By Deshun Deysel
With Mother’s Day just behind us, I’ve had time to reflect on my mom and how she has shaped my sisters and me into the women we are today. The first thing that comes to mind is that it must have been really tough. Now that I’m a mom, I can fully appreciate the sacrifices she made, the values she taught and demonstrated, and the dreams that she pursued – for herself.
I’m sure that last statement makes you do a double take. What? Your mother pursued her own dreams while raising you? Indeed, she did, but more about that later.
After a community radio station interview, many years ago, I was accosted by a lady with a 9 year old daughter by her side. She had a question: “How can I help my daughter become like you?” I was flattered at first, but then taken aback. Why would this lady, want her daughter to grow up to be like me? I’m a complete stranger. It would make sense for the girl to choose a role model outside her family, but are there no women in her family or even immediate community to emulate? In response, I decided to ask the mom a divinely inspired question. I’m sure this was God speaking through me.
“What are your dreams for yourself?” I heard myself asking the mom. She scoffed at the idea. “ I’m a mother and an wife, I can’t afford to have any of my own dreams.”
Wow! Is that what our lives come down to? Are we just supposed to grow up, have children and forget about ourselves as women and individuals? Are they then supposed to repeat the cycle of life, or is there more to this life than that? I’m not talking earth-shattering dreams, like climbing Mt. Everest or space travel. I simply wonder if demonstrating the simplest of personal vision for oneself could be exactly the kind of inspiration that a little girl in our orbit needs. My response to the mom’s answer was that her little girl will probably only have a personal encounter with me in that very moment.
Maybe she’ll occasionally see me mentioned on television and in the papers, but I’ll always be an ‘out of reach’ character in her life. I told the mom that her daughter’s closest role model is the mom herself. She was stunned.
This conversation happened about 11 years ago. I’m not sure what has happened to the mother and daughter, but I can certainly relate what has happened to my own mother and her daughters (and son).
As I was growing up, I watched my mom develop from a factory worker (she was a machinist in a textile factory), to a personal assistant and administrator (she attended secretarial college when I was 12 years old), to a property portfolio manager and currently running her own construction business. She is 64 years old. She recently completed certificates in plumbing and electrical wiring. This is but the tip of the iceberg of Doris Deysel’s accomplishments. She’s always known that her life is about more than ‘just’ being a mother and wife.
When I was a teenager, my mom flirted with the idea of buying end-of-sale clothes at various retail outlets and selling it into the community at a small mark-up. It was a brilliant idea, especially seeing that the community we lived in was about 30km from the nearest shopping mall and many people didn’t have transport to get there. She spotted a gap in the market and went for it. Unfortunately, the little enterprise failed. My mom’s sense of compassion has often trumped her desire to become a business mogul. The working class market that she sold to often selected their clothing and promised to pay by month-end, when they get their pay-check. Well, there were many a month-end when my brother and I accompanied my mother to these families to collect the money they owed. Month after month, we’d hear the same story about how they don’t have it this month, but will definitely pay the following month. I remember feeling so embarrassed to suffer the rejection of non-payment with my mom. I also remember how we often didn’t have enough to eat, because of this non-payment situation. It made me feel ashamed and I even once begged my mom to stop her ‘merchant ways’ and focus on her day job. Thank goodness she never listened to me. To this day, my mother still dreams about the things she could do and the dreams that she’d pursue.
Many women in our neighbourhood laughed in her face for making such an idiot of herself. They kept their heads down, went to work and came back home to watch television and go to sleep. This cycle repeats itself to this day. Many of her peers are now retired and collecting pension. They still want to know why mom doesn’t stop being so busy, because her children can now take care of her. The truth is – we as her children – find great pleasure in taking care of our folks. These same contemporaries also keep asking mom how she got so lucky to have such successful and high achieving children. They’re completely blind to the link. My mom demonstrated what it means to have personal dreams and then to pursue them. More importantly, she also demonstrated that it’s not always about becoming number 1 or the wealthiest in the neighbourhood. Lord knows how we’ve struggled. She did demonstrate resilience and tenacity in a way that no other woman in my life could have. I’ve learnt to get back up when life knocks me down. I’ve learnt ways to cope and hold on to a strong vision and value system, in spite of how life may surprise me from time to time.
Today, my mom not only manages a small construction business, she also does voluntary fundraising and administrative work for a children’s home. She’s an active elder and preacher in her church. She has campaigned for over 100 families to keep their homes – even after crime syndicates have ‘bought’ the homes from under them. This has caused death threats, but she persists. She’s also an active campaigner for democracy in her community. I’m sure she could run for president! I can only dream of becoming the woman my mom is, but I will keep trying.
There’s a scripture in the Bible that sums her up.
A wife noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence I her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She’s like the merchant ships, bringing food from afar.
She gets up while it’s still dark: she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earning, she buys a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies sashes to the merchants.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceptive and beauty s fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Are you the kind of woman you would like your daughter to grow up to be?