Mother Superior


Since 2000 – the year the last of her babies went to boarding school, my mother has lived in Abuja. For a while, she came back every week, then every other week, now we are at once a month most months, and on really good or bad months, twice a month. This arrangement has meant that for all but 3 of the last 11 years, I have co-managed my mother’s house. Given how intense the relationship between mothers and their daughters can be (including mine with her) – this arrangement has worked surprisingly beautifully. Once my mom arrives on Friday, I go completely hands off, as in, not at all interested, until she leaves on Monday morning. Just goes to highlight how interested I am in taking on this responsibility to begin with :D.

I pride myself in my efficiency; the house works like clockwork >> down to consistency regarding what day we eat what fruit; how long water and electricity lasts; getting the clothes inside after the washerman has come by. Basically, all the repeated tasks have been drilled down to a science, kind of like what programmers do to program robots. This is how my brain works, plus I do not want to be bothered during my work day for run of the mill issues. So the house works efficiently, still not up to standard for my mom (she’s looking for it to run like we are the ones doing the tasks even while we are not present – which is not possible), but I would give it a solid B+, which is plenty considering that we are speaking about Nigerian household staff. But I digress.

One Thursday, on getting home, I find out that the wood beam supporting our water tank gave way, causing the tank to come crashing down, damaging the pipes and the tank as well. Ergo: we have no running water. Thankfully, my dad, the King, was not at home, so although it was an inconvenience, it wasn’t even a thing I really thought about – I made a mental note to wake up 10 minutes earlier so I could go to the other water tank (a larger one used mostly for laundry and by the household staff, but with no connecting pipes into the house) to fetch water to take a shower and I knew that the other occupants of the house would sort themselves out in the same way.

The next day is Friday, I wake up, fetch my water, take a shower, go to work. My mom returns to Lagos on Friday afternoon.

Tell me why when I walk into the house in the evening, I see about 10 buckets of water strategically placed all over the house. There is even a “mechanism” in the guest bathroom, where there is a clean bowl that remains in the bucket and another bowl in the sink for you to pour water into and wash your hands. Of course. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that this was the right thing to do. That this would be the standard that my mother expected for her household. At that point, I remembered that we used to do this all the time when we lived in Milverton, when we always had to buy water (and not to bore you, but the water reservoir connected to the house always finished before the stand alone tank did). The buckets of water made so much sense. Having this solution meant that it wasn’t at the point when people needed to use water that the water would be fetched. A simple and hella elegant solution. I was like DAM. My mom had been home for less than 4 hours and in a very subtle way had shown me why she is a Goddess and G.O.A.T. (totally not her plan). She is effortless good at doing this just by being. She saw my spreadsheets and raised me her experience, intuition and undying love and care for her children. I am a sister and not a mother, my instinct will always be, they can go fetch their water when they need it (which one is my own?). Hers, will always be, even if it is them that fetches the water, let us have the water fetched before they require it. And how can a home function without buckets of water at the ready?

When I told my friends, their responses were: “cos she’s not a learner!!!!”; “don’t test these mothers men”; “just to show you who the original owner of the house is”.

This made me think about my friends who are parenting – and we know how real mom guilt is/ second guessing yourself as a mother (even if subconsciously rather than actively). I think that being a mother is not about whether your child walked at 11 months, or how harried your morning routine tends to get, or whether they are wearing matching socks. Being a mom is about the instinct and heart that you have for your children. The way you consider them and always put them first – above even yourself. This is why, as I tell my friends all the time, as long as you are trying, you are the best mother for your child, the only mother they will ever need.

Happy Mother’s Day! You have the ability to transform mere bricks and mortar into the safest most loving place on earth; your arms are the most comforting blanket; your lap, the best seat in the house >> initially for all of my weight and eventually, the resting place for my head; your hand in mine, the greatest foundation and encouragement; your voice and words, the sweetest sound, the truest truth I have known >> compass, guide, beacon, conscience.

Has this ever happened to you? Where you mom just showed up and took it to another level, I know it has happened to me innumerable times before with things like cooking, using kitchen appliances, knowing how to relate to one of my siblings. And I know from my friends that it happens a lot with raising children, although we new-age folks don’t want them interfering, sometimes their time honored tricks does the trick. This one was very profound and made me acknowledge (and appreciate) my mother for her prowess in this parenting and wife-game. Do you have any such stories, I would love to hear them. Thanks for sharing :)