‘Twice the Mother’ explores the idea that one woman can mother in entirely different ways, influenced not by her own ability and character, but by external circumstances, namely, seasons of her life. The first section is from the perspective of a young and adoring mother, the second from her daughter, now a teenager, reflecting on how her mother has changed since the birth of her sister. The final chapter is a realisation of how wrong she was to judge her mother, and explores how external circumstances have once again changed the family dynamic.
To my darling girl,
I’m looking down at you, staring at your tiny lips smacking together as you dream, and I know I will never love anything so much as I do you right now.
I’m 21 today, and I can’t imagine what you will be like when you grow to be this age. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. I married the boy I love, and now we have a perfect life together. I hope you are as happy as I am one day.
I wanted to write to you, here, now, so that no matter what happens, you will always know that you are loved. You have completed my life in ways I never thought possible, and I have found my best friend for life in you.
As the most special person in the world to me, I feel like I can share everything with you, and I pray my angel you will always feel the same for me.
With that said sweet princess, I have to tell you, I’m so, so scared. I’m scared I won’t be able to give you everything you deserve, and I’m scared I’m not strong enough to be the role model you need.
But most of all, I’m scared that even for a second you will not think the world of me, and that I might ever disappoint you. I’m writing this now my love so that you will always know, I only want happiness for you, and I wish every day for the strength to be the one to give it to you.
“Noooooo... Liv play?”
My three-year-old sister stares at me with the most innocent yet expectant eyes imaginable, and I hate her for it. My mum has “put her back out” again, which I know is just code for she’s depressed. She lies there, day after day, lifeless, expecting me to look after my sister.
I go in and lie next to her, curling my teenage body around her duvet-engulfed, marshmallow form and will some of my energy into her - it never works. My sister tugs my hand and I want to scream at her, but I know, from experience, that it will just make the situation worse. I begrudgingly “Liv play”.
My sister should never have been born. I remember the day my mum told me she was pregnant; I just stood there in shock.
“Aren’t you going to say congratulations?”
No, I wasn’t. My parents hadn’t lived together for the last six months. My mum didn’t even like me, her firstborn child. How was I supposed to be happy about her bringing another baby into the mix?
“Well?” my father prompted.
In hindsight, I think my mother had always suffered from depression, and I think my father was the cause. I wasn’t close to either of them anymore, and I hadn’t been since I was a child. My dad was gone a lot. My parents arguing, my mother's tears, and my fathers own indifference to whether I knew, gave away his indiscretions.
When my dad moved out, I refused to stay with him. My mother would cry and shout and rant about being a single parent, about money and her wasted youth. But what about my wasted youth? I’m 15 years old and not only do I have a toddler sister to worry about, but the pressure of pleasing my mum is becoming unbearable.
I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of them both. I don’t care about hating my mother because I don’t really think she cares about me anymore.
I have always felt guilty for my teenage angst towards my mother and my sister. The guilt visits me as I lie in bed and keeps me from sleep.
My mother was trapped in an exceptionally difficult, painful situation and my sister was just a child.
When I left for university, things changed. My mother fell in love again, with a man yes, but with life and with her children. It was as if the shroud of darkness lifted from our household - I finally understood how much she loved me, and our family blossomed like spring flowers.
Maybe it comes with being older, maybe it has come with seeing what wonderful women they truly are, but I have so much time, love, and understanding for the two of them.
I’m glad my sister probably doesn’t recall much of our relationship from back then. She is 16 now, and taller than me. She is long and lean, funny and humble. She has adopted my childhood bedroom now, and I climb into her bed with her when I visit and hold her tight. She wriggles jokingly, and I simply pull her in tighter. Every squeeze filled with apology and regret.
My mother is the strongest and most inspiring person I know. Every time I feel down, lost or hopeless she is the person I call. She found life again at 43. She became the best version of herself after a failed marriage, two children and decades of battling mental illness.
It is a new season for her, and for all of us, a beautiful spring of happiness and confidence. She has mothered adoringly, relentlessly, hopelessly and joyfully, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Emii Lou Ryot is a writer at ryotgrl
Image | Josh Willink @ Pexels