I Call Her, Mother.

The first time I saw the relationship between Claire Underwood and her mother, I felt relieved. She is a fictional character but that kind of relationship between mother and daughter, it does exist. I have that kind of relationship with my mother. Where our functions for each other are only practical. When I don’t earn money, I will ask for her help -as the last resort. As long as my closest friends could help, I won’t ask for her help.

I can’t remember when was the last time we had a deep conversation about our lives and our problems. Just like many other daughter-mother relationships… I don’t think we ever had that kind of conversation. I never seek for her advice nor her insight. I minimised the story I shared with her.

This happens for a reason. Her first approach has always been blaming me for the problem I brought to the surface. Never comforting, always confronting. That’s what she is. We are just totally different. I can understand her but I don’t think she understands me. She never trusts me that I could handle my problems, even though in the last 15 years, I survived without her support.

Well, I clearly don’t trust her either. Even to handle my future child when I have it later, if ever. Not that I think she would be a bad grandmother. It’s just that, I don’t want my child to feel what I feel when I am near my mother.

Living in the country where motherhood is being praised as a noble job, it goes with the saying that heaven is under the mothers’ feet.

I rolled my eyes on that.

That point of view gives every mother the sense of entitlement, they think they have the right to shape their child as they like. Hence, the child never asked to be born from her, and the children are their own self.

Let’s just be clear that not every mother is an angel. Some mothers are assholes. Some mothers don’t deserve their children’s love simply because they don’t earn it.

My mother is one of those mothers who think she deserves all the prizes in the world no matter what she does. All she knows, being a mother is a noble job. And that is what’s torturing her to this day, her expectations over me and my brothers, well, especially me, as I am the only child who lives far away from her. Being an Indonesian woman born in a strict Moslem family, living far away from parents before getting married is forbidden. Forbid me to do something without a good reason, I would do just that. 

My generation is the generation who live in between millennials and post-Soekarno generation. My generation has a better understanding of psychology, multicultural relationship, and most are open-minded over many things compared to the generation before us.

My mother was born three years before Soekarno’s regime had fallen. Her mother was a housewife, she was a nurse before she married my grandfather and my grandfather was a veteran. My mother’s parents are pretty much wealthy back in Soekarno’s era until the big crisis hit the country which also hit my grandfather’s business. My mother is the eighth child of nine children. When my grandmother gave birth to her, their assets and wealth weren’t as much as before.

Long story short, my mother’s childhood wasn’t easy. She had to spare her money to buy the shoes that she wants, she had to share everything with her siblings. She never had enough privacy nor room for herself. She was raised in a military parenting style, I don’t know why… but I guess, my grandparents are as clueless as many parents these days. Nine children, limited source of income and no internet? It must be tough, right?

That kind of childhood and much other stuff that had happened in my mother’s life made her the worst critic to me. I think she is simply not happy with herself and she projects her unhappiness onto me. Which is not okay in a way. But of course, I understand her. It took me years to understand this. I think, if she cannot understand me, at least I can understand her and maybe somehow later in the future she will try to understand me eventually.

She applied that military parenting style that she learned from her parents to me and my little brothers. Non-affectionate and tough. Just like when she sent me to the boarding school without my consent. She brought me there, and dropped me there, she didn’t give me any chance to choose the school that I wanted to be in. She thought sending her daughter to the boarding school will change me to be the person she wants me to become. Little did she know I was planning to flee from the house since then. That was when I completely lose my trust on her.

I know she didn’t mean to do any harm. And in a way, I am grateful she sent me to the boarding school. Now I have a better understanding of my parent’s religion. And if she never sent me there, I won’t make a paper about parenting by the model for my last assignment. Which gave me a lot of insight and understanding about the relationship between me and my mother.

As much as I am trying to understand her, I came to the conclusion that I could never be myself when I am with her. It took me years to realise that she will never accept me as I am, so for the peace of mind, I would be the person she wants me to become for at least once a year, during Idul Fitri (Moslem holiday). For no more than three days or a week, that is the longest I can fake myself in front of her.

It was necessary to do all that. As she will criticise me for every single thing, from the way I dress, the way I talk, to the way I fart! And don’t even start with the way I think. It will completely drive her crazy.

This parenting style I got from my parents made me grew up to be a girl who struggled with low self-esteem problem until my mid-20s. Until I was twenty-six, I never know how being accepted feels like. Of course, it affects my relationships with men as well, which only started when I was twenty-three.

But being a very introspective person helps me to get a better understanding about myself. As for many things that happened in my life, I will go deep to analyse and find the root of the problems within myself.

Just like when I went through an abusive relationship.

I realised, strong people with a solid relationship with themselves won’t be involved in an abusive relationship. I hated myself so much for not being a normal person as my mother told me. So I learned to forgive myself and accept myself, I looked at the core of my problem, it turns out I needed to forgive myself for every flaw and every mistake that I did in the past. And since I realised that, I team up with myself and will always maintain this solid relationship until my last breath. This helped me to see my worth and have a stronger self-esteem.

I grew up in the street. Not Bronx kind of street, but I literally picked up advice, insights and wisdom from people outside of the home, from the book, from the movies, from comics, from a friend’s story and from my own experience. From those sources, I learned, you can’t choose how you were born or from whom you were born, but you can always choose how to live your life and I chose to be who I am today.

I might picture my mother really bad here. But you must know, despite everything I mentioned above, I also learned a lot from her. She is an independent woman. She won’t admit that she is pro egalitarianism, but what she does in her marriage with my father, is so much it. They support each other through thick and thin. She didn’t mind when she earned more than my father when the national crisis hits Indonesia’s economy in 1997, which also crushed my father’s business. She was the breadwinner for our family for quite a while.

She is a strong woman, I admire her resilience through every problem and difficulty in her life since she was a child. I heard a lot about her childhood story, not only from her but also from the people who witnessed it.

Those two qualities that she has, I absorbed that in me. But not the toxic behaviours I can’t really mention here. There used to be a huge flaming anger inside me everytime I learned that I adopted her toxic behaviour, that anger makes me want to be a different woman than her. Which I finally have become.

I didn’t get married in my 20s. I react differently than her toward any problem I encountered. I speak differently, I live a different lifestyle, I have a different perspective toward religion and life. I took other women as my role model. I minimise her role in my life, especially in the last eight years.

***

Back to the relationship between Claire Underwood and her mother, does she loves her mother? Yes, she does. Just like I do love my mother.

Overall differences and the wounds she left in me as she raised me, I forgave her for that. She is a human after all. And knowing her childhood, I understand how she became herself now. She might never know who I really am and what sort of a woman her only daughter is, but I accepted her as she is.

Later when she dies, I will shed tears as I regret that she never had a chance to get to know me better. But that is life, nothing is perfect. The word perfect itself should not exist.

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