She was a smart student, and not because all parents say they were. I actually stumbled upon some of her high school transcripts one day, and they were spotless. I was pleasantly surprised (not to say that I expected her to be dumb or anything). She could have become a scientist, an engineer, a doctor or something… if her mother hadn’t asked her to go to nursing school instead. She was the second (and most responsible, dare I say) child in a family of nine. Her single mum needed help – read, an extra income – to take care of the little ones. Therefore, she couldn’t afford an education that lasts “forever”, asking for money, instead of making it… so she “had” to get into the workforce as soon as possible. Besides, if she had been “too educated”, she probably would have “scared” potential husbands away: if people say that today, imagine what it must have been like 30 years ago…
Anyway, a few years after nursing school and a job, she met papa, got married… and a few years later – aged 22 – she had me (and a few years later, my brother).
For almost 30 years she was mostly just mama… Chris. She settled for that. I’m not sure if “settle” is the word she would choose, but if you look at her life from a “feminist/woman emancipation” point of view, you could say that she could have accomplished more, or that she sacrificed herself for her family, my brother, my dad and I… sometimes not because she chose to. Like when she had to stop working for some time (because of dad’s professional engagements) to become a housewife.
On the other hand though, she really made the most of what she had so I guess she didn’t really settle. For example, when she wasn’t working and when my brother and I were at school, she engaged in lots of self-improvement activities: she learnt a new language, took business, management and computer classes at a university… so much so that when she could finally go back to work, she completely changed the orientation of her career. Fast forward to today: she runs a successful organization that she literally built from the ground up, using all the professional and life skills she acquired even when she seemed to be doing “nothing”. She isn’t just “mama Chris” anymore: she’s “Madame la Directrice”. In fact, even I don’t call her mama anymore. I call her “Chief” – because she’s my boss.
I’m not a husband or a parent yet, so I can’t really put myself in her mother’s shoes… or my father’s for that matter. I cannot say whether or not they were right or wrong to put all the responsibilities they put on her, or if I would have done a better or worse job at supporting her when she needed it. I also can’t assume what kind of mum she would have been if she had been a career woman during the years she was at home with my brother and I. Or when she went back to work but decided not to have a social life so that she could spend all of her free time with us. All I can say is, I appreciate having had her around when she was. I can also say that although she may have been dealt a short hand in life – from a women’s emancipation point of view – she really knew how to bring the best out of the little she had. Who knows who, where and how successful she would be if she had had more opportunities in life? But one thing I’m sure of: she aced all the roles that she has had to play in her life so far: daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, student, and boss.
Whenever I feel like life is being unfair or I’m getting less than I deserve, she’s the first person I think about for motivation. I know this sounds so cliché but I don’t need no Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa to learn life lessons from. God gave me in my mama a homemade, more relatable version. It probably wouldn’t be right to say that life gave her lemons – I mean, her mother isn’t actually a bad mother (she had her own set of challenges to deal with), my father isn’t a bad husband or father, and I would like to believe that I wasn’t a difficult child to raise. Whatever fruits she got though, she sure knew how to make an amazing fruit juice out of them! And she sure set high life standards and values for me to live by!
Shoutout to all the women out there who, like my mama/boss, are resilient, resourceful and thrive to be the best at everything they do, regardless of what life throws (or not) at them! Y’all are heroes!