When I was a kid, I loved my mother. As a young woman, I judged and criticized her life choices. But since she left this planet, I have been anxious to understand her.
I was seven when I decided never to be a mother. From an early age, I noticed a toxic relationship with my father. I tackled the need to respect her for her protection and guidance, but she was always disappointed. I definitely knew she loved me. I knew it from the way she smiled at me. The way her eyes met mine when I needed to admit me to her. It was as if I had swam in her love. Her love was real. She took her role as her mother seriously, but her toxic relationship with my father turned her into someone I couldn’t trust as a role model for her woman. So one night when her father unknowingly hit her while her father was begging me and her brothers to hide to ensure safety, I was her mother. I thought I would never be.
She disappeared when I was eight. ‘She had to run away‘, I kept telling myself. I woke up one day, but she wasn’t there. Pouf. lost. She disappeared. She has passed away. Later, it was said that daddy’s abuse did not stop at home. He was making her financially crippled. Her mom was her earner as the owner of her pharmacy business, but she allowed him access to her own money. He wasted it through many failed ventures until he had no money to take the risk. Bankruptcy was the cancer that ended her financial independence. So she left her home and her children and joined her first sister, Maria, who left the Philippines and made America a new home. I believed she had to make a painful decision to leave her five babies in order to make huge amounts of money in America, the country of opportunity. Her survival and our survival depended on it. She had no choice. She had to run away. I had to survive in my father’s administration. If I don’t, I may disappear next. ”
I met her again in the United States when I was 12 years old, four years later. My brother and I sneaked out in the middle of the night with the help of her uncle and nanny. From there, we made a secret trip to Manila. So I was greeted by a petite, fair-skinned woman that I recognized as her mother. Until then, I realized that four years of letters and phone calls couldn’t replace my physical mother by my side. When my menstrual cycle reached the age of 9, she didn’t teach me how to become a woman. She did not attend conventions, prizes or celebrations. She wasn’t there to protect the children from the wrath of my father and the world. But that will change now. That’s what I told myself.
I looked back over the last four years and jumped into my new life to be the daughter she needed. I was expected to be responsible because it is the second oldest of the five. Become a second mother. My mother seemed to be shrinking under the burden of being a poor single mother in a 1.5 bedroom apartment in Newark, NJ. Food stamps helped feed us, along with the miscellaneous weird work she did over the weekend and her 9-5 as an inspector. But it made that sacrifice.
Three years after our reunion, she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and was physically and mentally destroyed. Within two months she succumbed to the relentless nature of her illness. She was inevitable to die. I stood by her bedside and made another promise to her and me. I will be a mother now..
I gained full custody and guardianship for my baby brother, and at just 21 years old, I ran through my life for the next 10 years, eventually achieving financial success as an entrepreneur. But my inner child was still anxious for his mother to be there for me. It launched me on a journey to understand who my mother is, in order to develop a sound perspective on what the mother-child relationship is. I did so through traditional talk therapy, mediumship sessions, and psychotherapy and coaching, including energetic and intuitive practices. That’s when I finally embraced reality: My mother is gone. She was working. She rescued us from her father. She did her best with the resources she had. I’m here and I’m fine living to live the American dream from the sacrifices she made. It does not deny her unhealthy choices she made in her love and marriage. But it was her journey. I didn’t have to repeat it. Instead of criticizing her and judging her, I decided to respect her memory and existence. This process has revealed the gift of healthy boundaries.
Today, as the mother of a cheeky, stubborn, smart and impressive 5-year-old girl, the most important feature I offer as her parent is to be present. I don’t project her own past to her, but I don’t distract her from my truth. My trauma was mine, not her.. The healing journey to my mother showed me that as a parent I do not know everything. I am humble enough to learn from my child while setting safe and healthy boundaries. Society judges her. Her life challenges her. But her home is a place where she can live safely, with peace of mind and without judgment. In retrospect, I thank Mama Eva for letting her mother bloom her flowers today.
About the author: Crystanel Stunt is the author of Immortal: The Hidden Gift of Trauma