My Mother Wasn’t There For Me…And I Thank Her For That


Mother’s Day is usually filled with flowery odes listing all that these women have done. But sometimes what a mother doesn’t do is just as important. I learned a lot about being a mother the day mine stood me up.

I was 10 years old. I was less than two weeks away from making my stage debut (as Miss Hannigan, the mean orphanage matron from Annie) in my school’s musical revue.

Naturally, I didn’t want to do this – I hated that school and its music teacher even more – but everyone was forced to audition, and I got a big confidence boost when my class voted me into the role.

I practiced the songs over and over (and over and over and over) again at home. I was so excited! My mother made my costume and gathered my props. She listened to me prattle on endlessly about the rehearsals when she picked me up every day.

It didn’t even cross my mind that she might not come.

Then one morning she sat me down and told me that she couldn’t make it, because the show conflicted with a Buddhist retreat she needed to attend. She would go to the dress rehearsal and Dad would videotape the performance for her to watch later.

I was confused and upset and she did her best to comfort me. She said she was sorry but never apologized for her decision. It was clear that she thought it was the right thing to do.

Usually, my mother is one of those people who can’t be happy unless everyone around her is comfortable. My brother and I weren’t spoiled, but if we were ever in distress my mom would drop everything to make it better. For most of my childhood it seemed as if her life revolved around ours.

But that conversation was momentous – clearly, she wasn‘t putting me first anymore.

My mother sat with me and explained it through the tears and the anger: This was her religion. It was important.

Somehow, I got it. Her spiritual duties were more important to her than my show because she was not merely my audience. Even though she was my mother, she was allowed to have something just for herself.

By making that decision my mother taught me a lot about the importance of boundaries. She could throw everything she had into being a wife and a mother and a teacher – but through all that, she was a person.

My mother continued to take the smallest piece of cake and see movies that she wasn’t interested in to make our family happy. She continued to make sacrifices all the time, but now I was aware of them. And that they weren’t her duty.

My future children will be lucky if I am half the mother that mine was. Motherhood is certainly a scary proposition, but I know that it’s possible to come out of it with my sense of self intact. That’s one of the many things I am thankful to my mother for.

This post originally appeared on the blog Morning Quickie. Republished with permission.

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