So it’s Mother’s Day here in Ireland and the UK: another day of excess bouquet buying, chocolate box affection and slushy versed cards. It’s like Valentine’s without the lies and the sex. Another day of mass consumerism but one with its heart in the place.
Motherhood springs up a lot in this blog and it’s not always pretty. That’s because being a mam is hard work.
My mother is a force of nature: she’s a bit like a twister that spins in with brutal force and sucks up all the dead wood and scrap metal you’ve been meaning to clear for ages but haven’t had the strength yourself. We drive each other crazy, this is no secret. In terms of personality ElsaDaughter and My Lady are more likely to be mother and daughter, peas in their little Gogglebox pod. I don’t feel envious of this, it’s a relief that ElsaDaughter has my mother to enjoy the typical mammy stuff with like shopping and crafts. I have no patience for that shit. They’re very close. They stay up half the night watching shows about little tree houses and I get to read, on my own; watch TEDTalks, on my own; listen to The Archers, on my own, or sit with my Nana, Miss Marple, who doesn’t yap like my mother and ElsaDaughter which suits me fine.
My Nana, in some ways, like My Lady and ElsaDaughter’s DNA link, is much more a genetic influence on my personality. Whereas the other two never shut up, Miss M does and I can go through days of being a silent moody bitch, as you know. We’ve had blazing rows over the years, don’t get me wrong but neither of us will apologise which is funny because I seem to say sorry a lot to people I’m not that close to; to my immediates, I’m a stubborn mare. My Lady and ElsaDaughter are much softer, nicer. By no means pushovers, Jesus, don’t tell them what to do but they don’t keep a fight going or hold a grudge, whereas Marple and I do. This flintiness makes us difficult.
My Lady sometimes talks about her relationship with Miss Marple. It hasn’t been easy at times but now with my mam being the primary carer (Nana would go mad hearing she has a “carer”) the dynamics have changed.
Are mother-daughter relationships ever straightforward? Is it the most complex and layered human connection of them all?
Sometimes I look at ElsaDaughter, even fifteen years later and think “She was inside me”; “She grew from a spec after a drunken antibiotic epic fail inside me”; and more incredulously, “She came out of my vagina”. Ugh. I pushed her out of one of my tiny little tubes. Granted it’s a long time since I gave birth but it still stuns me. Luckily she wasn’t the size she is now. All that hair. But her little coney head slid out and turned and there she was; all sticky and gross and tiny and wonderful. I’m a mother. I think it still hasn’t hit me properly.
Should I mourn the child that never was? I don’t. I should, or could, have a nearly six year old now. Christ. That would have been… a disaster. That’s terrible. No sign of dad, fucked up mother. I don’t feel grief anymore about it. I did, but now, I don’t know. Mother of one is my destiny.
Love – Protection – Resentment – Worry – Envy – Impatience – Frustration – Weariness – Wonder – Exhaustion
How do mothers fit in all that emotion times two, or three, or seven?
Godmothers. I feel like they deserve a special mention. My own, The Librarian – well I know I could show up on her doorstep anytime and I’d be minded. And Gwyneth Paltrow, ElsaDaughter is truly spoiled by her.
I also am lucky enough to have my American Mom. I miss her dearly, thousands of miles away but her big heart spreads little cookie crumbs of love over the Atlantic.
As a mother, I find it important to remember the generations of women who came before us, paving the way for mothers like me, politically and socially. ElsaDaughter and I watched Professor Amanda Vickery’s documentary Suffragettes Forever: The Story of Women and Power. She is an engaging, vibrant and persuasive presenter although I was disappointed that Constance Markiewicz wasn’t even given a mention as the first woman elected as an MP to the House of Commons; she didn’t take her seat, being a Republican but she still won it. Nancy Astor was the first woman to enter as an elected member. I love how many women are making it through to the big league of academic and current affairs broadcasting. Like, I know a bit about the suffragist and feminist movements but thinking how recent it all is. Three generations ago I couldn’t vote. I’ve never missed a vote. Two generations ago, a third level education would have been beyond the expectations of my gender and family’s financial circumstances. One generation ago I would have been sent off to a mother and baby home when I rocked home knocked up at eighteen.
Mothers are also women; individuals with intellects; emotions completely separate from anything baby related; we are not defined by our eggs, unfertilised or otherwise. It’s not just in Ireland that woman/mother became interchangeable but here, prior to Independence with the propaganda served upon us featuring “Mother Ireland”; Kathleen ní Houlihan – the Maud Gonne/Mrs. Pearse dichotomy evolved into a constitutional requirement that women be uninterrupted in their service to the State as childbearers, dishwashers and priest worshippers.
This ideal of motherhood not just hampered women’s progress but railroaded them back into the marital bed and the kitchen, serving their Catholic purpose as vessels of growth for good of the Republic.
And here we are, still debating a woman’s right to agency over her own body; most rapes and sexual assaults are never reported; victims are still subject to the pervading blame culture; domestic abuse is as widespread an issue as always; the gender gap in employment pay endures; women in senior career positions are still few and far between; we still haven’t had a woman Taoiseach and childcare costs as much as the Ministers’ St. Patrick’s Day trips.
I am a mother. I love my daughter. But I don’t always love being a mother. I am not just a mother, I am a woman and I hope that my daughter will have the opportunity to be everything she wants to be in a world where being a woman on public transport in India is safe; deciding not to wear the niqab in Saudia Arabia is not a whipping offence; being a woman in sub-Saharhan Africa does not mean predestination to poverty.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that International Women’s Day falls in the same month as our Mother’s Day – many women are mothers, we are all daughters. Womanhood and motherhood share a strong connection but they are, and should remain, two entities.