Mothers down through the years have been lauded, applauded, pedestalled, crowned, sung of, painted, poemed and enshrined all in an attempt to show we recognize the enormity of their influence and responsibility. There is no pre-requisite for motherhood. One does not have to pass exams, or be of a certain ethnic background, religion, financial status or temperament. The only requirements for motherhood are those dictated by mother nature herself and even these are no longer hard and fast. Basically, the traditional requisites for becoming a mother are:
A. Be of the female sex.
B. Be reproductively mature.
C. Have had at least one sexual encounter with a male of the same species.
All of which can go without saying if one has:
D. Given birth.
Nowadays, however, many of these requirements have been adapted to our own needs. No longer is physical femaleness as important as MENTAL femaleness. There are thousands of mothers out there stuck in a male body! And as far as physically giving birth, well, many people find the whole process either too disgusting, too inconvenient or just plain impossible. These people can still attain motherhood through adoption, surrogacy or kidnapping. In the end, it all comes back to the fact that motherhood is a state of mind.
This is the universal link between all mothers, regardless of their individual personalities or conditions of life. Mothers all have one goal in life: Control.
In the beginning a mother must control her child simply for the child's well-being. The innocent little dears would certainly never survive without a mother's controlling influence. One would think, however, that once that child reaches adulthood the instinct to control would diminish. It doesn’t. Instead it merely assumes a new name: Manipulation.
Take the case of the 15 year old daughter going out with her friends wearing something her mother considers inappropriate. Mother can control this behaviour by saying: "You will not leave this house wearing THAT, my girl. Go up and change immediately!"
Then look at the same daughter 25 years later going out for her 20th wedding anniversary, once again wearing something mother doesn't approve of. Mother smiles sweetly and says: "Oh my, I thought those fashions went out of style years ago! DO have a good time, dear. Are you going somewhere dark?"
Mothers don’t acknowledge adulthood in their children. When Mom comes to visit her 40-something year old son, she will still covertly check his fingernails, hair, ears and underwear – if she can get her hands on them. Anything amiss will automatically be blamed on his wife, who obviously wasn't raised well enough to know how things should be done.
When Mom comes to visit her 40-something year old daughter, she mutters things like, "I see you've forgotten everything I taught you." or "In my day, we took pride in our work!" as she interferes in every facet of the household duties. Daughters and daughters-in-law apparently become threats to a mother's sense of autocracy. How dare they be able to cope with things differently? Sons, on the other hand, will always be pitied, clucked over, coddled and lovingly chastised for trying to manage independently. They can never pose a threat, for they were kept blissfully ignorant of anything remotely resembling domestic duties. We don't want to make sissies of them by having them do women's work!
Mothers learn to adapt their control messages to suit the age of their child. What once were out and out commands become subtle hints, martyrdom and/or reverse psychology as their child matures. Some key manipulative phrases are:
"When I was your age..."
"I'm just too old to argue with you."
"Your poor, dear father would roll over in his grave..."
"This is all the thanks I get after all the things I've done for you."
"I don't want to interfere dear, but..."
Mothers use their seniority like an atomic bomb – bringing it out as a last resort. There is nothing you can do to win your point once Mother starts dropping lines like:
"I've been around a lot longer than you."
"When you get to be my age..."
"You can't put an old head on young shoulders..."
"You young kids these days...!"
This seniority excuses any amount of tactless behaviour. Mother is the only person in the world who can say to you:
"When are you going to lose all that weight?" or
"That hair colour looks hideous with your complexion." or
"Ever since you married that horrible person, you've just let yourself go."
Mothers develop selective memories once they acquire grandchildren. You will be told things like:
"I was in labour for ten days with you and was out picking cotton on the eleventh!" or:
"When are you going to toilet train that child? All of you were out of diapers by the time you were five months old!" or:
"The trouble with your generation is you don't discipline your children. No wonder there's so much crime these days!"
Of course if you take exception to any of these statements Mother will simply say: "Don't argue with me. I've been on this earth a lot longer than you." So don't bother.
I suppose, if the truth be told, motherhood is a position that demands respect, and it’s not fair, and can be somewhat dangerous, to criticize too much. Luckily, after pondering all the annoying indiosyncracies that accompany motherhood, I feel I have a more open mind. I can look my own children straight in the eye and say:
"Despite the fact that I am your mother, I will hereafter try to approach every situation in a fair, unbiassed and calm manner, and if your rooms are not immaculate in one hour, I will set fire to them."