By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson
We know good and well things aren’t always “all good” with our relationships with our families, and in particular, our mothers.
But why do we struggle even admitting this in our community?
It’s like the cardinal sin to verbalize any improprieties our mothers have knowingly or unknowingly committed
But not acknowledging these behaviors doesn’t change the fact that they exist, nor does it nullify their sinister consequences on families.
So… I’m choosing to deal with this in hopes of setting some people free.
Let me go ahead and establish this. Here are a few points which are not debatable about black mothers.
- To know their love can be quite special. Her tenacity, strength and fortitude and ability to provide, even in the absence of a husband or partner, has endeared us to her exceedingly and has been the basis of countless success stories with her own children. Her powerful example of love in action was undeniable. We wear it proudly.
- Her style – impeccable! How many of us look at our mothers, grandmothers, “Big Mommas” and “Mu-dears” and think, I’ve never seen such class and beauty wrapped up in one human?
- We can give you a tutorial, as children of Black moms, on the tried and true saying “Black don’t crack.” Our mothers defy the sensibility of aging because, well, they don’t.
- Their sacrifices may never truly be understood and appreciated by us as they often worked, cooked and cared for their families while enduring racism, sexism and pay discrepancies we still fight against this very day. For that… she will forever be honored and appreciated.
I say this in love, but that “strength” sometimes exacted a heavy toll on us as children. Some of us had to babysit our brothers and sisters. Others had to cook and clean to help out around the home.
Some of us weren’t really ready, but we were expected to take on adult roles at a young age to help momma out. Emotionally, some of us were burned out and felt weakened at an early age if we had to admit it.
And there were still other repercussions.
- Talk to anyone who grew up with a self-centered mother – the uncaring, emotionally unavailable or narcissistic mother who rarely gave their child any support they needed. For this mom, everything revolved around meeting her own needs and desires first, even if her child was ignored.
- Or have a conversation with those raised by a physically or verbally abusive mom? Then you’ll know all about the devastating effects of hurtful words and how it can position our sons and daughters to be abused in their adult relationships.
- What about the controllers? You know…. the mothers who wouldn’t allow their kids to make their own decisions or who heaped heavy criticism and anger their way when they did stand up for themselves. You talk about a foundation for personal insecurity and self-doubt.
- And then there are those who used manipulative behaviors to get what they wanted – using guilt, shame, time, money or other exaggerated emotions, tools and behaviors toward their children.
Either way, we have to be willing to admit it wasn’t all peaches and cream for some of us in our parental relationships.
I’m committed to helping some people understand that what they endured wasn’t love, but rather, abuse.
Hear me clear on this one.
I am not saying your mother did not love you. It is not my place to say that.
I am saying a mother who loves her children, can still inflict abusive and harmful actions upon them which can cripple them in their life, love relationships and careers.
I talk to these adults as clients daily. Some are my friends and relatives. And yes, abuse can occur even more detrimentally without a single hand being laid on an individual.
But, we must stop glossing over these devastating issues in our communities as if that’ll make everything alright.
As a life coach and longtime observer and champion of people, I do know when there has been negative residue left as a result of what did or did not happen in people’s childhoods.
I see it when I coach them. I hear it in their struggles. They share their deepest pain with me as I purpose to create a safe space for them in every single encounter.
The most dangerous result from ignoring our hurtful actions as parents and refusing to extend healing words and actions?
It is that we face repeated, harmful behaviors that show up generations later causing devastation.
We can no longer tolerate or overlook harmful parenting styles or words and shrug them off as “normal.”
So, for Mother’s Day, I esteem and honor you moms, by giving you a gift your sons or daughters perhaps never could – honesty. And this is also a call for self-reflection, especially if you inflicted abuse – emotionally, physically or otherwise.
These scars have consequences that last significantly beyond our adolescent, teen and early adult years.
None of us can undo the actions of our past….. but we can surely build a bridge of healing in the present and future.
Either way… let’s have the conversation. Let’s get information on how to restore broken relationships. Let’s learn how to apologize for our wrongdoing.
It’s time to heal and move forward.
I am cheering for you.
Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson is a life coach, author and speaker. Her column appears on the first and third Thursdays of each month online and in The Birmingham Times. You can contact Keisa at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit http://www.allsheanaturals.com for natural hair and body products.