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Photo of Seamstress: http://www.michelleshaeffer.com

During Guyana’s struggle for independence from Britain and the years following independence in May 1966, my parents raised five children – two girls and three boys. My father’s wages at a small import and wholesale family-owned firm could not cover our basic expenses. As far back as I can remember, our mother worked at home as a seamstress to assist our father in providing for our needs. She was a housewife and a work-at-home mom.

As the first-born and a female, I helped my mother with the housecleaning and in taking care of my four siblings. By twelve, with the help of my brother or sister next in line, we often went to the corner shop for groceries and to the market for fresh produce.

My tasks in the afternoons, after school, included hemming, sewing on buttons and hooks, doing bead-work on evening gowns (fashionable at that time), and collecting covered buttons and buckle-heads from the lady in the neighborhood who specialized in this service. When dresses were not ready on the delivery date, I became the delivery girl. I must confess that I was not always a willing assistant. I had my school work. I wanted time to go out with my friends.

To take care of our washing and ironing, my mother hired a domestic servant (as they were called at that time) to come to our home twice a week.

Our work-at-home mom had no fixed working hours. Whenever she had a large dress order, such as a bridal gown and gowns for the bridesmaids, she would work through the night until dawn. Her determination, persistence, dedication, and hard work shaped our lives.

The money she earned went towards our private high school fees, school uniforms, and school books. Regretting that she had never had a high school education, she wanted a better future for us. In so doing, she sacrificed her own dreams.

This year, she will complete 79 years. She laments that she has never lived. Even though my siblings and I have succeeded in our chosen professions, we have failed to meet her expectations in our choice of spouses. She believes that the sacrifices she made for us were to no avail.

My reunion with my mother in the USA, after 31 years of separation, swept through my life like a tsunami. As I struggled to save myself from drowning in her anger and bitterness, I learned an important lesson. As a mother, I cannot expect my sons to fulfill the dreams I have for myself or my dreams for them. Regardless of my sacrifices in raising them, they have to make their own choices and live their own lives.

As women and mothers, we have to cultivate our own gardens. We have to take delight in our own achievements, however insignificant they may seem to others. When we fail, we cannot lay our failures at our children’s feet.

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