On Mother’s Day: What It Means to Be a Daughter

mothers and daughters

Of Mothers, and Daughters.

By Arathi Devandran

There was one year, where my mother was unable to spend Mother’s Day with her mother.

My mother was in a hospital in India fighting for her life. I had not spoken to her in almost a week; I had been traveling in China, and I had only found out about my mother’s condition the day I had returned home.

It was Mother’s Day, then.

My mother has an annual ritual that she does her best to uphold. Armed with cake, and a little red packet with some gift money, she visits her mother and celebrates Mother’s Day. Most years, if I am in the country, I accompany my mother to attend this celebration.mothers

That year, for that particular Mother’s Day, even as I was haphazardly making plans to take the earliest flight out of the country to see my mother, I was also buying a cake, and hunting for a red packet to put some money in, to give to my grandmother. I knew my mother would have wanted that. (I had to keep correcting myself that there was no need for the past tense, because my mother was still alive, and that she would be okay, eventually).

That day, I spent an hour with my grandmother and my aunts. We cut cake and chatted about trivialities. No one had any idea about my mother’s condition.

It was only when I was leaving that I informed them that I was going to join my mother in India, that she wasn’t “feeling too well”, and that I would update them immediately as soon as I had more information.

This story has a happy ending; my mother recovered, and returned to Singapore, healthy and whole. She has spent other Mother’s Days with her mother since then.

This story has become just that, a story.

But it remains a reminder, that relationships are precious, particularly the ones that we have with our mothers. That when these relationships are about to disappear, we start floundering desperately, bereft, wondering how we are going to survive. That we stick so closely to rituals our mothers have because they provide us with a modicum of comfort that just this aspect of life remains the same, remains predictable, when little else does.

It remains a reminder that when shit hits the fan and the world stops making sense, our first instinct is to look for are our mothers.

It is also a reminder that our mothers too, are daughters.

This is a story that is relevant every day, and a trifle more so, on Mother’s Day.

As a daughter, I write with authority that the relationships daughters have with mothers are complicated. Daughters, for better or worse, grow up in the shadows of their mothers. For some, this can be enlivening. For others, it can be terribly stifling. For most, it is a complex mix of the two.

This may be why we are most unforgiving and critical of our mothers, because we do not know what to do with ourselves, when we are with them, and when we are without them. We have the most fun with our them, and the worst fights; the best make-up moments, and the worst separations.

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We see shades of behaviour in them that has taken root in us, and we stumble. Where do our mothers end, and where do we begin? Are we separate, or are we the same?

There is a universe interlaced in this relationship and some of us spend our whole lives decoding it. It is not a bad thing. It is not a bad thing at all.

So to all daughters who are on a similar journey to mine, a reassurance – you are not alone.

To all mothers, who are daughters themselves, you are special, and you are loved. Remember to tell your mothers that too.

A Happy Mother’s Day to all.

 


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