I arrived home from school one day to find my mother sitting in a corner trembling, her face face blotched red and swollen from crying. “Mom?”
The eyes that stared back at me were distant. This was not my mother. I took stock of the situation. It was 3:15. My little sister would be home from school in half an hour. Dad would be home at 4:30 and expect dinner on the table. Nothing had been started yet. I dropped my books and got down to business.
“Mom. You need to talk to me. D is going to be home soon, and we have to get dinner on. What’s going on?”
She nodded slightly. “I can’t do it anymore. Your father……..” Her voice trailed off, but she didn’t need to say anything. I knew how brutal my father could be. I heard daily how stupid she was, and how she never cooked anything properly, even though that was her only job. I wanted her to leave him, too.
“I’ll do whatever I can, Mom. In two years, I can quit school, and get a job. I’ll support us.”
Was that a faint smile?
“We’ll make it work, Mom. We’ve got each other.”
Reaching for the pots and pans, I added, “Now what can we get started for dinner?” There would be hell to pay if dinner wasn’t on the table the moment my dad walked in.
* * *
At twelve years of age, I learned that money was what kept my mother in an abusive relationship. It never occurred to me that she had the option of getting a job; she was a stay at home mom. Five years later, we would go through a similar scenario, only then I was already living on my own, and had enough sense to get her to a lawyer. In the end, my father convinced her to stay.
Years later, I would find myself a stay at home mom, with a husband who controlled the purse strings. Like my mother, I felt powerless, and inferior. Unlike my mother, I left anyway. I braved poverty in order to find my worth. Nevertheless, I struggled, seldom able to give my children the material things they craved. I felt guilty, worthless, inadequate. After six years, I had a serious talk with God.
“God,” I said, “I want to make a difference in the world, but I can’t do it if I don’t even know where the next meal is coming from.”
I tried affirmations: All my needs are always met; there is enough for everyone.
Eventually, things turned around. Yet, my relationship with money has not yet healed. I want to be able to say the money’s the money, the way my new husband does. I want to be able to see money as a means to an end, and not the end of my means.
My attitude towards money still needs work, but I am ready for change.