We’ve all had one.
A loving one.
A critical one.
An absent one.
But nonetheless, we’ve all had a mum.
On this day of mothers, mothering Sunday or just plain old mum’s day, I tell you a story of mine. Tiny, fierce, born in 1928.
People often say “in the good old days,” but I don’t think I’d like to go back there.
To the 60s where women, children and animals were possessions of their husband or father. To the rule of thumb--his right to beat said possessions with a stick no thicker than his thumb.
My mum was my dad’s property until 1968. She could not have her own bank account, she could not own property nor use birth control without his permission. He could beat her, abuse her, abandon her with little recourse. Women’s shelters were not a thing. If she left, she could be returned. He could have her committed to an insane asylum based only on his word.
I think of my mum--fighting like a dog for the right to be safe, to protect her children.
To avoid getting beaten to death. To be heard.
She scrimped and saved to leave her abusive husband. She cleaned houses, she did laundry. We’d troll the rubbish bins for broken items and spend the winter fixing them up to sell. We were dumpster diving before it had a name. At the supermarket we’d get the free dog bones for the dog we didn’t have. We’d eat the marrow with slimy potatoes and then make soup out of the bones, potato peels and whatever else was found in the supermarket dumpster.
By 1965 she managed to save $800.
Dad had gone to work.
He would be away for six months, flying airplanes in the Arctic.
We were off to the bank to get her money.
She chatted while I rode in the wagon.
She was going to get a job.
We were going to live with her friend Janet and her kids.
Dad would get the house to himself, so he didn’t have to be angry and break walls.
She wore lipstick.
We were waiting in the bank.
It went very quiet.
The tellers were looking down.
The manager was talking to mum like she was stupid.
Her money was gone.
They had given it to my dad, “Because it wasn’t really her account, now, was it,” the manager said. “What did she expect?”
It broke her.
After that, she was determined to instigate change.
Through the power of women, sisters really, at a time before internet and cell phones, groups were formed. They were labeled as feminist fanatics or runaway wives.
They were considered crazy. And, if she was deemed crazy by her husband. Well . . .
Women fought to change laws.
In 1968 they were no longer mens’ possessions.
In the 70s women’s shelters, started to form.
They could have their own property independent of a man.
Incremental changes. Yet discrimination and sexual harassment were still the norm.
Remember GOLF is an acronym for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.
For me, in the 80s, I was in dental school.
Girlies shouldn’t be cutting teeth. I was ignored. Ridiculed.
I could get a better grade if I went up to his office later.
If I had been stronger, I’d be a dentist now. But I folded. Unable to cope.
Recently my daughter worked in a male dominated profession.
She was more qualified than any of the men there.
She was paid significantly less. Because of her gender.
The difference is that the men knew and demanded change.
Yet how far have we come if it’s only valid because the men said something?
I often wonder about the current generation
who do not carry the memories of change or realise the effort it had taken.
The mums, the aunties, the sisters who fought with their lives, often with children in tow.
The phone calls, the cups of coffee, the marches, the protests.
Perhaps anger rises when the wrong pronoun is used.
A belief of actually being victimised
when denied access to one’s “chosen” public toilet or change room.
Maybe the old lady in line is taking too long.
She’s a stroppy thing, isn’t she?
Look at that old cow.
Judgement is easy.
A sense of entitlement is worse.
On this day of mums, I ask for a pause.
Please stop. Think of my mum.
Of great grandma or the infinite women before us.
Who fought for independence, free will, and no rule of thumb.
Who marched for a safe place free of harassment, rape, or violence.
Give them a silent thank you.
Because now we have a choice.
They did not.
Peace and love. 🌼