Lady Bird and the Work of Our Mothers

By Brooke Claflin

Although it has been a couple of months since I first saw the movie Lady Bird, the experience has stuck with me to this day. The main character of the movie is a high school student from Sacramento who has less means than her fellow classmates. In fact, she often refers to herself as being from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Throughout the movie she goes through some of the average struggles of any high school student: she navigates love, friendship, her first job, prom, and college applications. However, what really stuck out to me during this movie was the development of her familial relationships.

Lady Bird, AKA Christine MacPherson, struggles to understand her mother and vice versa. Her mother desires for her to be happy and Lady Bird strives for that same thing, but they have very different visions of how to achieve this ever elusive goal. Lady Bird wants to grow up quickly, go off to college, leave Sacramento behind— but this desire feels almost like a betrayal to her mother.

I think that watching this movie, which portrayed the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship artfully and subtly, was extremely valuable for me (especially as a daughter who has always looked up to her mother as a role-model). It simultaneously acknowledged the importance of exploring these bonds and also revealed their sometimes tenuous nature.

As we grow older we desire to be increasingly independent from our parents, but at times our eagerness for this independence can come across as a dismissal of their love. I think this movie did an incredible job of revealing the work of parenting and the heartbreak that comes with it. Only as we grow older do we truly start to understand how much we owe our parents, or whoever else raised us, both for their patience and for their strength.

 I often reflect upon how much I am indebted to my mother for her love and support, but now I also thank her for her strength in respecting my need for space and independence. All relationships have their difficulties, but mothers arguably have the hardest jobs in watching their children grow up and often apart.