An image of my mother, my sister, and myself

More Than a Mother

“I’m sorry, Ma. I always saw you as a mother. Never as a woman.”

I’ve never had the best relationship with my mom. We would constantly fight, give each other the silent treatment, and push each other to our breaking points—cue the dramatic waterworks. As two very stubborn women, we have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye and compromising on decisions, whether it’s me disagreeing with her parenting style or it’s a petty argument about what takeout food to order. I have always held a grudge against my mom for not being the mother that I wanted her to be—someone who I could confide in, someone who would stand up for me, and someone who I felt truly supported me in all my decisions. And the fighting was at an all-time high before I left for college.

Recently, I watched a movie that portrayed a mother-daughter conflict not much different than mine with my mother, and one line really struck a chord with me—“I’m sorry, Ma. I always saw you as a mother. Never as a woman.” Though every mother-daughter relationship and its issues are unique, there is a common ground when it comes to daughters understanding their mothers’ lives as a whole—we just don’t. Daughters, especially of my generation, talk about escaping the domestic role, about the double standard of women being able to do it all, about motherhood not defining a woman. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that I have practiced what I preach. I have seen her solely through the lens of a mother and only took those instances into account when evaluating my relationship with her. I expected her to be some sort of “super mom” without considering everything she has faced, struggled with, or overcome. How can I advocate for women to define themselves beyond the role of motherhood when I can’t even do that for my own mom?

A picture of my mother Photo by Sujith Pendekanti

I was not able to make amends with my mom before leaving for college, but quarantine gave me the opportunity to redefine my relationship with her. My mom’s name is Kanya Setty and she is one of the most fun-loving, caring people you will ever meet. She has a smile that will light up any room she enters and she will make you forget your worries in an instant. She is always so radiant that you would never guess she moved to the US at 20 years old from a small village in India without knowing any English, and a 1 year old baby at her side. You would never know that on her flight to the US, she went to the bathroom and sobbed about what her life was going to be. She has fought battle after battle since coming here and has gotten to where she is because of it. She has always been there for her kids and wished for their happiness. She has changed over the years in ways I cannot even imagine, to give her kids the best life she can. It's truly mind-blowing to see who she is today after everything she has been through.

Picture of my family Photo by Sujith Pendekanti

So, this is not only an apology to my mom, but also a reminder to all daughters to take into consideration that our mothers are a lot more than just that. They have lived a whole life of challenges, success, happiness, and sorrow, far before we came along. They have experienced so much as women before they were mothers. My mom is a great mom. She does everything she can to create opportunities for her kids to grow, she always has a shoulder for her kids to cry on, and she loves them in the way that only a mother could. But to think of her just as a mom would undermine her accomplishments and struggles as a woman. Appreciate your mom for everything she has done not only for you, but for herself as well.