Open Secrets are back! We launched our MOMS issue this week, and we wanted to hear GUTS readers’ thoughts about moms, mother figures and what it means to be a parent. You told us, and can keep doing so! The survey is still open here —we’ll be deleting each question as we publish the answer to it, so there’s still lots of time to respond!

We wanted to preserve your voices and the spirit of your answers, so we haven’t edited any of the responses.

We asked you to tell us about your relationship with your mother or an important maternal figure. Here’s what you said:

  • Although I am approaching 60 I consider my mother to be an essential part of my existence. I can’t imagine my life without her – her presence, her support, her caring, her generosity and kindness.
  • My mom was born and raised in Iran. She is a very fashionable and beautiful woman, but Iranian ideas about being modest and proper didn’t allow her to express herself and dress the way she wanted.After the Iranian revolution, my parents fled from Iran due to religious persecution. They eventually settled in Canada, which is where I was born.Having children changed my Mom’s body – I think she regrets never being able to dress as sexy as she wanted to when she had a thin body (a body she thought was beautiful). She’s a bit heavier now, and even though I think she’s gorgeous and sexy, she isn’t comfortable dressing the way she wants.When I was a teenager, she would beg me to wear sexy clothes. I remember her once telling me “You have such a sexy midriff! Why don’t you wear clothing that shows it off?” But I was a tomboy. I wore baggy shirts and baggy pants.I think she was always disappointed that she and I couldn’t share traditionally “girly” experiences like makeup and clothes, but her attitudes towards these things taught me that it is ok to wear makeup.

It is ok to dress provocatively, if that’s what you want.

  • My mother has spent most of my life being silent. I didn’t learn much from her that I didn’t learn from my own research and observation. Even when asked direct questions, I was often met with silence. This silence has made our relationship more superficial than I think either of us really want. I hope someday I can coax her out of her silence, but I might not.I found out later in life that her silence was because of serious childhood trauma, which was closely followed by having a seriously ill child (my brother had cancer as a child and very nearly died a handful of times). Her silence is how she copes, and her family expects her silence about her pain.
  • We have a very good relationship, though that is partly due to living in different countries now.
  • Because my mum is older and had trouble having kids, I think she was more protective than the average parent. And more intense in general, which in some ways was great. I had incredibly creative birthday parties. We were very close when I was young, then went through a difficult time in my adolescence (which coincided with her menopause! Not a great combination in one household! Not fun for my dad!), and have since settled into something like a balance. She infuriates me pretty often, and I tell her so, but I respect her and find her very funny and smart and admirable.
  • My own mother and I have a complicated relationship as she has passed on values of justice and fairness while also communicating her fear of confronting the patriarchal religious and social structures that have diminished and devalued her very significant gifts as a woman.
  • My Grandmother means the world to me, but I feel responsible for making her happy rather than being honest with her. She wants so much for her family to be “normal” and “happy” but often those things are mutually exclusive.

I trust her and feel safe with her, but that’s because I’ve made choices that I know she’ll approve of.

  • My mother is very motherly and I’ve never liked to be mothered. Fortunately, I have lots of sisters to distract her. I recognize that even though my mother likes to control me in small ways, she has always let me be my own person.
  • My Mom and I get along better than she does with either of my sisters, and she never hid it from them.  It was tricky as I was so much younger than my sisters, and they never let me forget that mom somehow saw me as special.
  • Shes my close friend and very supportive. I love her very much!
  • My relationship with my mom has changed a lot. In junior high and high school we fought constantly. I never felt like my hair was right, I was smiling right, I was saying the right thing. I was too loud, too fat, too awkward. And I told her she was too superficial and demanding. However, I eventually realized that, as difficult as my mom could be, most of the frustrating things were coming from a place of love. Comparing her to what some of my friends had to deal with–mothers who were indifferent or hostile–made me like her more. And she calmed down too.

It probably didn’t help that she was going through menopause while I was going through puberty.

  • I wish my relationship with my mother was better…she means a lot to me, but we have little in common and even less to talk about.
  • Complicated. I grew up in a family of 5…and now due to death and circumstances…there is my mother and I left. I feel like we are never real with each other….but it’s a necessary self preservation. We struggled a lot after the death of my father…and I became a mother for the first time (to twins) but I realized that if I want to have a relationship with her…that’s the way it has to be. I am extremely patient…and forgiving….but she is my mother…and I respect the things she has had to deal with.

She is who she is….and I am glad we have each other…in whatever form that is.

  • I used to look up to my mother, value her opinion and look to her for guidance.  As life has taken challenging turns, I feel as though our roles are now reversed.  She seeks my opinion, and guidance.  It’s unnerving, because I know I am far from having it all figured out.
  • We fought when I was a teenager, but she’s come to my rescue in the times of need, and she’s defended me to myself when I needed her to. She got sick pretty quickly after I went to university, and now she’s not that mobile and looks like a shrunken version of herself. It’s hard to see that happen to her, but I’m so glad she’s still here that the good outweighs the bad.
  • my relationship with my mom who birthed me is and has been quite fraught for the past three years or so following two-ish years of glowing calm. i try really hard to have a lot of empathy for her (because i try really hard to have empathy for everyone and also she is my mom), but i wind up feeling really tricky about the ways that me trying to find empathy wind up transforming into occasions on which i’m just excusing and validating shitty and emotionally abusive behaviour… i believe that it’s only people in dark places who do dark things but i don’t want to infantilize her in my conceptualization of the narrative of her life when she insists that she isn’t traumatized and that it’s just mine and my siblings’ ingratitude that cause her grief. it’s also frustrating because, from my perspective, intersectional feminism might have a lot to say about the rocks & hard places she seems to have been caught between in her life: i wish that i could talk to her about race, and sexual trauma, and unremunerated motherhood, and labour in gendered industries, but

she would rather cry and insist that the decisions that i make that are different from the decisions that she’s made mean that i think that she is a shitty woman and a shitty mother.

  • I have had some amazing maternal figures in my life.
    My mother was maternal up until I was maybe 11?
    She definitely supported my nerdy self and is responsible for my independent nature – going to babysitting interviews by myself at 11. My grandmother is one of the big reasons I kick ass. She was non judgmental, a great cook, would support me when my parents stopped being parents and showed me what unconditional love and support looked like. She met most of my shitty boyfriends and told me so. The other group are my bestfriends mothers and neighbours who had my back when I went through surgery and again, just showered me with maternal love. It’s been really important when I have felt like I don’t have parents and am stuck being the most responsible person all of the time.
  • I love my mother and I feel I have to protect her. Our relationship isn’t always a healthy one. My mother suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, she may also be Borderline. So she is very competitive with me, is cruel to me, and disregards me. It is a lifelong struggle to find peace with her. I really want that, but I feel she resents me because I made her into a teenage bride, and she has never matured from that point in her life. She is forever the victim. As my brother says “She thinks she is in a play” It is always dramatic, and self-serving. It is hard because she treats my brother much differently, so I’m always reminded that I am not good enough for her. At times I want to wash my hands of her… but you only have one mother.
  • My mother’s songs
    were chants of fear–
    stay away from dark
    eyes, streets, corners, bars,
    skin, moons, hearts,
    things that lurk, lure, linger.
    And so, of course,
    I conjure shadows,
    wait at crossroads,
    shrive each stranger
    with a heart gone wild.

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