April 1, 2015

Finally learning the Lessons my Mom tried to Teach me.


My mother was a busy Primary teacher, when I was little.

When I was 8-years-old she became a head teacher.

I have three siblings and my father worked abroad, so time with my mum was kind of limited. She subtly tried to teach me some important life lessons. So subtly in fact, that I somehow ignored them completely. When I got older and one by one, discovered these learnings for myself, I looked back and smiled, this is what Mum had tried to tell me.

I had been too headstrong to listen.

I hope I can do a better job of teaching my daughter these lessons. Determination is her defining characteristic. If I can instill in her the value of channeling determination correctly, hopefully I can spare her some unnecessary heartache and struggle.

1. How to sew.

My mum taught all her students how to sew.

Whenever I asked her to fix something of mine, she would say, “come, sit by me and learn,”  I would say, “next time.”

I never did.

When when I had my own family and started needing to sew their stuff, in some haphazard manner, I realised she was right. I still save my mom a pile of sewing, for when she comes over to visit me once or twice a year, but maybe this next time I will sit with her and learn properly. Now that I am nearly 32.

2. To earn my own money.

Because my childhood memories are filled with after school clubs, friend’s houses, nannies, dinners that could be prepared in 10 minutes, I remember envying the friends whose mothers did not work.

Who picked them up from school, baked cakes, came on school trips, stuff like that. I resolved, because of those memories, that when I had my own family I would not be a career woman.

This resolution made me swing too far to the other extreme.

I was scared of going back to work. I knew whatever I did would mean taking time away from my kids.  By the time my kids were 3-years old, though, I knew it was time for me to think about my own future. I started writing, this could easily be fitted around them as a priority.

I missed teaching Yoga, so after a stint of subbing, I happened upon my own class. It felt good to be able to pay for some things myself again.

I felt more empowered and less frustrated and dependent.

It was nice to be Hannah again, not only Mummy. I was determined still to keep mothering as my number one job, for now my career on the side until they are older, but it felt good to have my own money coming in.

3. Not to depend on a guy for anything.

That will let you down. Even if the man is question is a good one, he may not always be around. You will benefit yourself by learning how to do everything a man can. If I have a ladder and one of those gripy things to open jars with, I don’t think I need a man.

I depended massively on my web developer boyfriend for everything technological for the best part of nine years. Now. I don’t know how to turn the T.V. on, or how to fix problems on my websites, I am paying the price. Whether it was changing a lightbulb or cleaning the gutters, my 66-year-old mum has done it for herself for years. 

4. To find a joyful way of doing everything.  

I somehow missed this one. But, when my kids were small and the mundanity of daily washing and cleaning was getting me down, my mum said, “Did I never teach you, you must find a way to enjoy everything you do?”

It sounded so simple, but what she was teaching me, I already understood intellectually, not to resist. She said, put the radio on if you are washing up, take pride in cleaning the bathroom, put the T.V. on whilst ironing, have a coffee when you do paperwork, you must find a way to enjoy whatever it is you must do.

5. The benefit of yoga.  

My mum wasn’t very open about her first marriage.

But, she told me she was once standing in Birmingham waiting for a bus in the late 1970s, when she suddenly forgot where she was and where she was supposed to be going. Knowing what was going on in her life at that time, I imagine it was some kind of stress-related panic attack.

She went to the doctor, who was an Indian man and recommended Yoga. My mother never had any other treatment, no anti-depressants, no therapy specialists. She credits the breathing exercises and poses for getting through a testing time.

6. Why we shouldn’t eat or wear animals.  

Somewhere between the ages of 11 and 13, I made the semi-conscious decision to rebel against everything my mother had taught me.

We were brought up vegetarian, so it felt naughty and rebellious to be having a steak on holiday with a friend. I remember it feeling so tough, I felt like I was chewing my own tongue. I was embarrassed and angry at my mum for letting me get to this age without knowing how to chew a steak. I continued to eat meat that others prepared for me until I was 18.

When I had to start cooking for myself, I naturally went back to being a vegetarian. I’m bringing my kids up the way my mum did us, although I tell them they can eat meat if they want when they are older, I am just not cooking it.

They are more actively involved in the decision than we were when little. My siblings and I were very rarely sick. I don’t remember any of us vomiting or taking time off school. So, I am confident feeding my kids a vegetarian diet is right, for us personally. I am happy I can have this faith as I saw we were okay growing up this way.

7. Don’t get a boyfriend, just have lots of friends.

This is the most important lesson I never listened to.

I’m not sure why I so badly wanted a boyfriend when I was 15. I guess it was because everyone else seemed to be in love and I felt inadequate by comparison. I wanted to be loved, but I also wanted to be free. My mum was right. I should have just had friends until I felt ready to settle, and not messed around with those boys so much.

Every relationship is a compromise, and to compromise aspects of myself when I was young, when still learning who I was and what I wanted from life ,I found it impossible.  But with age, the clouds part and the picture of what I really wanted from a partner became refined.

There was no way I could have been a real version of myself and therefore had a real relationship, when I was a teenager, or in my early 20s. Really, it is only now that I am starting to understand relationships and how they should work.

I have friends who have been together since their teens and who are now married. They have happy and healthy relationships. But for me, they are mind-boggling. I had not one iota of who I was when I was 15.

8. A little lippie goes a long way. (And it seems my little lady thinks much the same).

I swore off the hasty application of pink lipstick, as I recall subtly signing to my mum, “It’s all over your teeth love!” more often than not.

But a little dash of tinted gloss, no matter how tired I’m feeling, how torn apart on the inside, makes me feel I can face the world and put my best foot forward.

I don’t wear much make-up, I rarely brush my hair. However, even when my twins were small, a bit of lipgloss, hastily applied in a car wing-mirror, made me feel more put together (even upon realising my top was on back to front and my trousers were on inside out, that I couldn’t remember if I had brushed my teeth, and it was too late to do anything about any of it).

A strict rule my mum had made (one I will not be replicating) was no body-piercings until the age of 16. I think I had (and hid, with varying success) four piercings by the time I was 15. I held off piercing my lip until 17, I think this strict rule made me think I was going to go into a hole-punching frenzy when I turned 16.

Therefore I don’t 100% agree with everything my mother tried to teach me. Her, “If God meant you to have holes in your ears you would have been born with them” argument fell a little flat when I pointed out she had pink lipstick all over her teeth, which God didn’t put there either. 

I can’t say I hold any regrets. Maybe that heartache and struggle is an essential part of living, that can’t be conveyed by observing? 

However, the last time I tried my hand at sewing, well, that’s a hot mess, about which I told my boyfriend, ” If I should die, no one is ever to know that haphazard handiwork was mine.”


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Relephant Read:

The Good Mother.


Author: Hannah Martin

Editor: Asheigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of author

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