“Things That Your Mother Intended To Teach You-But You Learned On Your Own”

As most of my regular readers know, I write. Or rather, I am a writer. Anyway, I have noticed that I can tell which writers don’t read. Exemplary writers are also avid readers. My aim is to hone my writing skills, and reading is part of that practice. I have not done much writing aside from graduate school personal statements and freelance jobs lately, but that’s about to change.

I was reading my cousin, Casarae’s blogpost entitled “A Black Woman’s Disguise Volume 40: Things That Your Mother Intended To Teach You-But You Learned On Your Own  “, and I felt an urgent need to write something here and now.

First I’ll say this: I love my mother. She is one of the most loving women I’ll ever have the honor of knowing. As I thought up adjectives, the words industrious, “self-motivated,” “Self-controlled,” “selfless” came to mind. She has a quiet spirit. There is so much more to her than what you see. She has her particular brand of hard-earned wisdom. I particularly enjoy cooking with her because I get to glean from her wisdom and learn new recipes. So what are the things that my mother intended to teach me, that I learned on my own?

How to Manage My Finances:

My mom did her best to instill in me the financial literacy I’d need to make it on my own, but it took me 3 overdraft fees ($105!) to get it together. I quickly learned to stop writing checks that I couldn’t cash. I also learned to eat economically and healthfully. My health improved noticeably when I cooked for myself using whole foods rather than eating at restaurants- especially fast food joints. Also, I found ways to pay less for college textbooks by using the resources offered by the university library.

How to Care For my Natural Hair:

I have worn my hair in its natural state for 16 out of my 23 years. For the first 9 years of my life, my mom was the primary caretaker of my hair. However, when the responsibility for my haircare fell upon me, I was negligent and my hair broke off. That’s when I got my hair permed or chemically-straightened. It wasn’t until my first year of college that I took my haircare seriously. My hair was falling out in clumps due to hormonal imbalances and stress, so I cut my permed hair off, and let it grow back untreated. It’s been 4 years since, and my hair is in the best condition that I can remember- it has a healthy natural sheen and I’ve been able to retain length.

How to Negotiate in the Workplace:

My mom does not identify as a feminist, but her teaching was a catalyst to my feminist consciousness. My mom was adamant in opposing in the gendered socialization that teaches girls and women that assertiveness and confidence are masculine traits. This socialization, in addition to systemic sexism, is why women in the US, earn 77 cents on average for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns- and this gap persists, even in female-dominated fields. (For African-American women, it’s $0.61 for every $1.00 a white non-Hispanic man earns). In spite of the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, women face pay discrimination in the basis of gender in their work. The discrimination is to such a degree that women must work at least 110 days (This day is usually marked on April 11 as Equal Pay Day) into the next year to match what their male counterparts earn.

This is due, in part, to gendered labor burdens that require women to take more time off work to take care of their children and their households. Oftentimes, being a mother is the deathknell to a woman’s career, whereas fatherhood is not nearly as costly or involved for men. This society is constructed around the notion of men as breadwinners. In this (often heteronormative) framework, being an economically-productive person often takes precedence over being an involved father. Recent research by the National Women’s Law Center showed that if working women earned the same as men (those who work the same number of hours; have the same education, age, and union status; and live in the same region of the country), their annual family incomes would rise by $4,000 and poverty rates would be cut in half.

It was not until my first and second jobs that I learned to negotiate for higher pay and more convenient hours.  I had to muster up the courage to go against the social pressure to “stay in my lane,” but it was worthwhile every time. While my supervisors may not have liked me, they did respect me. That’s what mattered. I am a diligent worker with an exemplary work ethic, and it’s not asking for too much to ask my employers to recognize this.

What did your mother intend to teach you that you ended up learning on your own?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to ““Things That Your Mother Intended To Teach You-But You Learned On Your Own”

  1. adamotomy

    Very nice blog post. I enjoy your writing and your writer’s voice; very easy to read and informative. I also agree that the best writers are avid readers, and this shows in your writing. I look forward to reading more from you.

    • aconerlycoleman

      Thank you for reading & commenting! I’m so glad that you think my writing is easy to read & informative. That’s my goal- to make information accessible to others.

  2. I’m still learning many of the lessons that my mother never taught me. The one I have fully learned is handling my finances. I even helped my mom finish learning that one. =)

    • aconerlycoleman

      Awesome! Stories of intergenerational learning & growth always catch my attention! I’m learning about financial literacy from my parents to this day.

      Thnk you for reading & commenting! :)

  3. Great post. Mothers have the awesome responsibility of teaching us to be more than just human, but to be women, too. That idea has changed so much just in the half-century I’ve been here, and I see even more radical changes for my daughter’s generation as she raises her own daughter. She’s got challenges ahead, but I can see that she’ll meet them head-on and her daughter will learn a lot from her.

    My own mother intended to teach me about serenity, about faith, and about tolerance. The way she combined them in her own life confused me & didn’t seem to work in the world I entered as a young woman. Of course, I learned my own combination of those elements and I know that she was right. I think the lessons our mothers intended to teach us are more than hand-me-down dresses, they’re works-in-progress…and we do a bit of tailoring, too, to pass along to our own daughters.

    • aconerlycoleman

      It is far easier to tell than it is to show. I have to admit, I learned some “don’t”s from my elders from watching their conduct.

      I loved your metaphor- “I think the lessons our mothers intended to teach us are more than hand-me-down dresses, they’re works-in-progress…and we do a bit of tailoring, too, to pass along to our own daughters.” So apt!

  4. Shellie_wow

    Great Post! As a mother these are things that are some where on my long list of what to teach. Mothers have so many lesson we want our children to learn and the sad part is there is no manual or You Tube Instructional video to watch. So we wing it. With Purpose and some sort of rough outline at best.

    • aconerlycoleman

      Thank you for reading & commenting! I was thinking of keeping a journal of life lessons for my future children to read. It’s ard to accept that they have to learn some lessons by themselves, though.

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