Increasingly, I find my mother is me. As I grow older I am becoming more and more like my mother.
My husband tells me that I look like her especially since my hair grew longer in the spring after the pandemic shutdown of hair salons. It curls in the same places as her hair curled. With some chemical help, she kept her blond hair while I’ve let my brown hair turn grey and now, white. The lighter hair colour makes me look even more like my mother.
Since my hip replacement a few years ago, my gait changed. I walk with a slight limp just like she walked. My head tends to turn slightly sideways just as hers did.
Although my speech is peppered with more four-letter words than she used, many of the expressions and phrases that were hers are now part of my vocabulary.
Some of my daily habits are similar. I drink coffee and tea when it’s piping hot. I don’t sip drinks but quickly finish any alcoholic drink that I’m served — a habit that doesn’t always serve me well!
Along with her recipes, I use many of her cooking practices such as measuring salt in the palm of my hand rather than using a spoon, preparing generous amounts of food for every meal, and never following recipes exactly. When her home was cleared one of the things I wanted was the set of heavy cooking pots and pans that I use at the cottage. Whenever I use those pots, I think of her.
Mother/Daughter Issues Shape Us
Many years ago I read Nancy Friday’s book My Mother, Myself. In the book, Friday explored the conflicting feelings of anger, love, and hate that often characterize mother-daughter relationships.
The book is dated now, but at the time it precipitated new ways of thinking about the relationship with my mother. I know that this primary relationship shaped who I am as a person. Some of her actions damaged and hurt me. Sometimes I was unable or unwilling to meet her expectations. Over the years, I’ve let go of anger from these past affronts. As with all parents, I know she did her best in the situations she faced and with the knowledge and beliefs of her time.
Because I never had a daughter, I can only consider mother/daughter issues from the perspective of a daughter. I’m sure that I would have a different perspective if I had parented a daughter. Most likely, I would have struggled with various conflicts in the parenting relationship — always hoping that a daughter would grow up to become an independent, free-thinking woman.
Is turning into your Mother a Tragedy?
Oscar Wilde famously said, “All women become like their mothers; that is their tragedy.”
I disagree. Tragedy implies suffering, often with an unhappy ending. It usually involves heroism or downfall for the main character. I don’t feel that I’m suffering and, I’m not heroic. Hopefully, I won’t experience a downfall.
Much of the research about why women become more like their mother links that change to parenthood. Research pegs the transition as typically happening after the age of 31.
I don’t recall feeling like my mother when I became a parent at age 34. Rather, it was much later in life, after retirement, when I noticed that I began turning into my mother. Perhaps this was because I was too busy pursuing a career and being an ‘independent’ woman earlier in life. When I stopped working I finally had time for introspection.
Although my mother worked outside of the home, she never regarded herself as having a career. She worked because she needed to support my brother and me after her widowhood when she was 50 years old. I remember my mother’s example of hard work and the strength she showed when facing adversity.
My mother never had post-secondary education but she encouraged me to go to university and, later, to graduate school. Through her example, she taught me that girls can and should be strong. She would never have described herself as a feminist yet her example showed me how to be an independent woman.
My mother died in 1998 — more than 20 years ago yet I still miss her. She was one of the biggest influences in my life. Of the many life gifts she gave, in her last phone call with me, the words ”I love you, Jeanette” are the most precious. My hope is that I’m becoming the loving, kind, and generous-hearted woman who nurtured and expressed her love just before she died.
When I look in the mirror and think, ‘my mother is me’ I smile and feel grateful for the loving woman who shaped my life.
Thanks for reading my post. I’m interested in your comments. Do you find yourself turning into your mother as you grow older? How did mother/daughter issues affect you as a mother or as a daughter?