An Oedipus complex

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 51, No. 5, June 2009, Page 189 Editorials

I often wonder how mothers do it. How do they seem to have enough time in the day for everything they have to accomplish? Do they wake up really early, stay awake really late, or both? Who taught them to juggle so (seemingly) effortlessly? I can only do one thing at a time. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for mothers. I deliver plenty of babies and am constantly amazed at the strength and courage of mothers during the birth process, and, of course, beyond.

I grew up in South Africa. I did not see my mother have to juggle too much (I love you, Mother). Many middle-class South African households had a housekeeper/maid/nanny who did all the cleaning, cooking, washing, and ironing. My parents have had the same housekeeper for over 30 years. Jane is a mother and grandmother, too. Boy, can she juggle.

Take my wife (no, not in a Rodney Dangerfield sort of way). She is usually up before the rest of the household. I would list everything she does to make our lives easier, but, firstly, this would likely embarrass her, as she prefers to get things done quietly without much of a fuss, and, secondly, I don’t have enough space on this page. She is a juggler par excellence. She is the epitome of the saying, “Behind every man there is a good woman.” She is the reason I am able to do what I do—work, be on call, serve on committees, schmooze, etc. Our sons are very fortunate to have her as their mother. I think they have a vague idea of this. One day they will truly appreciate this fact. I am very fortunate to have her as my wife.

I am writing this as Mother’s Day draws near. You will be reading it around Father’s Day. A few years ago, one Mother’s Day, I was on my way to the hospital to do ward rounds. As I drove past a cemetery, I noticed a young lady visiting a grave. I imagined it to be the grave of her late mother. I was saddened by the thought of a child visiting her mother’s grave on Mother’s Day. It made me appreciate what I have even more. It reminded me to tell those close to me how important they are to me.

You probably know the story of little Abe Cohen, whose mother doted on him from the moment he was born. When he went to school for the first time at age 5, he couldn’t stop talking about his mother. All day long, he talked about his mother and how much he loved her. One day, the teacher, who was getting a bit tired of this mono­tonous conversation, called his mother into the classroom. She said to Abe’s mother, “Mrs Cohen, I’m afraid to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel your son has an Oedipus complex.”

“Oedipus Schmoedipus,” replied Mrs Cohen. “Just so long as he loves his mother.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, Rob, and all the readers who are mothers.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and all the fathers reading this.
May we all appreciate what we have.


David B. Chapman, MBChB. An Oedipus complex. BCMJ, Vol. 51, No. 5, June, 2009, Page(s) 189 - Editorials.

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