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Anne - Motherhood and Belonging

My Mother’s Daughter is a collection of stories reflecting on the traditions of femininity and what it means to identify as a mother, daughter, sister and most of all, a woman, in Australia. In this series, we speak to women of various ages, cultures and backgrounds to glimpse into who and what has shaped them as the strong and inspiring people they are today, as well as the legacy they build for their children and community.

Anne is a 43-year-old single mother of one, a social worker, a worrier and a warrior. She speaks about how her fractured relationship with her mother impacts the way she identifies, parents and tries to understand others.

[Transcript]

So, I’m Anne. I’m 43 years old, though I usually add another year to my age for some unknown reason. I’ve just had a birthday, so I’m tempted to say 44, but I’m actually 43.

Well, I guess I’ve always subscribed to the more traditional ideas of femininity, you know someone who wears makeup and has the high heels and acts a sort of way and dresses a sort of certain way, and does, you know, has certain hobbies, which never really fitted me, because I was more of a tomboy. I don’t really like makeup, I fall over in high heels, and I’d be, rather getting in messy than knitting or anything like that. So I never really thought femininity suited me, so I never really had a positive idea of femininity, because it was just something that other girls did better.

Well, I became a mum at 22, so I didn’t understand my own identity as a woman, never mind as a mother. It’s probably grown on my a lot more as I’ve got older and my daughters got older… I know I wasn’t perceived very well as a young mum, as a woman. You know, I got my fair share of comments about, “Well you’re too young to be a mum.” Or “You’re too young to be doing this.” And I was 22, I wasn’t super young, but it still impacted the way I was seen in the world, and impacted on how I saw myself in the world. As I got older though, I guess the sense of being a mum has really hit, especially in the last two years with my daughter finishing high school, becoming an adult herself, and that role suddenly technically gone, even though I don’t feel it’s gone, but it’s not something I can I guess hold on to as strongly because relationships have changed with my daughter, and you know, all my friends are at the age of their kids are still in school, and they’re still the mum who goes to sports carnivals and thing like that, and my time with that is done, so it’s probably changed quite a bit over the last year or two.

So how does the role of motherhood impact my identity as a woman? Well it’s changed, as I said, over the course of my daughter’s life, so as a­–when my daughter was first born, my identity as a woman was quite mixed because everyone thought I was too young and I had a lot of negative feedback, and I felt quite insecure. But as I got older, I sort of grew into that role, and then by the time I felt good in that role, my daughter was becoming a woman herself and I had re-evaluate everything.

How was my relationship with my mum? Well my relationship with my mum was very complicated, not always positive. I guess there’s a lot of other stuff that mixed in with her sense of identity. Her identity, and her trauma in her life really did flow onto our relationship. So, I don’t remember ever being particularly close to my mother, even though I spent all my time alone with her. Like, it was a lot through my childhood, it was just her and I, but I never actually felt connected to her. So, I had never had those conversations with her about growing up, and how to be a woman, or my identity or anything like that. I guess I learnt from her what I didn’t want, and certainly what I didn’t want to be as mother. I guess one thing is, like,  I don’t even know my mother’s maiden name. Like, I don’t know where she connects in the world, and how she identified, so it’s always left me questioning how I identify, cause how do I fit in? I don’t know about her past, I don’t know about her experiences growing up, and the things I do know weren’t very positive so I can understand why she never shared that, but I think identity is developed from what’s passed down to you, and how you interpret it, and how you implement it into your life, so I feel like there was a missing piece in my life, because I never got those experiences.

How my relationship with my mum fits into how I parent, I guess by me trying to be­–having a completely different relationship with my daughter, from the relationship I had. You know, so trying to make sure that there are those conversations and there are those connections, so that my daughter knows who she is and where she came from. Having those debates about what makes a woman, what makes our identity, you know challenging the social norms, questioning assumptions on identity. That’s become really important to me.

Other people in my life that may have helped me form my identity and influenced me definitely aren’t celebrities, I’m not a big fan of that, I don’t know it’s never really interested me. I have had friends and ex–well what I would call family–who have been heavily, a heavy influence on me. Most of them in my teenage years, were very strong women, very opinionated women, very much domineering in a lot of ways. That might sound negative but it was actually quite positive in a lot of way, because I felt that I had those protectors but also those people to look up who, to look up to, that didn’t necessarily follow society’s rules. Didn’t subscribe to just, “Women should do this, women should do that.” They led their own lives, and didn’t really care how other people saw that. Obviously still you know, followed the law and were good people, but they didn’t let society’s opinion of them phase them in what they wanted to do, and I think that was a good influence for me at the time.

Well, I guess, I work in a female-dominated profession, so it’s quite funny really because it’s basis is both you know, women being helpers and nurturers, and their role in society about you know, feeding the poor and caring for people, but it also has the contradiction of strong feminist ideals and social justice, and all those concepts that go against its origins, really, to me, of you know middle-class white women helping the underprivileged and the poor and stuff. So, it’s quite a challenge, because there’s conflicting identities there, which I actually find really interesting to work within. I think your own sense of identity comes into that really strong, because you have to have strong values, morals, but you also have to be aware of the structures in society that give biased ideas of who people are or hold people back because of biases. So, I enjoy the part of my work, supporting some structures and fighting to challenge others. How successful I am is in the eye of the beholder, really, it’s about perspective, so I’m not sure. Some days I feel very successful and other days I feel like a complete failure with a system that seems broken.

 

Copyright © 2019 Anne

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.


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