Sometimes a Mama can’t always be with her kids. Which, in that case, makes it very hard to accept the conventional label of ‘mother’ and all the conventional images that come along with it; hugs, kisses, comforting home-made meals, bed-time stories, time-outs, and high-fives for a job well done. You see all these images require the physical proximity between mother and child. In a perfect world, a mother is someone that is by her children’s sides since birth; a person that is physically present in their lives and acts as the primary caretaker/nurturer/protector of her children. But what if shitty circumstances force you to be physically separated? Is a long-distance mother less of a mother than a live-in one?
I have a friend who was separated from his mother at 5 years old. He was raised by his father and stepmother, who fortunately, was a very kind one (I think Cinderalla has given a bad rap to stepmoms). Except for the occasional trips that involved travelling for two days to see his mom, he saw very little of her. Thankfully, he turned out to have a very normal childhood. He had his friends, his extended family, and a busy school life that left little time to brood over the absence of his biological mother. Later on in his life, he ended up living in the same town as his mother and it was there that he finally got to enjoy her mothering: the hugs, the kisses, the comforting meals. Her presence.
“Did you ever miss your mom when you were growing up?” I asked him one day.
“Yes. I had my moments”, he replied.
“How did you cope without her? How her absence affect you?” I was genuinely traumatised on his behalf.
“You sometimes feel sad. That sense of longing…like a limb is missing.” His voice was laced with melancholy. But then he paused and looked up. “But then you grow up and make the best of whatever bit of your life that you have left. You make peace with your past. You learn not take anyone for granted, including your mother. She was always my mother, no matter our distance. And I loved her, no matter our circumstances.”
His mother has since died but he celebrates her every day through simple things. He prays for her, gives charity on her behalf, talks about her to his children. She might have been absent during his childhood but even in her death, her spirit still moves his soul. Absence, in this case, might have even made his heart grow fonder.
There is a popular Swahili saying “Sura itakavyokuwa, mtoto mwisho hurudi kwa mama.” It loosely translates to “Raise a child however you wish, but in the end he will always claim his mother.”
A mother is a mother and no matter the circumstance, she will always have a special place in her child’s heart and vice versa. The mother-child bond is such a sacred one that the Prophet Mohammad, when asked who was deserving of a man’s finest treatment, responded “Your mother” three times consecutively, before finally saying “Your father” when asked the fourth time (Bukhari, Muslim).
This post is dedicated to all the long-distance mothers out there.