This was just another very typical day on my maternity leave. Our baby was almost six months old and everything was going according to the unknowable. I had gotten an assignment from my maternity group which was led by a nurse and a psychologist. The assignment was basically a stack of small notes, each one with an assertion on it and each parent was supposed to choose three notes, which best described what they felt was most important in a new life with a baby. Then the parents were meant to discuss why they had picked as they did. One of my notes said something like: ‘I want to keep on being myself’. That, along with two other assertions lost long ago in my memory, was what I considered the most important thing in my new life with a baby.
When I picked that note my thoughts went unconsciously towards my mom who at that point was on the other end of a huge ocean and I missed dearly. I thought about everything she had sacrificed for me and my siblings.
I was probably not older than about eight years when I started feeling ashamed of my mom when we went to the pool. My mom was one of the very few women in the mid nineties in Iceland that wore a thong. Time and time again she also used to express her love and admiration for the Hollywood hunks of that time: Daniel Day-Lewis, Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson which was an uncomfortable reminder that my mom had sexuality, too me a great disturbance.
Some of the boys in the neighbourhood made fun of the way my mom dressed; it was not easy to not notice the high, colourful and striped socks together with the dr.martins boots, hats each and every one more unusual – not to mention the countless hairstyles and colors my mother has applied. The way my mother dressed was probably the most annoying to me in my pree-teen years. At the same time my mom fell in love with a woman. In one swift motion the turbulent relationship between my parents ended and another lioness moved in. I was extremely conscious, always afraid of what other people would think of her and never understood why she couldn’t just be some other beige mom.
Extravaganza is a fine word to describe my mom, still she is also so wonderfully normal and humble — kind of shy even.
She was always different compared to the other moms and for a long time my dearest wish was that she would be just like them. My mom categorically refused to attend the christmas crafts at school because she thought it was dead boring, something I cried myself to sleep over. By this she taught me to stick with myself, I do not need to attend christmas craft at school to be a good mother.
My mom taught me that women just like her, who scrub the floors at the kindergarten at night, wear a thong or raise their kids alone are of no lesser value than men in suits, that they have exactly the same right to express themselves and their world is just as important.
My mom never stopped being herself, even though she had three kids before she became thirty and others (read her own mother, my grandma) tried to shove her in a box. My mom never said: ‘just because’ or ‘that’s just the way it is’. My mom rather asked: why is it that way? Or: can we change this?
When I was a teenager and had already marinated in a couple of editions of Vera (icelandic feminist magazine 1982-2005) and Vogue, two magazines which my mom subscribed to, and had borrowed her old copy of the feminist classic The Women’s Room by Marilyn French I started to acknowledge this independence. All the bravery and work it took to be who you are. Now that I have myself become a mother I try to follow my mom’s precedent. I sing out loud to Eros Ramazzotti slaughtering the italian language when I make dinner, I try to question all the heteronormative bullshit my kid brings back home from kindergarten and I try not to put my needs and passion at the end of the list.
I don’t think my mom doesn’t care about what other people think of her but I know that she thinks it’s more important that she follows her own path.
I will never stop thanking her for teaching me to stand by myself, even though my own kid will roll his eyes at my preferred outfit in the future.