What a Mother!

Happy Mother's Day!
This year, I had the opportunity to interview Carmen Aguirre and review her book Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. As a preteen, Aguirre and her sister went with their mother and their mother's partner to work in the Chilean Resistance. The family operated various safe houses in La Paz, Bolivia, and later cleared paths through the Andes from Argentina to Chile, smuggling in unspecified goods and other Chilean resistance fighters. At one point when Carmen's mother was clearing paths alone, she fell and injured herself, nearly dying from exposure before finally making her way home. Aguirre writes at length about the fear she endured and the double life she was forced to live in her adolescence. But in the end, she followed in her mother's footsteps, later earning her own pilot's license and flying goods and people over the Andes and into Chile.

I read a few reviews of Something Fierce, and I was shocked by the harsh criticism reserved for Aguirre's mother, Carmen Senior. How could she have sacrificed her children's safety to further a political cause? How could she have put her daughters in harm's way? Good old mother blaming. . . . Yet, no mention of the father, who, we would imagine, had some say in the matter.

Now, Carmen Senior could have left her daughters with her husband in Vancouver or entrusted them to families in Cuba, as was common practice among resistance fighters, but Carmen Senior chose to bring her daughters with her. Had Carmen Senior left her daughters behind, she still would have been deemed a "bad mother" for abandoning her children, entrusting them to strangers, etc. But consider this: if Carmen Senior had been the father leaving his children behind in Canada with the other parent, no one would have batted an eye. He would have been a man with strong political convictions, a revolutionary, a hero.

Women still endure double standards in their daily lives, and once they become mothers that standard becomes even more rigid. Mothers are judged by everyone: other mothers, fathers, children, teenagers, seniors, the media...everyone has something to say! Mothers walk a very fine line and punishment for mistakes is merciless.

In the end, Carmen Aguirre not only earned a pilot's license at age 18, but she went on to write and co-write 20 plays and today has over 60 stage, film and TV acting credits, in addition to winning the CBC's Canada Reads 2012 for Something Fierce. If your children's success is any measure of your skill as a mother then Carmen Senior did a bang up job. After all, a role model who is also a writer, activist and teacher with strong convictions can't be all bad.

You don't have to be clearing paths alone through the Andes to be a great role model for your kids, but wouldn't it be easier to be the mother you've always wanted to be, free of judgment?

I'd like to wish all mothers a happy Mother's Day. Mothering has abundant rewards and our children certainly enrich our lives, but it's a life that is full of difficult choices and sacrifices. Maybe, we should make it a little easier: judge less and praise more.

Other related posts:
Review: Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
Interview with Carmen Aguirre, Chilean Resistance Fighter
Review of Retribution and an interview with Carmen Rodriguez (Carmen Senior)





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