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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but somehow with the year end madness at work and home never got the opportunity. This is a cliché at this point, but the year 2016 took yet another iconic celebrity. One of the most independent and freewheeling thinkers of her generation, Carrie Fisher, the performer immortalized by her portrayal Princess Leia in the Star War series, passed away in the early hours of December 27th 2016. She was a true role model who used her success to speak up about feminism, and fight the sexism of which she was often the subject.
In an almost Bollywoodish turn of events, her mother, revered actress Debbie Reynolds, too passed away a day later, and her last words were “I want to be with Carrie”. This has been a particularly challenging and bittersweet loss—for their fans, and for mothers everywhere.
The mother daughter duo had a stronghold over the movie industry and both were at the peaks of their career for most of their professional life. They spent their entire lives in the beautiful, bright but cavernous lights of Hollywood stardom and yet had a complex relationship with each other – embodying the true struggles of a working mother and her independent, free-thinking daughter.
Like most kids of working moms, Carrie Fisher at some point resented her working mother, the work she was doing and the time she spent away from her, not understanding at the point the need for a woman to do as her heart desires, to have a career that fulfilled her and made her feel worthwhile while giving joy to her audience.
It’s only when she became a working woman herself that she understood the struggle that Debbie Reynolds went through, loving what she did, sharing that passion with her child but deeply missing the moments that she didn’t get to spend with Carrie and worry that she too felt the same way. It’s the same struggle that working mothers everywhere, including myself, go through, every single day of their lives, being constantly judged, not just by your family members, but also by your kids.
The duo did eventually make peace with each other, and even moved into homes close to each other. But Carrie in her wonderful charming and witty manner often summed up the experiences of being the daughter of a working woman, on many a public platform. She became the voice of kids of working moms everywhere, empathizing with them yet imploring them to understand that the work their mothers did was important for multiple reasons.
Some of her most memorable quotes about being the daughter of a working mother, that very beautifully explain the dilemma of being the child of a working mom – angry at the time she spends away from you, yet supremely proud of all her achievements, include:
“My mother would get up in the morning as my mother, and then she would go into this big closet that she had… She’d go in on [one] end as my mom, and she would come out the other end as Debbie Reynolds. It was like a car wash for celebrities.”
"When my mother was at home at weekends, we stayed with her as much as possible, which frequently meant we watched her dress and make herself up... When Mom was at home, she did a lot of sleeping because she worked so hard, so Todd and I wanted as much of her company as we could get. I slept on the rug on the floor next to her bed, and my brother slept on the couch near the window. In the morning when Todd and I got up, we would creep out of her room so we wouldn't wake her.”
“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That’s my word for it. She would go through these amazingly difficult things, and the message was clear: Doing the impossible is possible. It’s just not fun."
"There's very few women from her generation who worked like that, who just kept a career going all her life, and raised children, and had horrible relationships, and lost all her money, and got it back again.”
“Actually, she has been more than a mother to me. Not much—but definitely more. She’s been an unsolicited stylist, interior decorator and marriage counsellor. Admittedly, I found it difficult to share my mother with her adoring fans who treated her like she was part of their family. She has led two lives — public and private — sometimes concurrently, sometimes not. She’s all that I ever want to be!”
Like all working moms and their kids, the story of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is extremely touching, relatable, complicated in its various aspects yet bound together by the true ties of blood and love. Carrie Fisher respected and loved her mom, and her own inspirational life is a reflection of her mothers, her successful career is a true testament to a working mom’s success in raising an independent, fearless daughter full of grit and determination.
We’re going to miss you both. In reading and knowing about your lives, I feel I’ve become a little more adept at adapting myself to this multilayered journey of being a mom. Thank you for that!