My mother Ann is in the top four people on this planet I enjoy spending time with. The others are my twin six-year-old daughters and their father. Life just feels better with my mother around.
I make a point of including her in everything we do, not because I am a dutiful daughter but because I want her there with me. My mother improves every social occasion. A bit like crisps and cheese day.
And yet, I take this life enhancing relationship for granted: I am dependent on my mother materially. If I lose my ATM card, which happens too frequently, or too many bills come in at the wrong time and I need a dig out, my mother is there. I pay her back, eventually, but I know that I shouldn’t be relying on her in this way. I am dependent on her emotionally, too. Take the other night. I was feeling a bit fragile after a long day at work. I took a call from a well-meaning friend who started to suggest gently that I might need to take time for some exercise. He wasn’t wrong. I DO need to take some time for exercise. But at the moment I haven’t got the time or I find it difficult to make the time. So this well-meaning person’s comments riled me. After I put the phone down, all my struggles with being fitter and healthier, mostly so I can run around after my children and not pretend I don’t have swimming togs just so I can get out of going to the pool, came bubbling up.
I knew the only person I really wanted to talk to about it, the only person who would really understand why I felt so bad was my mother. So, instead of dealing with my hurt and confusion and frustration on my own, like a grown up, I rang my mother and spewed it all out down the phone. I howled out my pain, I wailed, I talked for twenty minutes, hardly drew breath, and all the time my mother was there saying, ‘I know, I know.’ And she did know. Otherwise her ‘I knows’ would have irritated me. I knew she knew. And that knowing was like a balm across my heart, a salve for my soul. Eventually, I calmed down. I had been heard. I had been understood. I had been loved back to some kind of equilibrium by the only person in the world who could have done it: my mother. But is she the only person? No. Through The Daughterhood meetings I began to realise that my ‘motherwork’ was about learning to depend on the other person who has the power to love me back to sanity: myself.