The past few days have had me thinking a lot about how the way our mothers raised us influences us. More particularly, how it influences our relationships as men, with the women on our lives. The other day I listened to a radio discussion where the talkshow host asked, do women contribute to men thinking it is ok to abuse them? Put better, do women give men a pass sometimes when they are abusive thereby entrenching and giving subtle approval for such behaviour? It was one of the heaviest hours of radio I have listened to in a while and it has stayed with me since. For me the answer is yes, however unintentional, women by not calling men out when they are abusive is tantamount to giving tacit approval for such behaviour. However, this does not mean the woman who does so is to blame nor does it, by any measure, absolve the abuser.
Someone I follow on Twitter said “mothers are often the greatest defenders of their sons when they are accused of abuse”, I agree with this, having witnessed it more times than I can count. There is often a cruel irony here, the same abuser who beats his partner in front of their children loves his mother to death and prays for his daughters to never go through any form of abuse at the hands of another man. That’s a topic for another day, for now I want to talk about our mothers and their seemingly blind love for us men even when we do wrong. Women of my mother’s generation, those born in rural Zimbabwe of the 1940s and 1950s, were taught to be obedient to their husbands, caring to their greater family and nurturing to their children Though these lessons continue today, some see this as entrenching submission in woman and reject certain aspects of these teachings.
Our mothers in some cases suffered and continue to suffer abuse from our fathers and we likely grew up not knowing this was happening because as part of their nurturing role, our mothers shielded us from this. They protected us by taking all the flack so we would not have to. They protected us the best way they knew how, by literally putting their bodies on their line. They forsook careers so that they could be home with us when our fathers went to work. They would be home when our fathers returned, frustrated and angry at the world, ready to explode. We never knew what happened in the bedroom, what discussions were had and when they emerged, what bruises our mothers may have covered up. We never knew the trauma our mothers went through in finding out about our fathers’ infidelities or worse, their other families. Our mothers have such grace under fire that, as a child, you would never know the turmoil and anguish they were dealing with. Even if you did see something you were not supposed to, they still made every effort to shield us from being scarred by it. Bless them.
The cruel irony is that this low intensity warfare produced a generation of men who are in many aspects, exactly like our fathers. Too many of us are physically and verbally abusive, emotionally unavailable, lie, cheat and have other families. At the same time, we adore our mothers and cherish our daughters, ready to bring hellfire down on anyone who harms a hair on their heads or even thinks it. We have become our fathers and this must be such a disappointment to our mothers but they would never say. We perpetuate a culture of abuse on social media then turn around and play son, husband or dad of the year without missing a beat. The good news is, we can break this cycle for good in one generation. We live with the awareness that what we do is wrong but too often choose to take our partners’ silence as tacit approval when we know better. You should not have to wait to be called out when you can apologise, correct course and live your life, it’s called being a man. I just don’t see how it is possible to raise children to not perpetuate the same mistakes we make if they do not see us actively correcting ourselves. We can be the partners and sons our wives or girlfriends and mothers deserve. We can start by having this conversation as men before we turn our daughters into our mothers, the quiet strong, sacrificing woman who only lives for her children and in their defence quietly lives a life less than ideal with an abusive man.