teenEDITORIAL: We are not obligated to repay our mothers (especially if they're bad moms)

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Mothers: you can't be born without one, but on a day-to-day basis it might not be easy to live with one either.

Recently one of our writers asked the tough question "Do you actually love your mother?" in an article. We suggest starting there, particularly if you're looking for a happier take on mothering and the importance of cherishing our mothers. In this article, however, we seek to follow up the last by taking a deeper look at certain aspects of relationships children have with their mothers. So if Do You Actually Love Your Mother? were part one, part two could then be Where Does Love for Your Mother Begin and End?

Collectively we are big enough believers in honouring parents, respecting elders and all those wonderful old school values, but it has occurred to us that far too often these admonishments so to do are silent on a not-so-uncommon predicament of children. You see, honouring parents that have sacrificed for you, obviously love you and have done their best by you is a no-brainer. We aren't against that. In fact, our last piece calls for more than just an empty "Happy Mother's Day" or one day of pomp and splendour for our nation's great mothers.

However, there are mothers and fathers that aren't quite easy to love or cherish, there are parents who make relating with them in love difficult if not impossible, and none of this is new – as a society we're just now more willing to talk about these hard truths.

The fact remains that the Jamaican view of parenting is often skewed in favour of parents and pressures children and TEENS into 'paying back' or attempting to reimburse parents financially or emotionally for their labour that ought to have been one of love. This view, heavy on gratitude and light on realism as it is, demands loyalty, love and the highest respect for even parents that had been emotionally distant, verbally and or emotionally abusive, mediocre providers or otherwise less-than-stellar at their job as parents. Quite frankly the pressure on children to joyfully be at the beck and call (emotionally or otherwise) of parents like those, with little to no regard for their experiences at the hand of said parents, is unfair.

Without sounding too much like entitled Millennials or wacky Generation Z kids: the idea that a parent chose to embark upon the journey of being a parent – pitfalls and all – isn't novel and shouldn't be treated as such. Parents typically choose to become parents and as the adults, or even the more senior adults in the situation, they ought to set the tone for a relationship of mutual love, affection, support and respect. If parents truly desire the highest ideals in their relationship (trust, loyalty, etc.) they really ought to lead their children by example. To that end, as far as we can see, part of this mutual love, affection, support and respect is an understanding that there is no score-keeping or receipt storage.

While there is nothing wrong with a child aiming to please their parent or show their gratitude for their parent's support and or sacrifice, all this must be healthy and reasonable. We suggest that 'paying back' a parent is impossible to say the least. It also ought to be undesirable to either party. Try as one might, putting any dollar figure to a mother's genuine love and support just cannot be done. In fact, if one succeeds (we highly doubt you ever will), one will find that perhaps the love and support had never truly been genuine, intrinsic or without a desire or need to see returns, anyway.

More bothersome than any personal fixation on 'repaying mama for everything' is a parent's voiced desire for, or expectation of same. Whether stated outright or more subtly swathed in mom guilt tactics, expecting repayment is distasteful and telling. Children are not pension schemes, retirement plans or investment returns in the making, regardless of how well or not-so-well they were or are treated. Children also aren't the means to escape poverty. The way we see it is, if you, as an adult, could not on your own escape poverty, don't put that pressure on us to climb out of it with you on our backs.

Further, amid the discussion about viral social media sensation Mackerel – her confession of an unmet desire to feel loved by her mother – and the not-so-recent comments of her mother regarding Mackerel's lack of 'professionalism', and even against the backdrop of the drama from yesteryear between X-Factor star Dalton Harris and his wailing, but expectant mother, we sincerely hope that mothers and mothers-to-be take note. The healthiest mother and child relationship begins with love, affection, trust, support and respect, and doesn't include score-keeping and expectations of repayment.

Happy Mother's Day.





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