Monday, January 13, 2014

Like Mother, Like Daughter

This is my lovely mum!

If you had met me when I was 6 or 7 years old, and asked me what type of hair was the best in the world, I would have answered: "Red hair. Red hair is the best and most beautiful hair ever. I wish my hair looked just like Mum's."

My mum had then, and has always had, the most gorgeous natural red hair, cut into a flattering chin length bob. It frames her heart shaped face and makes her look elegant. Even at that young age, I loved it, and I wanted to imitate it.

But it wasn't just my mother's hair I wanted to imitate. I have always loved my mum. More than that, I have always wanted to be like her, to share those qualities that I admired in her.

As I grew up, I tried to imitate my mum. I was the eldest child, and I tried to have the same good influence on my siblings as my mum did. I wanted to be a good housekeeper, just like her, so I became a good cook (even though, despite all efforts, I never had a tidy room!). I saw how much she was interested in learning, and also gained interest and respect for learning. 

By the age of twelve, I was doing my best to be just like mum. I even had my hair cut in a similar bob to hers and wore long skirts and shirts just as she did. I thought it was a compliment when someone said they couldn't tell the difference between my mum and I from behind.

After the age of twelve, I had some very difficult years. It was also then that I found my mum imitation failing. I began to think that I was never going to be like my gorgeous mum, and, worse, that I was never going to make an acceptable woman at all. 

If I had described myself, I would have said I was lazy, undisciplined, messy, fat and sulky. I constantly compared myself to my mum. How come she could get up at 6 am and keep house, care for the baby, teach everyone, pray, make sure the house was clean for dad coming home, and stay cheerful, when I seemingly couldn't even wake up at 7.30 and complete my relatively few tasks?

Maybe it wasn't fair of me to compare myself so closely to my mum. Maybe it was a symptom of mental illness that kept me from seeing things clearly and realising that it was ok to be different. Maybe I was just a confused teenager who took criticism way too seriously and used it to beat herself up instead of motivating her to do better.

But whatever the reasons, when I found myself starting to want to break away, to dress differently, listen to different music, do different things, to, in short, form my own identity, I thought that was terrible. I felt guilty about it, and I was sure my mum wouldn't approve. Maybe, for all I idolised her, I had put her in a box.

When I was 18, I left home. I left my mum's care and went to a convent. I went from seeing her all day, everyday, to writing her a weekly letter, and seeing her once a month for a few hours. I missed my family. I missed my mum. But I didn't think I was allowed to talk to her about anything really important anymore, so I didn't. I was to become a nun, and nuns didn't talk to their mums about their lives and problems.

But I was always reminded of my mum at the convent, mainly because their lifestyle, while different to home, had some similar values. I was at home with a large group of nuns only because of my family, and I excelled at my studies because of my mum's influence. I never forgot her, and at night, when I was at my lowest, and I cried into my pillow, I would tell myself how much I wanted my mum. Not Mother Prioress, not anyone else, just my mummy.

I eventually left the convent. It wasn't the place for me. I felt like a failure, a loser so terrible that even God didn't want me. Anxious, depressed and guilt-ridden, I felt I couldn't stay at home. I felt I had no place anymore. I ended up going to Perth, on the other side of the country. I think I was hiding away.

I ended up renting a little room, alone, while working full-time at a cafe to support myself. I was lonely. But I didn't forget to call home every couple of weeks, and I didn't stop visiting when I could. For all my shame, I couldn't cut myself off from my mum and family totally. And I lived by the standards I had been taught.

It was only until after I met my now husband that I was able to really start talking again to my mum again. So much had happened since we had last really spoken, that we had to rediscover each other. I had to tell my mum about my new diagnosis of mental illness, about Graham, my husband, about the things I had learnt and the struggles I had had. And I found I had been right to admire my mum so much. She really was intelligent and thoughtful, feminine and wise.

The time I spent away from my family, while being the hardest times of my life, did shape me into an individual. I learnt about myself, and I became my own person. By going away from my mum, I found out good things about myself, that maybe I wouldn't have at home. I found I was strong-willed and resourceful, that I had strong principles and a big heart. I found it was ok to be myself.

But its also been amazing to come closer to my mum again. We are both adults now, and I can admire her without needing to try to be her. We still share many, many things in common. Now I am more stable, and have a better idea of who I am, I can talk to her without feeling guilty that I need to be something or someone else.

I love you, Mum. Thank you for always loving me!


  1. This is so beautiful Felicity. I can remember feeling the same way about my mom and older sister. I also suspect that my 21 year old, who is still home with me and battling her own illnesses, possibly feeling the same way. Now, I can encourage her even more, thanks to your honesty and generosity.

    1. Thanks Michelle! It's nice to know I'm not the only one. The best part of this story, for me at least, is the ending, where Mum and I grew closer again, even though there had been so many misunderstandings and obstacles in the way. I am very grateful we got all these chances.

  2. Ah, what a beautiful testament to a wonderful Mum :)

    1. Hi Kelly! This post was written a few days before my husband's grandmother died. His mum is now grieving the loss of her mum, especially as they lived far away from each other. I guess this week is a huge reminder for me to be grateful for my own mum. Goodness knows, she truly deserves it!

  3. Hi Felicity! I came across your blog today and had a quick question. You can reach me at my email below! I really appreciate your time and response.

    - Cameron

    1. Hi Cameron! Call me technologically impaired, but I haven't been able to find your email! I would love to email you and chat - please feel free to talk to me at anytime, and I'll do my best to answer you promptly.

      Thank you for commenting!

    2. Hey :) I was about to comment to ask if I could have your email address and then I saw this. I'd like to send you a message but don't want to post it here, would that be okay? From, Rachel

  4. Beautiful. I cannot imagine either of my daughters ever writing or thinking anything so lovely about me. My eldest is 20. She is struggling, trying to find her place in the world, and though we are close and she knows that they (my kids) are deeply loved by me and their father, and would go to the ends of the earth for them, I still feel she thinks I am an old nag who spoils fun things for her. :) But, what a beautiful thing for you to write about your mum.

    You do sound a lot like I was.. though I did not feel quite as kindly about my own mom as you do/did. Every day though, I too felt lazy, undisciplined, messy, fat and sulky... and also had very very few friends. Sometimes I still feel that way, and I'm in my 40s! I also moved away from everyone... desperate to find my own place. Depression and loneliness not so good a mix. But that's when I found Mother Angelica on television, and this lead to my conversion. It didn't solve my problems, but it did give me hope when I had none.

    I am struck by your background as a black sheep. :) I have called myself a black sheep for years. If you knew how I stuck out in this family, you'd know why and agree! :)

    1. Hi Sue! I think you should ask my mum if she really believed I would write something like this about her when I was 20... because I bet she would tell you that no, no I wouldn't. People change, and as we get older, I think it helps us to understand what we have received from our parents. At least, it has for me.

      I used to think of myself as a bit of a black sheep. But I think I might have to change my background. I am a sheep, but I think my coat is rainbow. I stand out, but not in a bad way. There is just... more to me than a regular white woolly sheep!