love

Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?

“Your mother, your mother, your mother”. That was the premise of one of my favourite Islamic children’s books as a kid, referring to a hadith (kinda like the gospels) where the prophet responded to a follower that mothers take not only first place in our hearts but second and third also, with fathers coming in fourth. I may have been 8 years old but I believed in those words more than I appreciated at the time. I simply did not have a relationship or bond with my dad, I couldn’t understand the point of him to be honest but I clung to my mother and she favoured me out of the four of us, her right hand Sam, always eager to please and whip the rest of them into line.

I can’t remember exactly when we drifted apart, it was more a collection of events that drove a wedge between us until we were so estranged from our relationship as mother and daughter, we forgot how to speak to one another. I was determined to fit into the white western ideal of acceptable behaviour and presentation which at the time translated into wearing very little and getting wasted and of course this would actually frighten my very traditional mother from a village in a remote part of Kashmir, especially when daughters who go bad are often attributed to a mother’s loose morals, regardless of the actual circumstances – violent father, violent household, cultural and religious demons and attitudes, societal pressures and expectations of brown girls in a white world.

To preserve her own honour she had to reject my behaviour by turning her back on me. She was probably disgusted by me to some degree. I did fry up a load of pork sausages in her kitchen once, out of defiance which made her promptly throw up in the sink. I felt hella guilty as the severity of what I’d just done dawned on me but I had a point to prove that I was an individual with the right to self-expression, however much my mother’s stomach flipped at the thought I was destined for hellfire.

The cause of the rift between us was largely down to the society we found ourselves in. These days I see you coming, suss out your intentions within the first few sentences but as a young person, microagressions had a different effect on me. I bought into them and believed if I was more like my white peers I wouldn’t be targeted for the colour of my skin. I wore a cross, I did goth, changed into hipsters and crop tops on the bus into school or town, joined in with the paki this, paki that, keen to make the distinction between them and us but it meant denying my very being, the people who brought me into existence and the way we are perceived by the ‘natives’ of this island. They tolerate us as long as we toe the line.

In the process of rejecting all the labels required of me, and finding self-love I remembered what it felt like to feel close to the woman who had given birth to me, 2 months premature, having carried my twin and me carefully in her 5ft frame up until then, and how I could still love her after so many years apart. I reverted back to using my ‘mother tongue’ with anyone who could understand it. For years I struggled to communicate effectively in my first language, perhaps because I didn’t have the comfort of just speaking without being judged on my grammar. Like anything, you become rusty without practice and of course I was busy showing off my English language skills to demonstrate how much I really belonged here. It’s like riding a bike though, as I discovered when I sat down with my mum, for the first time in almost decade, neither of us expecting the other to apologise for abandoning one another, just two women with an understanding of the lives we’d been forced to lead; violence being a feature whether in the home or on the streets.

It was nice. She was older but less stressed and receptive to me, as me. I felt as if we’d glued together the gap in our relationship, and we could continue from this point forward without having to look back; an unspoken understanding that there was no agenda only life reminding us how painfully short it is. I was thrilled to feel at home and close to her once again. She seemed genuinely proud of every little thing I could do, without the usual expectations one has of an individual in a white western patriarchy. She doesn’t care about my lack of a job or mortgage or husband. I had surpassed her expectations by coming back to her and apologising for choosing this country over her.

When I was a kid I sneered I had no idea how I had come from her body and was composed entirely of her and my dad. I looked down upon them, thought them unintelligent and unrefined. Whilst I cannot say this has changed about my father, I take back the judgments I made about her. I judged her through the White Gaze™ and it doesn’t treat women like my mother very well. It considers them weak and unattractive, an easy target, and she was targeted, even when she had four under 5s in tow. I blamed my mother the victim for the abuse white people subjected her to. I am ashamed I put her through this.

My mother is a highly intelligent individual. She has a self-awareness that is missing in most people. She taught herself English by reading our textbooks over the years. I wasn’t even aware of her level of comprehension until one day she flipped at me for lying about my whereabouts, because she’d actually been reading an email I’d sent to my friend over my shoulder and I hadn’t bothered to cover it up assuming she didn’t have the first clue.

Never underestimate a woman of colour. We haven’t had an easy ride of it so we’ve gotten good at adapting to our surroundings. I know where I got these skills from now and it was a joy to talk politics with her over a cup of tea. I wondered what she could have been if she wasn’t a housewife and mum of four at the age of 21. What could she have achieved if she hadn’t been abused by my father and abandoned by her own family who lived thousands of miles away? They thought they had done their best by her, 1 of 8 daughters, by marrying her off and to a young man living in England too. They hadn’t anticipated the power and control that would govern her life.

This Mother’s Day, the first for me in almost a decade is a special one. I’ve bought her some comfortable shoes, biscuits for diabetics and a posh card to make up for all the ones I never sent. I’m excited about it, and looking forward to wishing her a happy one. For a while it was a day of triggers and self-hate, because under the defiance and stubbornness of underlining my grievances I actually felt unworthy of her love. I felt abandoned. I had burnt that bridge by rejecting who she was for some fake promise of acceptance if I assimilated with the white people of this land.

I was wrong and I am sorry. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom (I’m a Brummie by birth, alright?) x

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Fathers for Power and Control

(TY to @BethanyKulig for image)

When I tried to make my father accountable for the abuse he was subjecting his new wife and his two new babies to, he told the social worker I was just jealous of his new life and wanted him back with my own mother. I was 27 at the time. The man who had plagued my childhood with his misogyny, the one who called me a slag aged 12, for no other reason than I was my mother’s daughter. The man who beat my mother so much so, aged 40, she had a new set of false teeth. The man who would beat me just to see the anguish on my mother’s face when she couldn’t do anything about it. The man who, when I finally confided in him as a grown woman that I had been abused by another man, tried to bribe me into doing something for him else he would tell everybody about my disclosure. The man that the social worker man believed, who subsequently closed the case for my half baby brother and sister. The case was only reopened when his supervisor suspected the social worker of gross negligence, not just in my case but his entire caseload.

There will be social workers and police officers and judges and probation workers who are exactly like that social worker. Who will take the say so of one man over the piles of evidence from wives and daughters. They will keep the agony of patriarchy alive. When a case was eventually compiled against my father and he was taken to court so that social services could take custody* of the children, he and his solicitor would magically prop up wherever I was. No doubt planned to intimidate and make me feel as uncomfortable as possible. It just made me more determined.

Fathers for justice give me a very bad feeling. They seem to suggest that having ownership as father is more important than respecting the mother of their children. I’ve got news for those cowboys.

“In 40 – 70% of cases where women are being abused, the children are also being directly abused themselves (Stark and Flitcraft, 1996; Bowker et al., 1998.)”

“The majority of children witness the violence that is occurring, and in 90% of cases they are in the same or next room (Hughes, 1992). Children can ‘witness’ domestic violence in many different ways. For example, they may get caught in the middle of an incident in an effort to make the violence stop. They may be in the room next door and hear the abuse or see their mother’s physical injuries following an incident of violence. They may be forced to stay in one room or may not be allowed to play. They may be forced to witness sexual abuse or they may be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim.

All children witnessing domestic violence are being emotionally abused.”

(Women’s Aid DV Statistics)

Fathers for justice seem to suggest that it doesn’t matter how vile he is about his child’s mother, the only thing that matters are his rights and that he gets to exercise them. Typical misogynistic bullying, I’m afraid. A mother is the centre of a child’s world. She gave birth to that child, they are inextricably linked. It is argued that babies feel attached to their mothers by an invisible umbilical cord to at least the age of 3. A small baby will only likely want to feed, favouring mother over father for those first few months. I think at this stage, a jealousy is borne in fathers wanting ownership. They will never come close to feeling the miracle of creation; they can never sustain that child with their own body. As a result, they can never emulate the bond between mother and child. And it’s this redundancy that provokes them into a malicious and frenzied attack against all womankind. The realisation that despite their contribution, not only does the child favour the person it was carried in, but society favours the child remaining with the person who effectively created him and can best nurture him.

I know many men who are in awe at the cycle of life. They will happily admit they wish they had the ability to create and nurture as women do. Instead, they graciously accept that their role in creation is to provide for and protect their families. They understand the value of a woman giving them her womb, wanting to bear their children. When she is respected by the father of her children she will do her utmost to facilitate the relationship, even if they are no longer together. This, I have witnessed amongst my friends. And their fathers happily admit, a child’s place is with their mother, nothing can replace that. Decent people remain amicable for the sake of their children. They do not use cartoonish campaigns to belittle and undermine the role of woman and mother. For, in doing so, they are actually directly harming their children.

These fathers do not want justice for their children. They want a joke justice for themselves.

* I am about as anti as you can get regarding removal of children but in this case, I felt there was no choice

** I would expect any honest, decent father fighting for justice to cancel his membership after such an indecent dig by the patriarchy

How To Support A Survivor Of Domestic Abuse

When 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, we all need to be prepared to deal with the fact that it might happen to someone we love. If you suddenly found out that your sister was being abused by her loving, doting husband, how would you react?

DON’T SAY: I can’t believe he would do something like that, what did you do? Why would he hurt you?

Perpetrators of domestic abuse are often charming and sociable characters. They know how to manipulate people into thinking they are calm and reasonable. Your sister will not have seen this side to him; he was hardly going to begin the relationship in his true colours. Asking her what she did and why the abuse took place is justifying the act. There are no excuses for physical and emotional abuse. I have had people argue that “she deserved a slap” for her behaviour. Or “she made me do it”. Nobody makes an abuser do or feel anything; they allow themselves to feel a certain way because it is never their fault, somehow they are always the wronged party. However she might behave, the decent thing for him to do is walk away.

DO: Offer to listen, without judgement or advice. However much you may want to protect your friend/family member, you cannot start telling them what to do. Chances are she is trying to leave a controlling situation, the last thing she will want is more orders. Instead, calmly offer your shoulder and listen. This might be the first time she has disclosed anything so you want to remain calm and in control. If you break down, she might feel she is burdening you. If she does ask for your help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 where they can advise you on how to plan around safety and advise on the steps she will need to take should she need to flee.

Remember: It has taken a lot of courage to break her silence. Confidentiality is key. You are there to buoy her spirits and offer reassurance that she is not alone. She might want an immediate solution, then again she might not. Relationships are complicated and there are bonds that run deep. He might be her abuser but he could also be her first love, the father of her children. She might just want him to seek help. You are not there to judge but to make life more bearable.

I have been approached once or twice by women who are dear to me. In these situations, I knew their partners, we all socialised together. Holding it together for them, kissing their abuser on the cheek when meeting, is difficult and requires strength and diplomacy. You can never lose sight of the trust your friend/family member has placed in you by confiding. Should they see past the façade, the consequences for your loved one could be devastating. Also, although you are trying to save the day here, don’t be a hero, you do not want to make yourself a target.

If you do find yourself involved in a situation where harm is imminent and your loved one needs to escape urgently, get together some essentials. Toiletries, passport, a change of clothes. Children’s favourite toys. Refuges are furnished and if she is not able to get away with more than what she is wearing, some refuges can make arrangements for provision and may also be able to enlist the help of the local police should she need to return to the property for the rest of her belongings. Ensure this is all done in a safe manner, if it is not possible then simply leave to another day.

As I have previously mentioned, the National Domestic Violence Helpline can help with queries. I am also here should you need additional support.

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