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Litmus test for parenting ‘high office’

By Jamila Cross

Mom solves, mom accompanies, mom comes and goes, mom takes care, mom hugs, mom challenges, mom cooks, mom pampers, mom shares everything. Mom is always there! It is the quintessential anecdote and ode to mothers who go above and beyond to meet the needs of those in their care. It is aspirational, but does a mother ever truly know with certainty that she is fulfilling her call entrusted to her by God?

As an adult, my relationship with my mother has always been tumultuous; we are not confidants, nor overly affectionate, and over the years I have learnt to manage my expectations of this relationship.

I am conscious of my mother’s love as I am her firstborn. Seven years into marriage, she prayed for me, expected me, and thanked God for my arrival when she finally gave birth. I know with certainty that I was raised on large doses of love, spiritual grounding, and solid values.

Notwithstanding, as an adult we have never truly developed a close mother-daughter bond and as I navigated adulthood and began to have children of my own I felt pressed to the mark to create a unique and radically different relationship with my sons.

As I approach two score (40) in short stead, I constantly do a special parenting litmus test, as would a potential candidate for high office. Am I raising young men of integrity?  Do I support my sons in a way that allows them to see their lives as having limitless potential? Do I surround them not smother them with love?

As I prayerfully ponder these questions, I believe that I am doing my best, but what gives me courage is holding firm to the scripture “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24:15). This is my benchmark for managing my own expectations and understanding that there is no perfect parenting; we make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness and we grow.

While most Mother’s Day editorials exude the virtues of motherhood, and its joys, there are mothers who live in silence and pain. Mothers with children in prison who may have committed crimes, children who have disappeared and are never found, and children who suffer at the hands of those to whose care they have been entrusted.

A 2018 UNICEF commissioned Situational Analysis of Children in Trinidad and Tobago report states for the May 2015 to May 2016 period, 5,801 cases (including sexual abuse, neglect, physical abuse and lack of care and guardianship) were reported to the Children’s Authority. Mothers were identified as the perpetrator of the abuse in 34.5 per cent of the cases reported followed by fathers in 17.1 per cent of the cases.

It is alarming, and intolerable that any type of abuse should be faced by anyone. But the characteristic of many single female-headed homes is that women generally support larger households than men, are more at risk of becoming or remaining poor, and carry greater responsibilities for caring for and the maintenance of the family.

These mothers have limited access to financial resources, stable employment, mental health and psycho-social support, and intra-family support from the proverbial village it takes to raise a child. Consequently, children in these households are greatly at risk of neglect and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

For those mothers who continue to fight for their children publicly and privately it is a lifelong journey I suppose. For women who are ‘mothers in their heart’ and educate children who are not theirs biologically, we face the same tears and triumphs.

I always conclude with those fathers who are widowers, primary caregivers who wear their crowns well honouring the role of mother and father for those under their care. Children, honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Ex 20:12)

Wishing all caregivers mindful parenting and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes