October 21, 2009 at 6:00 am 5 comments

"Migrant Mother," by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy the Library of Congress

Mother. What a weighted word.

Our fathers serve as models for who we marry. You meet your man, think nothing of your father, then 6,7,8 years later realize he is everything your father was (or at least enough to make your head spin a little).

Our mothers are the models for ourselves as women and parents. Maybe all your moves are a rejection of what she did, maybe you closely mimic her, but there is no living without her influence.


You think you don’t want children because it felt like your mother resented your presence. Maybe not a lot, but enough.

You want to be a super grandma because your own mother felt she was too young to be a grandparent. She had her men, her looks, her life to live.

You want to be with your children as much as humanly possible, subordinating your own needs, because you remember that your mom left you to cry it out.

You want your daughter to live in a house without mirrors because you remember what it felt like when your mother commented on your looks.

You want a neat and tidy house because you hated your mother’s chaotic life and household.

You want a child so that you have someone to love you because your absent mother is not that for you.


Now it’s our turn and we will make mistakes too. Our daughters and sons will be mad at us, again and again and again. There is no avoiding it, just as our mothers were not able to avoid it.

Give yourself heaping amounts of empathy for all the ways that you hurt. And give your mother an equal helping for all the ways that she does. This way, at least, our mistakes are our own, not emotional inheritances unwittingly passed on. Let the word mother hold the weight of all that you want to remember instead.

Entry filed under: empathy. Tags: , , .

the sorrow of boat covers filly, feeleez, (we didn’t realize they were basically the same name)

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Romy  |  October 21, 2009 at 10:05 am


  • 2. Alyssa  |  October 21, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Oh my goodness…this is a wonderful reminder. Thank you

  • 3. Amy  |  October 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Such a good read for me tonight. I need so much more empathy for my mother than I am currently able to find. I keep trying…

  • 4. leila  |  October 24, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you Natalie!!!

  • 5. Theresa  |  November 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This made me cry, in a good way. I spent so long being angry with my mom, and now that I live a jillion miles away, with no family around to help me with my baby, I really Miss her. Thanks for writing this 🙂


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