I want to start by saying that my mother is a remarkable woman. I do admire her so much and after reading this, you may wonder why.
My mother was born and raised in Zimbabwe. This is now a poverty stricken nation, but it was not always that way. She grew up in a huge house with servants. As the youngest of six siblings, she was extremely spoilt. My grandfather was absent and abusive towards his wife and sons. He often cheated and who knows how many relatives I really have out there. However, my mother was fortunate. The last child in a big family usually is. Discipline is important in an African family and this is often done by beating the bad out of you. My mother never had a hand laid on her. She was let off so lightly and this left so much jealously amongst her siblings.
She had a private education, the only one out of six to be so lucky. She was educated by German nuns in a very strict convent school. Despite her intelligence and the importance my mother places on education, she was a rebel. Her grades were poor, even though she is incredibly smart and she got into mischief, through talking too much. Something that I would now describe both a flaw, as well as a strength. As a result of little supervision and a rebellious nature, she fell pregnant at the age of eighteen.
In an African, Christian home, this was not an easy thing, especially as the father was a man with few cares and had no interest in raising a child. This meant that my mother would be raising a child on her own. Having thought about the parent she is now, I realise that at the time she probably lacked the responsibility and capability to raise a child. She dropped out of school, with only poor O-Level grades and had the child in her mother’s home. She had begun working for Air Zimbabwe and saw the United Kingdom as a dream destination. This worked out well as her father was English, so she could easily move.
She would fly back and forth often, leaving her child in the care of her mother for long periods of time. Eventually, she managed to make plans to set up her life in England and wished to bring her child before she was four, in order to have an education in a more developed country. This was not easy: a single parent living in a new country, trying to climb on a career ladder. My sister ended up spoilt at times, as an almost overcompensation. However, my mother remembered things that she had seen and picked up from childhood. So she too attempted to put discipline into her children through physical abuse.
In a Western society, this proved difficult. There were things that stood out to a child as abnormal. You see families with two parents, big houses and pets. You do not see dysfunction or violence, which is strange because it is more common than I ever knew. The media continuously feeds us a perfect picture.
My mother did an excellent job at raising her children as a single parent, that is unquestionable. She placed good values and the importance of education into me and my sister. We had a large age gap, so my mother could always provide for us financially and I would consider myself extremely privileged, but never spoilt.
It is evident though that my mother has some serious problems with herself. She is a woman who has always needed a man to define her worth. She cannot be alone and for her, it does not matter how awful a person is as long as they can tell her how great she is. She went from one man straight to another and my alcoholic father was one of them. I was born into an abusive home, my mother had suffered from domestic violence so she hit her children. This was hard, because my father never touched me or did anything but love me, but I cannot remember it. I has all been overshadowed by my mother’s words and actions.
My mother’s attention seeking nature is an important part of the emotional abuse. She likes to be mean. She says awful things to everyone around her. As long as it makes her feel better that is the only part that matters. I have no idea how she ever gets anyone to love her. I struggle to get anything good out of being nice. This is another bad parenting lesson. Negativity and abuse do not work on people.
I will never forget all the words she said. All the times that I was told I was disrespectful, worthless, rude, mean, a horrible person or whatever it was. All the times that she brought out the belt for me, all the screams and tears. All the times I tried to say that I was sorry and that I loved her and all it was rewarded with were abuse. I was blamed for everything, every man that walked out on her, every time I was not the best, because since when is anyone ever the best? I remember when I had escaped and was on my own. The first time I felt disappointed in myself, like I had done wrong or hurt others…I went and got a belt and I hit myself until I felt pain and then I knew not to hurt others again in the same way my mother had taught me.
A child of abuse. You miss the pain and the hurt, you crave it. You need to hurt yourself. You cannot do anything right. You cannot accept any positive words. You cannot be proud of yourself and you struggle to ever even feel anything good. That takes a long time to undo. That is a lot of damage.
Nonetheless, I would not be here without any of it. All of it. It made me. I am strong because of it. I fight back because of it. I am empowered because of it. That is the sadness and the irony really. That you could ever feel grateful to an abuser. When that abuser is your own flesh and blood and you have to deal with the hurt every single day, sometimes it is all that you have. It is your own personal version of the ‘I love you’ that other children received. How wrong is that?