Belated Mother’s Day greetings to all the mothers and mother figures across Barbados. I am in a parent chat for one of my son’s activities, and every so often I am on the receiving end of much ridicule and jeer in the group because I am the one who does not have the information I should, or the one struggling to complete a project two weeks later.
I mused as these women sent elaborate wishes and electronic flowers around the group chat on Mother’s Day. Only a single one of them had ever personally messaged me before to offer support and help. Only one of them, in other words, had ever exchanged real Mother’s Day greetings to me.
What is the sense of scoffing at a woman struggling with her life 364 days of the year, then sending her empty wishes on one day?
Motherhood is relentless; it is uncertain and downright scary. Barbadian women have not done enough to weave mechanisms of support around each other to ensure the journey of motherhood can be negotiated in a safe and supportive way.
Our usual culture of “I ain send yuh to get dem” takes over, and we find ways to prove we are better than each other and more put together than the next woman.
Here is a list of a few things that would make my Mother’s Day better. If you are about empty platitudes, fine; but if you really want to make my experience as a mother better, get cracking.
Abolish the 11-Plus! My dyslexic daughter sat the 11-Plus Exam this year. The number one issue I have with this examination is that it puts a premium on ends; not contexts. Life is the diametrically opposite. Life puts a premium on contexts; not ends.
Wendine Prince is, hands down, one of the best teachers in Barbados. Full stop. All who know me are aware I am a hard taskmaster; so if I say she is good, she is excellent.
Ms Prince had just worked with my daughter for about two years and had moved her from 23 per cent in English to about 51. Ms Prince had not been working with time; just with concepts, and phonics, and retention. Oh, and getting my dyslexic daughter to remember her homework and bring the right bag for lessons.
My problem with the Common Entrance? It demands concepts, and phonics, and retention under strict time restraints in a completely new environment. Why? Honestly, how many of us adults could show up in a new office, settle immediately and perform a job we did all our life, far less for seven or eight years?
My daughter packed her pencil case and remembered her pencils and the clipboard. That is a big deal in itself, but absolutely of no interest to the powers that be. I am tired of this examination as a mother and as a trained educator. Mother’s Day next year would be superb without it.
Register and rate mechanics. There is nothing like car trouble to make you miserable; but I think car trouble for a woman is doubly worse. Firstly, most mechanics are men and having any kind of car trouble means entering a realm where men think they are in control and that women are clueless about what is about to happen.
Over the last few days, my car needed some engine work and I ended up having a horrible experience at a local franchise. It started with a request for all kinds of parts which I later discovered my vehicle did not carry.
Then, the problem which was to be rectified had not been; and I had to fumble along with the car the way it was because there was a series of bank holidays and weekends on which the mechanic did not work.
Additionally, there was the common issue of not being able to get prices upfront to avoid exorbitant charges at the end of the job.
I believe that by now there should be professional registers for tradesmen offering services to the public. Retaining places on the register should be conditional upon continual professional upgrading, and inspection of their businesses.
Abandon home badges in Beavers, Scouts and Brownies. My memories of primary school have nothing at all to do with bookwork. I remember the day I learnt the blanket stitch; and I remember the day I learnt to make lemonade. I must have done some kind of bookwork, but I remember being in the garden more.
Currently, we have changed every facet of our educational system to include unnecessary components of writing. Even the extracurricular activities which children are encouraged to join in, such as the Boy Scouts and Brownies, have excessive writing components which are burdensome and tedious.
Oft-times the children cannot complete their activities without supervision because of the demands to type or otherwise prepare the assignment. I think we miss the point of extracurricular activities when they are accompanied by so many writing components. The focus should be on developing tangible skills and rounding the children. Mother’s Day next year without these requirements would be phenomenal.
Foster a Barbadian womanhood. As our lives become busier and more demanding, a cooperative approach to womanhood would be worthwhile. We have been taught to compete with each other, as a part of our plantation experience. Better then got us favours: housework as opposed to fieldwork, massa’s eye, and so on.
We have perpetuated the “better than” indoctrination; so we are outside women because we are better than the wife, and we judge other women because this is
an inbuilt behaviour.
A systematic reculturing of how Barbadian females interact with each other is needed. Shared motherhood can be used as a strategy to militate against some of the other societal pressures that encroach on the time mothers have. This kind of collective bonding is also critical to providing the mass base needed to sustain the women’s lobby in Barbados.
We have lots to do between this Mother’s Day and the next. Anything you would add to the list?
Separate the gay lobby from the womanist lobby.
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.