My Mother's Expectations

By Katie Golway

I have never doubted that my mother loves me. As I have come to terms with my own identity, I realized that she may not have known how to express love in a way that I could retain it positively. What do I do when someone who is supposed to love me doesn’t know how?  I often hear similar phrases and see a pattern of behaviors between her and my grandmother, so I do not blame her for what she learned from her own life.

As I grew, I wanted to become a person with an identity entirely separate from her. My goal was to get to know myself, love who I was, and push boundaries - as young adults do. I wanted to turn my body into art and express myself as I saw fit, through dyeing my hair, piercings, and tattoos. I am my own canvas. My mother did not understand this urge because she never had it, and so that ignorance turned to fear and anger.

My first tattoo was instant guilt. I was an adult, I was making my own decisions with my own money. Despite all this, I was possessed once again by expectations I wasn’t allowed to disagree with. I called my mother crying. I was afraid she would disown me for pursuing a life different from her own. She didn’t, but I still feel like I need to keep secrets from her. That doesn’t make for great communication.

My mother gave me shame for being myself that I do not intend to carry on to my own child. I have written to my future daughter actively for about five years now, encouraging her to live her true self and never feel inhibited by me, or by anyone else. While I know that my mother, and my grandmother, did not mean any harm – I am going to end this cycle of encouraging silence and self-sabotage. By bringing my daughter into this world, I owe her the chance to live her life as she sees fit. She is entitled to a life separate and different from my own. Women are not meant to be the same. I inherited my mother’s guilt, and it will end with me.