You’d think reading a book entitled Not Becoming My Mother (and other things she taught me along the way) would be cruel. And when I first picked up this book (on the sale table at Barnes and Noble on this date night), I thought I could never read this because if my mom saw it, she’d be hurt. But then I read the inside cover and had to have it.
Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl is about every daughter’s struggle. I think it’s universal that we question our mothers. Who they really are, who they really were before us, what they taught us, and what they became. And I don’t think it’s disrespectful to ask those questions. As a mother of two daughters, I know without a doubt that I will always want my daughters to be better than me, to question how I did things and make them better. I want my daughters to be smarter, more patient, more loving, more caring, more self-assured, more confident, more traveled, more loved. And that doesn’t make me a bad mom or my mother inadequate, it’s just what moms do. They just hope for better for those they love.
For Reichl, she didn’t truly know her mom until she had passed away. It was through letters and notes that her mom’s true self came through. At one point, Reichl says, “Like most women, I decided who my mother was long ago, sometime during childhood.” And it wasn’t until after her death that Reichl could truly see her mother for what she really was: a manic depressive, a failure in her parents’ eyes, a twice married woman who never wanted to be married in the first place, a bored housewife who hated housework, and a mother who felt unworthy.
Once Reichl started to come to terms with all these things her mother hadn’t been, she could see the beauty in what her mother was. She could see what her mother had done for her. All the lessons she taught her, all the freedom she had given her, all the passion she has passed on.