I like to joke that my mother had children so we could worship the ground she walked on. How she plotted the three kids she’d push out with my father so they would adore her unconditionally. As she went into labor, her brow sweating, she must have hollered, “Another minion to call my own!” As she cursed at the doctors when I refused to leave her womb, she must have wondered if I would disobey her need to be loved and admired. Would her youngest daughter ever rebel? Yes.
My need to be free and my mother’s neediness culminated when I was in high school and wanted to live on campus. Despite knowing that it would hurt her, I saw an opportunity when I was put on academic probation and went for it. During my hearing, I complained about the lack of space and resources at home. I told them I didn’t have a computer, which was a white lie. I had a word processor. I complained that I couldn’t focus because my younger brother would turn on the television when I studied. Another white lie since I was the one who turned on the television set. My plan worked. Weeks later, I was a boarding student and housing was fully paid for by the Phillips Academy. My mother had no choice but to accept that her little girl was out of the house. Still, she set ground rules.
“You must call me every day. You must come home every weekend. Please call me when you need me to pick you up. I don’t want you getting here late because of the bus.” There went my excuse of “missing the bus” so I wouldn’t have to go home.
Another time I was accused of not loving her enough. She had gone on a weekend trip to Boston and called me when she arrived. She called me as she ate dinner to ask me what I had cooked. She even called me before she went to bed. The next day I didn’t hear from her. I didn’t call. The following day was no different. Soon after, my mother arrived unannounced on my New York doorstep. “Ya veo que no me quieres,” she cried. “Porque no te hago falta?” Her lower lip trembled as I went in to give her a hug and reassure her that I did love her. The woman deserved an Oscar.
Now that I am older, I realize why my mother needs her children to constantly show her love. It isn’t because she wants an entourage à la Jennifer Lopez. Yes, she is highly dependent on her children and has little insight into how this dependency impacts us, which, according to the New Latina, is the true definition of a needy mom. But she doesn’t want us doting on her; on the contrary, she caters to our needs daily. She cooks, buys my favorite treats (Coco Rico soda is always in our fridge after a trip to the grocery store) and does my laundry. “Mother” is her identity; she does all these things for me because she is a mother first. I now realize her need is about reciprocation and respect for her role. When she doesn’t get that contact, she doesn’t feel loved.
Pattie Cordova, 29, also realized that her stay-at-home mother needs constant contact from her to feel happy. “I call my mom just about every day, but that’s because I want to make sure she’s doing okay, not because I need to talk to her,” says Cordova. What would happen if Cordova stopped calling daily? When Cordova asked her mother this question, she said she would feel sad, depressed and alone. Her answer shocked Cordova. “I didn’t think she cared that much,” she admits.
I take my accusations back. My mother didn’t plot for a baby army that would feed her grapes or buy her nice things so she could find a flaw in them (that woman is so hard to shop for!). She went into labor, her brow sweating, because she wanted to be a mother. She birthed two daughters and a son because she wanted to love unconditionally. Mami cried for me to leave her cozy womb, not because she wanted me to worship her, but because she wanted to hold her youngest daughter in her arms. And she always will.