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This month, both my children – now adults – will travel to other countries as student volunteers. After coming back, my firstborn will again leave for her Master’s this fall. So I’m headed for an empty nest pretty soon.
On one hand, this is the moment all mothers wait for – “The child is independent! I have my life back! Now I can do the things I always wanted to do!” On the other hand, the process of parenting itself changes you, so that the child becomes your life, and the child is part of the things you want to do. The child cuts its umbilical cord and flies the coop, but the mother is forever changed.
The most revelatory part of mothering someone is the value you develop for your own mother, and, if you’re lucky, mother-in-law. It is not to be confused with the all-encompassing awe and sense of security that little children get from mommy. It is rather more visceral, more intimate and, yes, even deeply shameful, as you recall the times you took her for granted. Her pain now becomes your pain. Her compulsions and sorrows (for every mother has them) are now visible to you, stark and raw. You see her.
In this issue, three mothers from UK and India share how motherhood changed their careers and lives (p.31, 64, 66), and three daughters share their mothers’ stories (p.42). We can never repay our mothers for their love, and indeed, mothers ask for nothing. All we can do is bear witness – to their limitless strength, their unending devotion to us.
The best we can do for our mothers is see them.