Love, Life Stories

7 lessons from my mother I will never forget

My relationship with my mother was not always easy, but she taught me some of the most important lessons.

Motherhood is overrated! As someone who doesn’t quite sees herself mothering little people (a.k.a children), I am truly convinced that motherhood is one of the hardest, yet most under-paid, under-recognized, and under-appreciated jobs in the world. I grew up in a household with divorced parents and step-parents, which was later permeated by the experience of immigration to the West. My relationship with my mother was not always easy, and we had our worst moments when I was a teenager (sorry mom!). Nonetheless, I am truly thankful for my relationship with my mother as an adult. Forget about the cliché things like “being there for me always” and “being my best friend,” my mother has taught me many things beyond that.

[bctt tweet=”I am truly thankful for my relationship with my mother as an adult.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Lesson 1: Identity matters.

I grew up in a bi-racial family (for lack of a better word). White-supremacy and racism in my country of origin, Mexico, led me to neglect of a part of my identity as a child. My mother is a member of the Zapotec nation (Southern Mexico), and has very strong ties to it. As a child I did not want to be called “Indian,” and I ran away from discrimination by self-identifying with the mainstream group of my country: mestizos. It did not matter how much my mother nagged me about it, I just didn’t want to listen. It was not until I became an adult that neglecting one part of my identity became relevant. Turns out my mom was right all along, to reject one’s identity is to lose one’s self.

[bctt tweet=”Turns out my mom was right all along, to reject one’s identity is to lose one’s self.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Lesson 2: We all live with contradictions.

When I started working with social justice movements, I found myself struggling to reconcile a number of things. How could I be a feminist and still benefit from patriarchy in several ways? How could I be Indigenous, Mexican, and Muslim at the same time? How could I be fighting white supremacy, when while all my happy childhood memories are attached to expressions of whiteness and class privilege, whether it was in the media or in general society? My mother taught me that we all live with contradictions, and that the important thing is to identify them, acknowledge them, disclose them, and try to work towards consistency in future work.

[bctt tweet=”We all live with contradictions.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Lesson 3: It’s okay to want more.

My mother left for Canada when I was 12 years old. She pursued a PhD that eventually led her to academia. Seeing her going through that process as an Indigenous woman from a developing country, as a feminist, as a woman of color, as the first one in the family to achieve such a degree, has taught me a lot. It is okay to want more. It is okay to fight for those opportunities. And it is, often, the only way in which we can open up the path to other women of color and from the developing world.

Lesson 4: Family and communities matter.

In Zapotec society, relationships are key to belonging and survival, whether it is through family or through connection to the broader community. This is one isn’t always easy. Not everyone has a family and not everyone has the luxury of having a supportive supporting family. However, my mother taught me that having ties to the community where you feel at home, that you have been “adopted” into, and where you can be yourself, is important. By ties I don’t mean random, seldom visits,  I’m talking about a true reciprocal attachment between the community and the individual. If you can’t get that from your family, the key is to find it elsewhere. The importance of community lies in the reciprocity aspect of it. Who is going to help you when you need help? Who are you willing to sacrifice things for when necessary? That is your community.

[bctt tweet=”Who are you willing to sacrifice things for when necessary? That is your community.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Lesson 5: To be a woman of color is a daily act of resistance (more so when you add different layers of oppression).

As I saw my mother walk into different spaces, whether it was her early jobs or her role in academia, I realized to what degree she ought for the place she currently occupies. From racism in the classroom to sexism within the administration, Indigenous women are often discriminated against. They are more likely to be victims of violence. They are less likely to be promoted. They experience harassment from students and colleagues alike. To be an Indigenous woman in a classroom is to be a constant reminder of what mainstream white and mestizo populations do not want to remember, that they are occupying Indigenous land at the expense of Indigenous peoples. To have the strength to fight that every day is an act of resistance.

[bctt tweet=”To be an Indigenous woman is to be a reminder of what white and mestizo populations do not want to remember” username=”wearethetempest”]

Lesson 6: Love is never enough.

Since my partner passed away two years ago, my relationship with my mother has changed a little. We now talk more about relationships, masculinity, love, etc. My partner’s passing was a wake-up call for everyone in the family in the sense that it made me grow a lot while also teaching my mother how to deal with her “convert to Islam” daughter and a context that is totally foreign to her. But what we have learned together (she probably already knew it) is that love in itself isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if it is romantic love or community love. Love has to be backed up by pragmatic and tangible actions. Love has to promote self-sufficiency. Love needs to be supportive. Love needs to be caring. Love needs to be aware. 

[bctt tweet=”Love needs to be aware. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Lesson 7: It is okay to disagree.

My mom and I don’t always see eye to eye (conversion to Islam, anyone?). Sometimes we get angry, we scream, we yell, and we hang up the phone (mainly her). But at the end of the day, we have built the kind of relationship that is always forgiving, reciprocal, honest, and open. Disagreements should not end relationships.