Today I’m celebrating all of the women I know who are working to make themselves and the world better. It’s International Women’s Day. And while I celebrate the strong, courageous, and persistent women in my life, I am also drawn to reflect on the difficult women that are part of my life, and my heritage.
Both my mother and grandmother were difficult women. My mother was often cantankerous, emotional, and unsupportive. I know she felt her own mother was cold and judgemental. They both survived the loss of my grandfather in his forties, leaving my grandmother grieving and struggling to provide financially for her three children. My mother was a teenager without a loving parent. This loss was compounded a decade later by the tragic death of my mother’s youngest sister at the hands of a drunk driver. She was a young mother in her twenties.
Both of these women were steeped in a culture, underscored by their Mennonite religious tradition, that firmly relegated women to second-class status dependent on men for both their identity and financial security. And self-help wasn’t in the lexicon. The Bible and the church community were the only resources to turn to. My mother felt traumatized by the guilt and sin message conveyed to her as a child, and spent much of her life carving out an identity cut off from her Mennonite church roots.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate difficult women, too. We all face challenges in our lives, and I want to honour the women in my family who did the best they could with the hand they were dealt. And lest I forget, I know that I can be difficult too – just ask my family! This – these women, their stories, their stubbornness and their cantankerousness – is where I began, but it is not where I will stop.