To the daughters of mothers who never had a day off.
I see you fill your hours with all the things that make excellent excuses. You work one job and then you work another and sometimes you volunteer and other times you are invested in multiple projects and you are always going. Your free time is the currency that you exchange in order to feel productive. You do this to make sure you deserve to take up space or even to breathe. You do this because although your mother was never around you always feel her eyes watching you.
How can you take a seat when you still feel her standing?
I see you calculate if and when you deserve to take a day off because you know that she worked through headaches and children and husbands who never showed up. She worked through illness and fear and sometimes took jobs beneath her because she felt that you deserved more.
Deserve becomes a deadly word swinging above your head like the sword of Damocles. But that guy had power and maybe he just complained too much the way people sometimes do when they can't decide which Island to vacation on. What do you have swinging above your head? Memories of mother waking up before the sun and arriving home in the middle of the night. The sword above her head allows her to choose between exhaustion and fear. And so she chooses for you, for her, and for us. She chooses exhaustion. She wakes up. She puts one foot in front of the other. She does.
And you hear the stories about unsupervised children who struggle with attachment and lack of attention because Mother is not home. You wonder what Mother suffers from. You wonder where father fits into the conversation. Then you remember that he is allowed to slip out the back door, to show up for a weekend, to hold a grudge and to withhold time, attention, affection and money if Mother does not act right. Father is not attached to your energy body for eternity. The doctor may have clipped the chord but you feel mother the way you would feel a missing limb. Mystery aches that make no sense. Shooting pains that wake you up in the middle of the night. Reality says you are not attached and yet you reach to soothe the part of yourself that has been cut off. But you can't reach her. It is 6am or 3pm or 8:35pm and Mother is at work.
She works because you deserve better.
She works because it is better for you to sit in the shower alone with a pounding migraine in the morning debating if you deserve to take one of your 30 sick days that has accumulated. Sick days your Mother never took. Sick days that signify weakness. She works because this is better for you than to have to ask a man if you deserve something.
And then one day far sooner than you imagined you find yourself waking up before the sun and getting yourself to one of your many jobs. Your alarm goes off while you are getting dressed and you wonder why you even set it anymore. Mother wakes you up. Thoughts of all the times you did not appreciate the small tokens of love, the big sacrifices of time, and that delicate body which sometimes did very hard work all push you out of bed each morning. Mother said you deserve better than this. Mother says I did this so that you would not have to. Mother says you are important otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.
Maybe one day we will listen to Mother.