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Learning and Discharging About My Mother

My mother, the fifth of six siblings, was raised in a village in northern Wales. Her family was extremely poor. She left school when she was twelve and worked in a local shoe shop. Her paltry income was pooled to support the family.

She was an exceptional speller, was an incredible mimic, and spoke Welsh fluently throughout her life. At fifteen she emigrated to Australia with her parents. There she was an unpaid nanny to her elder sister’s children and her own younger sister, until she found a job as a telephonist. Once again her income was pooled to support the family.

She gave birth to her first child, a son, entirely on her own when she was sixteen years old. The father, two years older than she was, got scared and abandoned them both. My mother gave her son up for adoption and went alone to visit him at the orphanage on Saturday afternoons after her week’s work. It was a two-and-a-half-hour journey each way. She saw him six times before he was adopted.

My mother married my father when she was nineteen and gave birth to me when she was twenty. Both my parents were heavy drinkers. Domestic violence was a feature of our family’s day-to-day life. The battles were long and hard fought and had their emotional and physical impact. But in each of those battles I witnessed my mother fighting back with everything, and I do mean everything, she had available to her. All things considered, I am grateful to her for that. I have that in me—the ability to stand strong and fight back.

My mother gave birth to her third son when I was nine. In the time between my birth and his, she maintained a full-time job and a household and had three miscarriages. When my brother was six years old, he drowned. He was unable to swim and was unsupervised while the rest of the family was working, unpaid, in a family business.

My mother spent large amounts of time working unpaid for my father in his various business ventures, while also being responsible for the home, including cleaning, shopping, and preparing meals three times per day. She did this up until she was seventy, when she became physically unable to do it anymore.

At age seventy-five, my mother died in my arms with her sister by her side. She had AUD30001 in her personal bank account, after sixty-three years of work. None of the property, or its contents, that her money and labour had helped to finance over the fifty-five years of her marriage was in her name.

In the last few hours of her life, I asked my mother if she thought I was a good example of a male human being. She signaled with a nod, yes. Then I said that I thought she had played a significant role in my development. I held her hand and listed things I had gotten from her: “I am compassionate. I want things to be right in the world. I like people. I know how to have fun and can easily see the funny side of a bad or difficult situation. I can make people laugh. I am a loyal friend. I know how to fight. I don’t easily give up. I remain the only person I know of in our family who went to university and graduated. I am an effective teacher and work full-time in a university. I earn a good income. I have an outstanding range of expletives, and know when and how to use them. I know how to work hard. These are the things I got from you, Mum.” She agreed.

I have applied the RC parents’ commitment2 to my mother. I have spent Co-Counseling sessions listing all the ways she went out of her way3 to make sure I got more than she ever did. I have spent other sessions discharging on witnessing the systematic, relentless dismissal and trivialisation of her labour, thinking, needs, and what she delighted in—at the hand of my father and other agents of sexism. I have spent sessions owning up to4 and taking responsibility for my own oppressive behaviour and compliance with the inhuman mistreatment of my mother and all women. My life is richer beyond my imagining because of this work. I can recommend it to all my brothers.

About fifteen years ago while struggling on a visit to my parents, I telephoned a beloved Co-Counsellor who was a mother. I asked her to say something wise about parents. She said, “Hmm, let me see. Well, they were little boys and girls once, with hopes and dreams.” It worked for me. It still does. It’s the thought that I hold on to in all of my tangles and restimulations with others.

During her life I asked my mother many questions about her early life, pre-me. In 2016 I am planning my first trip to Wales. I plan to visit all of her favourite play spots and other places she spoke so fondly of. I encourage the men I lead to also find out about their mothers. And last week in my men’s RC class, we took turns noticing things we like about ourselves that we learnt from our mothers.


AUD3000 is three thousand Australian dollars.
The RC Parents’ Commitment: I promise to remember always that I am a good parent, that I always have done the best I could, that I have passed on to my child/ren as few of the hurts that I endured as a child as I could possibly manage, and that some day I’ll get a little rest.
“Went out of her way” means made a special effort.
“Owning up to” means admitting.

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00