The Other I

January 18, 2014

What do you think about your mother?

Filed under: Just Stuff,Teaching,The English — theotheri @ 4:53 pm

Shortly after leaving the convent and before I met my husband, someone gave me a piece of advice that still looks brilliant to me.  “If you want to know whether your perspective husband will see you as an equal, don’t look to his father;  find out what he thinks about his mother.”

It worked for me.  My husband’s mother wanted to be a teacher, but she had to leave school at the age of twelve to support her family.  Nonetheless, Peter thought she was extremely intelligent, with equal amounts of determination and energy.  When I met her I agreed.  At the time, I was wondering whether I was wasting my life as an educator.  She never expressed regret about the opportunities life had not offered her.  But just knowing her  convinced me that giving an education to a young person is one of the most wonderful gifts we can bestow.

I was reminded of that advice recently.  I am now in my 70’s and sometimes subject to the kind of prejudice against the elderly that unfortunately I see quite often here in Britain.  It may be compounded for women compared to men,  and in addition I rarely tell people that I have a Ph.D.  So if young people, particularly young men seriously listen to what I have to say, I notice.

I have a new dentist who I bet has a mother whom he respects.  He’s young, and on my first visit told me that I hadn’t just lost the filling on the tooth I was concerned about, but needed a root canal.  So I grilled him.  I told him I’d already had one root canal done by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, and that I did not approach another procedure with automatic trust.  I asked him about his background and experience, and he was completely unthreatened.  I couldn’t look up his record the way I could in the U.S., but I decided that someone who was able to answer my questions without being aggressive or defensive felt confident in his abilities.  So I decided to stay with him.  Yesterday he put the crown on the finished job.  It looks and feels terrific.

I didn’t think that I had the right to ask him what he thinks about his mother.  But I bet he has a high opinion of her.  Or if not his mother, a grandmother, aunt, older sister, or teacher.

I’d love to know.


  1. is it equally true for women: how women relate to, perceive their fathers harbingers how they will relate to their husbands?


    Comment by kateritek — January 18, 2014 @ 7:15 pm | Reply

    • Well, Freud would say so, wouldn’t he? I’m not sure things are quite as black & white as he suggested, and I know for sure I think that penis-envy, where it exists, is a result of the culture, and is not an inevitable outcome of our physical differences. After all, a penis is a very small achievement next to actually bearing a child — especially in those days before we understood that men were an essential part of conception at all.

      But I know my father valued education for the women in his life (he put his sister through college in the 1930’s, when he himself was just beginning his law career) and never suggested that his daughters were less intelligent than his sons and that this had a huge influence on my own sense of self. Not that I knew until my 30’s that I might have an above-average intelligence, but I did enter into discussions with a sense of confidence that I would not have had if I did not feel respected. I took both my sense of the kind of woman I wanted to be as well as the kind of man I admired from my father.

      But you know as much about this as I do, if not more!


      Comment by Terry Sissons — January 19, 2014 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

      • I want to send you an award for most helpful inrneett writer.


        Comment by Keyla — March 31, 2017 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

        • Thank you! I hope you will visit again.


          Comment by theotheri — March 31, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

  2. Agree. I expect women to be smart and interesting. Obviously, they all aren’t, but I suspect the expectation comes from the kind of mother I had (and sister, by the way).


    Comment by Thomas J. Hubschman — January 18, 2014 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment. I think that men who have found that their positive attitudes toward women’s abilities come from their mothers/sisters, etc. is even more interesting than similar experiences by women in relation to their own partners. I have a brother who gives me the huge compliment of saying that I’m the reason he knows women aren’t less intelligent than men. Have you ever told your sister what you learned from her?

      On Sat, Jan 18, 2014 at 10:29 PM, The Other I


      Comment by Terry Sissons — January 19, 2014 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

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