MOTHER'S DAY

Hello,

Today on Toofufu, we celebrate our first feminist heroes - our mothers. I'll start by telling you about my mom, Sonja.

 I have a friend who I've known since we were nine years old. We don't often see each other, but when we do, she first asks me two questions in the same order every time - 'How are you?', and then, 'How is your mother?' This has always struck me as important, and it was only when I was sitting down to write this that I really knew why.  See, it's important, because it shows the enduring impact that my mother has had on the lives of those around me. My friends love her, and wish to know her better. Which is probably more than I can even say for my friends' feelings about me. And that's because my mom is a bad-ass, cigarette-wielding, caring machine filled with equal parts feeling and humour. She is a good mother. 

I'm not a very good daughter, on the other hand. I currently have an unread message from my mom from yesterday afternoon that I've neglected in favour of other, lesser things. I guess I try,  but like all people, could try harder. Especially because my mom is honestly the best person I know and her messages always make for good entertainment. . 

I could fill many books with her words. They'd probably be banned, and not in the prestigious way, but I do hope to accomplish this one day. In the mean time, I'm so glad to have introduced you to the most amazing woman in my life, the only person who still thinks I'm a ' little birdy' no matter how many helpings I've had, and yoga sessions I've skipped out on. Thank you, mom - you are incredible. 

 Some other incredible women are also featured in this post,  as I've asked some feminist pioneers from various fields to give us a glimpse into the relationship they share with their mother. I hope you enjoy what they have to say as much as I did. 



Who is the mother-figure in your life?

My mother, Benita Grassman-Windvogel.

 What piece of advice did this person give you, that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

I keep my kidneys warm at all times, how to make the best Mac and cheese, how to speak my mind with little or no care for the opinions of others (if the opinions are idiotic).

What piece of advice would you give to them?

Chill mamma. Spoil jouself soms.

What do you admire in your mother, and what can you see of her in you?

Her resilience, the capacity to keep it together when all I really want to do is give up. My short temper is definitely from my mother but so is my ability to be engaging and social. 

In what ways are you different to your mom?

I'm selfish. I don't take myself as seriously. 

What influence does your mother have on your life today?

My mother is a phone call away since my move to Johannesburg. 

 

We have never been the sitcom family shouting about family love and living those stereotypical family lives; but I know my mothers love runs very deep for us.And as usual, in a subconscious way everything I do, my art, my opinions and achievements are all for my mother. 

What do you think your mom was like when she was your age?

My mother was a self-proclaimed 'goody-two-shoes'. I think a lot of my devil may care, sultry and 'FUCK YOU' side is a side my mother repressed in herself more successfully. 

What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

Let's be real, in most cases all I can think of is sacrifice. I hope motherhood isn't all about sacrifice.

What are some of your earliest memories of your mother?

My mother reciting poetry and plays in parts of the house with good sound so she could practice her elocution. My drinking bottle bubbling plastic as it burned because they said I couldn't have a bottle anymore, I'm too old for one. My mother asking me to sit in one position to block the sun from my newly born sisters face. A lot of singing and eating lots and lots of fruit. My mothers fruit addiction is the first thing I relate to my mother.



Who is the mother-figure in your life?

My mom, Sylvia

What piece of advice did this person give you,that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

Be kind, always.

What piece of advice would you give to her?

To always guard their heart.

What d you admire in your mom, and what can you see of her in you?

My mom has this amazing ability to take care of everyone around her and to help them no matter what. I may not always show it as much as my mom, but I do try take care of those around at all times.

In what ways are you different to your mom?

We have different senses of humour!

What influence does your mom have on your life today?

My mom guides me every day in trying to be the best person I can be.

What do you think your mom was like when she was your age?

Strong, independent and a hard-worker. She knew what she wanted and worked so hard to get there all by herself.

What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

Bringing love to that special person in your life; guiding them and teaching them how to be kind and caring, showing them the joys that life has to offer.

What are some of your earliest memories of your mother-figure?

Trying to be like my mom and spraying her perfume when she was out – hey, it’s the beauty side of me haha!



Who is the mother-figure in your life?

My mom is my mom. (Too literal? Sorry.)

What piece of advice did your mom give you, that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

My mom has offered me too much advice and inspiration for me to narrow it down to a single piece very easily, but I think that the most significant piece of advice she’s given me is that “you can’t catch a fish if you haven’t got a line in the water”. She always encouraged me to attempt things, even when I was convinced I’d fail miserably, and, well, I failed miserably a lot less often than I expected to. I think that’s why that piece of advice is so important to me – because thinking you might fail doesn’t mean you will, and should never prohibit you from trying something new.

What piece of advice would you give to them?

Now that I’m a bit older, I think I mostly parrot advice my mom has given me back to her. Yes, she’s just that smart. When I can tell she’s uninspired, I always encourage her, and she does the same for me.

What do you admire in your mom, and what can you see of her in you?

I have always admired so many things about my mother – her strength, her love, her perseverance – but most significant in this case is her creativity, which has inspired me for as long as I can remember, and pushed me to chase my own creative dreams. As an art teacher and professional miniature doll maker, my mom’s work has meant that I’ve always been exposed to arts and crafts, and that has become something incredibly important in my life. I’m so grateful to have grown up in a home filled with creativity, and that I have a mom who is so supportive of my (often strange) crafts, and who understands that sometimes the dining room table is just going to be littered with fabric and paints, and only gets moderately frustrated by this. But then again, she created the creative monster I’ve become, so she only has herself to blame, really.

In what ways are you different to your mom?

I’m at least 38 years younger. That’s the most significant difference between my mom and I, and honestly, I’m quite grateful for that. So many people seem to hate the idea of becoming their mothers, but I suppose their mothers aren’t as cool and creative and wonderful as mine – though I may be biased.

What influence does your mother have on your life today?

I’ve been studying about an hour and a half from home for almost for years now, but I message my mom almost daily and Skype her almost as often.She remains one of my best friends, and is someone I always turn to for advice – whether on what crafting materials to use for a project or just miscellaneous life advice. Her support, encouragement and endless love have allowed me to become the creative and determined person I am today, and the fact that she has not only allowed but encouraged me to follow my dreams leaves me eternally grateful.

What do you think your mom was like at your age?

I’d like to think my mother was a lot like me at my age, but looking around at my messy desk and the academic readings I know I ought to do but that I’m currently avoiding, I’m guessing she was a lot more hard-working and studious, since she was one of the top students at her college. But my marks aren’t bad either, so maybe we’re not too dissimilar after all. My mom was also already living alone and working at my age, and I’m still studying and living at home (and not quite ready to leave, since I like sharing my mom’s craft supply drawers) so I suppose she had more of this “adult-ing” thing sorted out than I do.

What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

There’s something so terrifying to me about the thought of bringing a child into this world, and the thought of having to make choices that will inevitably affect this other, whole human’s life forever, knowing that you could as easily ruin this person as you could create them. Because of that, I think motherhood has some inherent bravery, that you believe that you can bring a child into this world who will hopefully contribute positively to a world so filled with negativity – and that you are taking the responsibility of the choices that will shape this person.

The thought of raising a child remains scary to me, but honestly, if I could be half as fantastic a mother as my mom has been to me, I think that that child would be lucky.

What are some of your earliest memories of your mother?

 I’m not sure on this one, but I distinctly remember being very small and learning to sew buttons onto a scrap of fabric. I’m not sure I was too concerned about aesthetics at that point – I remember a magenta, satin button amongst a collection of other oddly coloured buttons, none of which matched the bright yellow of the fabric – but my mom encouraged my creating nonetheless, for which I’m forever grateful.



Who is the mother-figure in your life?

My mom, Emily Riordan.

What piece of advice did your mom give you, that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

Instead of telling me, she shows me everyday that living life with enthusiasm is so much better.

What piece of advice would you give to her?

To stop thinking about the next fun activity and rather enjoy what’s happening now. (I’d tell this to myself too.)

What do you admire about your mom, and what can you see of her in you?

Gosh, so many things! We are pretty much the same person, except my mom’s better at not worrying about what people think. I wish I could be more like that.

In what ways are you different to your mom?

As I said, not a lot. But she loves long walks - I’m more into iPod induced 5km runs. She is constantly dieting - luckily I can eat whatever I like. She has a great sense of fashion - I just follow her lead. 

And she is an AMAZING cook - I burn everything, even boiled eggs (it’s possible.)

What influence does your mother-figure have on your life today?

She influences many decisions, especially in my career - which is very important to me right now and she has a huge influence on where I next go on holiday. Travel and holidays are her favourite hobbies!

What do you think your mom was like when she was your age?

Let’s just say, she was a little more rebellious!

What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

Companionship, commitment and honesty.

What are some of your earliest memories of your mother?

Her wearing extremely comfortable and slightly over-sized woolly jumpers. I loved snuggling into them.



Who is your mother-figure?

My mom, Rachelle. 

 What piece of advice did your mom give you, that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

It's not strictly a piece of advice, but I remember very clearly that when I was three or four and asked casually, "Doctors are boys and nurses are girls, right?", my Mom was kind of shocked and set me straight – telling me that girls could do anything. It's strange for me to think that my Mom didn't really identify as a feminist then. When I rejected dolls she bought me a set of tiny toy construction vehicles that moved a ball bearing around a plastic track, which I adored.

Pretty progressive parenting for 80s or early 90s Durban. If this was an Allan Grey ad, I suppose this story would end with me becoming an engineer, but the lesson wasn't that literal – basically, my Mom taught me that all of my choices and preferences were valid. 

 What piece of advice would you give to her?

 I'd tell her to be more confident in herself. I'm amazed at how often she starts a sentence with something like "I could be wrong about this, but..." or "I'm no expert, but...", and then follows that phrase with a perfectly valid, well-thought-out, and often really insightful opinion.

 What do you admire in your mom and what can you see of her in you?

 I really admire her energy and work ethic. You could say that that's something I see in myself, but only kind of – since before I can remember, she's got up at 5:30 every morning, and I'm more the any-earlier-than-8-is-to-be-avoided type.

On the other hand, we both tend to leave tasks until the last minute... You could call it "procrastination" or "working well under pressure", but I can tell you that she produced some pretty amazing outfits for me the night before school dress-up day, and that she and I probably have both perform best at work when we have a ridiculously short turnaround time. 

In what ways are you different to your mom?

 There are a lot of little ways in which we're different – there's the ability to wake up early, as discussed above, and the fact that she likes browsing for hours in clothing stores, while I dislike that activity so much that I work for an online retailer.

The biggest difference for me, though, is the fact that she always wanted to be a mom, and I've never wanted children. One of the best things that my Mom's done for me is acknowledging that this is okay – that what was a big part of her own purpose is not a part of mine, and that that's okay. I'll spend so much of my life explaining this to people, and I'm really glad that she gets it. 

What influence does your mother have on your life today?

 I'd say a pretty significant influence. She's a good person to call in a crisis, whether that means an ethical dilemma or locking myself out of my flat.

 What do you think your mom was like when she was your age?

 She was a tired but excited new Mom – I'm the same age that my Mom was when I was a year old. When she was a little younger than I am now, she lived with her best friend in Johannesburg and it sounds like she was fun, chaotic and adventurous. How were people brave enough to pack up and leave home before friends and family were just a wall post or WhatsApp away? 

 What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

 To be honest, it seems to mean a whole lot of sacrifice. I don't mean that in a horribly cynical way – it's a big part of why I admire all of the mothers I know, and something I really appreciate in both my mother and grandmother.

 What are some of your earliest memories of your mom?

Probably the ones where I'm being picked up from preschool. I grew to really love school as I got older, but when I was little it felt scary, and I was always so relieved to see her! 

 



Who is the mother­-figure in your life?

I totally lucked out on a mother like my mom, Denise Rose.

What piece of advice did your mom give you, that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

She would often repeat Eleanor Roosevelt’s “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” to me growing up. But rather than specific advice to me, what has stuck with me was a constant encouragement to just ‘go for it’.

What piece of advice would you give to her?

My mom is often telling me not to work so hard, which is something I absolutely got from her, so I’d tell her to take her own advice! I’d tell her to put herself first more often, and to find more opportunities to dance.

What do you admire about your mom, and what can you see of her in you?

My mom is fearless, independent and an eternal optimist. She laughs easily ­ and at herself. Her heart and home are always wide open. I admire her acceptance of the misunderstood and her capacity for forgiveness. I think we share a resilience that has been passed down through a long line of women. Also, a sense of humour, a competitive streak and an inexplicable knack for spelling.

In what ways are you different to her?

Anyone who knows my mom would have heard her declare that she doesn’t ‘colour between the lines’. I’m definitely more cautious, and tend to waste time worrying about the lines, the paper and the pencils.

What influence does your mother have on your life today?

My mom has a group of strong female friends who would drop in at a moment’s notice for G&Ts, a spontaneous dinner party and lots of laughing. Only later in my life have I found out how much they were really there for each other and for all of us kids between them. This has had a huge influence in my life today ­ I surround myself with strong and witty women who I look forward to growing up further with.

What do you think your mom was like when she was your age?

Fun! We definitely would have been friends, spending a lot of time lounge-­dancing to loud music and singing badly.

What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

A safe and guiding light. Unwavering support. A fighting spirit.

What are some of your earliest memories of your mother?

Very early memories of my mother are not specific, they are of an ever­-present love, joy and long skirts to hide behind. My later memories of her are of the bright and happy environment she created for her children whether we were icing Marie biscuits, listening to cassette tapes while bundled into her station wagon, climbing trees and roofs, drawing in the cupboards, sliding down the stairs on a mattress or making home aerobics movies with her video camera ­ all things that were actively encouraged. She also had a few goes down the stairs on the mattress. I remember watching her get ready to go out; smelling Dior Poison and eating the minty chocolates she brought home. She would also often exclaim, “That’s it, I’m dyeing my hair red!”. Red was the colour scheme of the bedroom she brought me home to, is the colour of her dream car, and was the colour she’d tell my teen friends and I to paint our toenails after a break up.



What piece of advice did this person give you, that has stuck with you ‘til this day?

My mother is the most resourceful and efficient person I know. I have heard her lament a thousand times over – “If you are going to do something, then do it properly.”

What piece of advice would you give to her?

To be gentle on yourself. There is also great strength in being vulnerable. 

What do you admire about your mother, and what can you see of her in you?

I admire how positive and confident my mom is. She does not ever hesitate – when she makes a decision she sticks with it. She has boundless (like I mean crazy infinite) energy for all the people that she loves in her life. I seldom give-up and I know I get this from my mom.

In what ways are you different to your mom?

We are so similar but also navigate the world quite differently. I am the most disorganised person I know, and I enjoy the creativity that is sparked from going with the flow. I am very open minded but I think that this has a lot to do with having greater freedom in my childhood.

My mom and I are both very sensitive people, but because my childhood was easier (again) I have remained very sensitive

What influence does your mother have on your life today?.

I believe in myself and know how to leap no matter how scared I am. This comes from my mom. Even though it also makes her nervous, I am a warrior woman because of my moms influence ;)

What do you think your mom was like when she was your age?

Very capable, and a real pioneer.

What does ‘motherhood’ mean to you?

There is no word I enjoy hearing more than “mama.” Motherhood is about being raw and vulnerable all the time because pieces of yourself exist in your children who are out of your control. Motherhood is about being a conscious role-model; about learning how much you actually have to give, It is about learning that you are not sacred or perfect but learning to love yourself regardless.

What has having or adopting your own children done for your relationship with your mother-figure?

It has given me so much understanding and compassion. I am in complete awe of my mother and how much and how well she juggled the demands of having three young children with everything else she had going on in her life. It has helped me open my heart even wider to her.

What are some of your earliest memories of your mother?

My mother is so enthusiastic and I have many memories of her cheering me on in all sorts of school events.


Let me know what you thought of Toofufu's Mother's Day post, and what you have planned for the special woman in your life in  the comments below. 

See you soon, 

Al