a blessing in disguise. I learned that favorable exterior circumstances make life easier but are not necessarily soul-nurturing. And, as much as it would shock my younger self, now i don’t need to hold up the appearance of being ms. perfect anymore. I did that for much of my life. I now know that i am worthy with or without lipstick, and that my worth is not measured by how well i am put together. Now i appreciate my mother more than ever, and i am proud of the things i have in common with her.

I’d love to hear if you see your mother in yourself too. Or did you have another strong role model? What did your role models look like when you were a teenager? Who did you want to become and why? How has that formed the person you are today?

© Eva Ruland, May 2015

6 Responses to “Wow, I have become my Mother”

  1. Tara M June 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Thank you for sharing these reflections on your mother. In reading, I saw myself as your mother and my daughter as you: I, too, have become a woman who rarely wears lipstick, doesn’t care much about grey hair, and is comfortable schlumpfing around in overalls and combat boots. I focus most on doing good works for the sake of others, for my community.
    However, my daughter (almost 11) loves to adorn herself with jewels and fine accessories. She chastises me for shopping at thrift stores. She wishes I were more into fashion. I realize that she takes after my own mother, who, at 82, is still a slave to vanity/fashion/glamour. It’s funny how these things skip a generation. Your reflection gives me hope that my daughter will someday appreciate me for who I am.

    • sfsoulspa June 2, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

      Tara, thank you for sharing how you see yourself and your daughter in the roles I and my mother took. One of the core teachings my mother passed on to me is tolerance for differences. It is not always easy to live with some of the differences, yet, just like in the case of me and my mother and you and your daughter, love is the glue that holds it together. And yes, it’s interesting how some traits skip a generation. It might be a way we separate ourselves from our parent. By being different from our mother we grow our individuality, something that is a part of human development. On a personal note, i love that P. is into fashion and adornments. I remember some photos you shared of her creating outfits with old t-shirts and a plastic bag. So creative!

  2. FreeCrone June 7, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    I enjoyed reading your lovely remembrance of your mother. Clearly, she had a strong appreciation for beauty as she raised a beautiful daughter. Thank you for sharing your truth and insight. Mothers! We would be nowhere with out them.

    • sfsoulspa June 8, 2015 at 4:53 am #

      thank you, LJ. yes, without mothers none of us would be here to reflect and write about them. 🙂

  3. Shelley June 8, 2015 at 4:01 am #

    Thanks Eva, for sharing that. I think I DO see parts of my mother in me. Her love of art and painting. She was very outgoing, perhaps more brave than I am. I don’t think I could be a teacher like she was! But she loved travel and was very curious, and wrote. So do I. Unfortunately, she died when I was 21. We might have been better pals if she had lived longer but I am grateful for her sense of adventure and artistry.

    • sfsoulspa June 8, 2015 at 4:56 am #

      yes, it is fascinating to see what we have in common with our mothers, and i bet there are always some traits or passions or skills that we don’t share. your mother most have been an amazing woman! i am sorry that you lost her at such a young age.

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