My Mom broke the ‘Young single mother’ stereotype when she had me. Just turned 17 and she is a Mom. Not that uncommon in the 70s to become a mum.
- Was she single? Yes.
- Were we poor? Yes.
- Was my young Mom a pushover? No.
I did not realise what my mom was doing back then, and I hated her for it.
I thought my mom was evil and mean. I remember saying to my teenage friends ‘‘She hates me. It is not my fault she had me. It’s not fair.’
My Mother was very strict with me. And this was not uncommon in her circle of young mum friends. But what did she do to me that was so bad? She taught me about money. Not how to make money, but how to appreciate and budget. I can hear you all saying ”What a B**ch!” I thought so too.
I used to get 50p pocket money a week. A WEEK!!!! 50 BLOODY PENCE. This was not in the 1950s this was in the mid-1980s. For that, I had to make sure my bedroom was immaculate. I also had to clean the bathroom on a Friday night. My mum always inspected the chores I had to do. Her inspection consisted of taking her finger around the skirting boards and checking for dust. It would be classed as ‘child abuse‘ now, so my children tell me.
I know some of you out there are going to sigh and tell me you had it worse. Some of you may even be laughing and agree with my children “Child abuse.”
One day I complained about the type of shampoo my mom was buying. I remember it was called ‘Vosene.’ I didn’t think it was good enough for my beautiful long blonde locks. To have long blonde hair where I came from made me stand out. I shall point out that I must have thought I was ‘Braveheart’ that day. Because to make a complaint about something so meagre should have resulted in ‘The look.’
Anyone that knows my mum knows ‘The look.’ It is something I used to get from my Mom. It was a warning. It was a stare down. Her eyes wide open with invisible lasers directly targetting my eyes. Her body froze, but ready to attack. The look meant you better close your mouth and sit down. Do not breath, move or look in any direction that could be mistaken as answering back. Do not look away from ‘the look’ that is seen as rude. Do not look straight into ‘the look’ that is seen as a challenge. You do not want to make either of those mistakes.
The day I decided to complain ended in mixed emotions. My Mum went quiet. That lead to fear and apprehension for me. A few seconds went by which felt like hours. My heart was racing, and I am sure she could hear my weakness. My mum offered me a deal. That lead to me feeling triumphant as I snapped the deal up. I felt like I was on her level.
FYI my mum has always had the upper hand. The handshake to seal the deal was witnessed by my cousin. How did I get away with complaining and end up better off? Then I was left with the realisation that I had been taken down in style.
After I complained about the shampoo, my Mom said ”Here is a deal for you. I will give you £5 per month, and you will buy all your own things.’‘ Well, I thought I was rich. £5p.m. I shook her hand immediately, so there is no turning back. I am not going to let her get out of this deal. I am rich now.
Then my Mum told me the small print. My mums small print literally meant I purchase EVERYTHING. All my clothes and personal products. My mom did point out to me that at my age of 13, she felt it was fair that I could live at home rent-free. I still thought I had come out of the deal better than my Mom had, until the first pocket money payment. I was so excited. I was going to have in my hand a £5 note. I planned on smelling that money.
Given to me were toothpaste and shampoo and I got some coins. “What’s this?’‘ I asked. Being careful of my tone. With a straight face, mom replied ”This is your change from your £5 pocket money. I did you a favour. I saved your bus fare, and I got you the products you insisted were better for you.”
”I did not complain about the toothpaste,’‘ I replied. With a smug grin on her face, my mum said ‘‘I know, but you made a deal to buy all your items.”
I was left open-mouthed and unable to complain as I took too long to digest what had just happened. My mum disappeared down the stairs. If it was a movie my mum could have had her choice of music. ‘So you win again.’ by Hot Chocolate. Or maybe ‘Killer Queen.’ By Queen. The result was I never complained ever again. And I learned fast how to budget what I had.