ONE hidden agenda of Mother’s Day is probably atonement. Or redress. Hidden remorse. A fancy cover-up. Or hopefully, genuine repentance. Because there are hordes of people out there who’ve done and said some pretty horrible things to their moms—but will never admit it. And won’t ever repent. Probably until their mothers are dead. But then, that’s not even a certainty.
As you can already tell, this isn’t your usual sweet, dainty, cherry-blossom article about mothers and all our gossamer dreams about them. So please cease and desist reading, if you’re not ready to be disturbed, un-soothed, and un-pampered.
One woman I know has screamed at her mom most of her adult life. I don’t know if it’s just a horrid habit she obviously picked up from her mother—who also screams at their helpers, in particular. One thing I learned while observing this woman is this: Goodness. We can look all polished and perfumed outside… yet be such grotesque monsters inside.
This woman’s helper, after witnessing one of this woman’s screaming fits, said, “Akala ko may pinag-aralan si ma’am. Parang wala.”
Ironically, this woman’s kasambahay has a lot more class than her. I wonder. How many of us are as crass and cruel, in the secret confines of our home? But as they say, “You can fool some of the people some of the time. But not all of the people all of the time.” We know that this is a given: some helpers, drivers, gardeners, and staff have the joyful habit of leaking out information like this. Even friends who’ve witnessed it. This kind of dark secret never stays buried for long. Not all the perfume in the world can cover the stench of a person who hasn’t bathed for weeks.
Just try taking a ride in an enclosed vaporetto. I was quite shocked when assaulted by this overpowering body odor coming from someone who was wearing an Armani trench coat. She looked like a million dollars in that coat—but smelled like a dead rat. If you’re mean to your mom, that’s the word picture for you.
A young relative once confessed to me that she felt awful and couldn’t sleep, couldn’t go to Mass, after cutting her mom’s allowance. And this was right after she had bought something that cost P2M for herself. A useless bauble, actually. So I asked her, “What did you do about it?” She said she gave her mom her usual allowance again, and brought her out shopping for two days. She said, “A-chi. I don’t want that on my conscience.”
So being the pseudo-journalist that I am, I just had to ask her, “Why did you cut your mom’s allowance anyway? I’m sure it’s not much.” And she said, “Because I remembered how she used to cut my allowance when I was still in school. No reason. She just felt stingy.”
So apparently, there are awful things we do to our moms out of sweet revenge. Sometimes it’s subconscious—but that’s still not an excuse. Just because you had a mean mom doesn’t justify your being mean to her. Especially if you claim to be a Christian. Not all the FB praise reports and glowing updates, or pictures of posed kindness can nullify that. God sees and knows everything. There’ll surely be a day of reckoning. If you’re mean to your mom, you’re going to live a miserable life. Count on it.
Another time, a young friend told me how she’s never, ever going to forget how her mom always gave the new car, the new badminton set, the new hair dryer, etc. to her older sister who was her mom’s favorite. She was always the one who got scolded if there was a fight between her and her sister. One time her mom slapped her in full view of their helpers. And her sister just sat there, smiling. So when my friend got a job, and literally became rich and famous—she gave cheap gifts to her mom and sister who weren’t doing well financially.
There you go. Sweet revenge. But one day, her mom died. Just like that. My friend spent for a lavish wake and funeral, a memorial plot that cost as much as a brand new luxe car. She even built a mausoleum for her mom. But did it assuage her guilt? No way, she told me. “No matter how she treated me, God more than made up for it. Stupid me, not to realize that. So I’m sure God expected me to be the bigger person. To treat my mom better than she treated me. But I failed to do that. Now it’s too late.”
Then there are those of us who think that our mothers should’ve been kinder, more generous, more forgiving, less harsh or exacting.
My mom was a classic Tiger Mom. While she never nagged me to get good grades, she left me to fend for myself as early as grade 7 when she put me in this dorm in La Vista. It didn’t matter to me that the dorm my mom chose had a swimming pool, a car and driver we could use, or that our rooms were air conditioned and we had full laundry service. I just felt abandoned—in an expensive oasis.
How I envied my classmates whose moms brought them to school, along with their drivers. If their moms weren’t available, one yaya would be there with the driver. They were like princesses.
Some of my classmates had packed lunches that looked like take-outs from fancy restaurants. Mine was lunch in the school canteen, which I claimed with a grubby meal ticket. Well, most of us were “lunch boarders” anyway, even those who had ten cars sitting in their garages. But I was still annoyed with my mom who didn’t even have time to go to our parent-teacher meetings.
So my relationship with my mother was tepid and functional at best. She didn’t know how to be a mom. I didn’t know how to be a daughter. But still, we gave each other what we recognized as love: full financial support. You could say that gifts—and money—were our love language before we surrendered our lives to Christ. So whatever money we had, we gave generously to each other. NQA. No questions asked.
Taking care of my mom when she was sick with diabetes and other complications was one of the toughest things I had to do as an only child. For more than 20 years, I made sure that she had round-the-clock caregivers. I never got used to our panic runs to the hospital. Her expensive confinements. The endless waiting in doctors offices. The countless ECGs, MRIs, CT scans, blood works and tests she had to take.
You bet we had our quarrels while traveling together, while shopping together, while taking our walks together inside our subdivision. What can you expect? We were both tiger moms. But this is one thing I’m so relieved about, to this day: we never, never cursed each other. Never. That’s one thing I won’t have to regret about my life with my mom. We never cursed each other. We were never stingy with each other. We never left each other in the lurch.
But still, I have a few regrets about my mom. I didn’t hug her often. I didn’t cuddle with her at all. I can count on one hand how many times I told her I loved her—because I thought that all the trouble I took taking care of her, and giving her the best medical care we could afford, was enough. But no. It was not.
I didn’t thank her enough for all the things she did for me, gave me. I didn’t thank her for teaching me to be independent, to work hard, to fend for myself, not to be a moocher. She taught me being in debt—whether to a bank or a person—was being a slave to someone else. Later, I found out that’s what the Bible also says.
Yes. I took her for granted a lot. I thought moms who spoiled their kids were kinder, more generous than her. But now I know that those moms weren’t better than my mom. Moms who spoiled their kids raised crippled adults.
When I think about my mom, I thank God that He gave me the highest privilege of all—He chose me to share the Gospel with her. That was when she surrendered her life to Christ. God also used me to bring her to church. And He showed me how He transformed my mom as the years passed. We prayed together at home, or when we walked around our village. We’d wake up to my mom singing praise songs in her room. Those were her best years.
I think my mom regretted some things too, like being an absentee mom to me. But she made sure she redeemed herself. She was hands-on, and was even annoyingly over-present, in her grandchildren’s lives. God gave my mom the opportunity to redeem herself, as a doting grandmother, before she crossed over to heaven.
Don’t have too many regrets about your mom. If your mom is still around—be genuinely kind, caring and loving to her. Tough love is fine too, if that’s what she needs.
But let your love be genuine. Not fake. Not posed or fabricated. Not built on lies or false pretenses. That’s the worst kind, if you ask me.
“Honor you father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
Just a word of warning: the opposite of this is also true.