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Brown Mothers Don't Have It Easy

In her second piece, Kanika Chopra writes about mental health among our mothers

What comes to your mind when you think about your mother? Or a maternal figure you have in your life? 

We often use hallmark card terms for the way we feel about our mums. Kind, caring, emotional…and maybe some less Hallmark holiday terms come to mind for me; strict, strong, capable. 

If you asked me the same question in my teens, I’m not sure what my response would be. It would probably be similar, but definitely less eloquent. 

I don’t know if growing up you had a strained relationship with a parent, but I did. My parents (when I say parents, I mean my mum) and I were on very different pages, but I did what I had to do to be the good kid, or at least pretend I was. In retrospect I’d say I did get up to some mischief but nothing out of the ordinary that most teens would do. I’d also often get into fights with my mum. It was always my mum for me and not my father. My father sat quietly on the side lines; he is a man of few words.

Let me give you two examples of who my Mother was as a person. 

Number one: I used to play football with a group of kids from my colony every day when I was growing up. It was mixed group of young boys and girls. All in shorts and knock-off jerseys of our favourite EPL clubs. Some aunties from the buildings adjacent to the park that we played in hated our guts. Some of them hated our guts to the point where one of them called a 12-year-old me a slut, for exposing my legs to attract all the neighbourhood boys to play football with us. I ran home crying. I told my mum what happened. She changed out of her nighty, and came running down with me, and yelled at the lady who said that to me.

The lady was quick to make an excuse, she told my mum that that’s what all the watchmen and people in the colony were saying about ME, a 12-year-old child, who just wanted to live out her Bend It Like Beckham dreams. I saw my mum’s rage go from a zero to a hundred, real quick. She yelled so loudly I thought the lady was going to fall to her knees. 

It was incredible.  

The ladies my mum was yelling at, they too were mothers, and when they weren’t looking, their kids played with us.  

 This is only one example of many where I have seen my mother turn into a force of nature ready to go mama bear on anyone that even looked at me weird, let alone shame me for what I wore. 

Number two: When I was first published in a reputable fortnightly magazine back when I was 19 years old, I showed the article to my mum.  She immediately tried to look for spelling and grammar mistakes. Is that’s how little she thought of my ability that she proofread a magazine that real professional magazine makers made because she somehow assumed my incompetence? 

So safe to say I have an intense love for my mother, but also my own issues with our relationship as well. I respect her, love her, crave her approval, but also disagree with her on a lot of things. I would also like to attribute my strength, ability to stand up for myself (even if it maybe against her) and confidence to the way she raised me. I’d also like to attribute my self-doubt, desire to meet impossible standards, and my self-deprecating humour, and sometimes crippling anxiety to this relationship as well.

That said, at what point did you see your mother as more than just a parent? Have you gotten to that point yet? When you decide to bicker with her do you ever stop to think that maybe she’s had a shit day herself. Or that she’s probably on a journey to figuring out what she wants next out of life? A lot of us extend sympathies to ourselves, sometimes even when it’s with the smallest of inconveniences. Are we this lenient with our parents, especially our mothers? We expect so much out of them, emotionally if nothing else. 

Moving away from home helped me gain so much perspective on how hard my mother works to keep things running smoothly. With a 20-something- year old kid having an existential crisis every other day, and then with a teenager who can’t stop slamming doors because of raging temper tantrums, and all the while balancing a marital relationship, and organising and maintaining an entire household. How do they do it?

I know we are at a time in the world where we have never been more aware of the idea of mental health and our culture, and how it contributes to it. We are quick to call out all the shitty things that happen, but it when it comes to our own mums it would be nice if we could take a minute, understand that they also are womxnn of colour themselves, who didn’t have access to the information we have access to now, who themselves were products of the patriarchy, and who were probably raised in newly post-colonial worlds or western worlds.

They are products of what they know, and all we can do for them, as they do for us, even if we don’t understand each other, is just love one another.  

Main artwork has been produced by Pooja Prabhakaran, @byprabhs


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About the author

Kanika is a writer, reader and all-around curious person, who is a settler on Wurundjeri land, and hails from Mumbai. They love to edit stories as well as write them. She is the founder and editor of More than Melanin which is a collaborative literary zine and creative writing mentor to kids. In her free time, she loves to cook, eat, and feed those around her. Instagram: @morethnmelanin



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