The Mother Load

I really liked this piece in today’s Observer. Too many mothers deal with their own insecurities/competitiveness by focussing on the all too human failings of others. But mothers also need each other, particularly in the early years when it is all so bewildering and overwhelming. Motherhood unites, but it also divides, women or the competitive/ consumer/ schooling /achievement driven kind does. And it’s actually very sad.

I read this piece soon after listening to Emma Thompson on Desert Island Discs. She is obviously hugely successful, sounds a pretty nice, grounded woman who has also experienced the difficulties of depression, broken relationships but also has a strong sense of social justice.

I was most struck by something she said about the importance of continuity in her life, the irreplaceable value of years-long relationships, with family and friends, those who know us well, like us and accept us for who we really are: conflicts, insecurities, achievements, ambition, mistakes and all.

These relationships don’t tend to survive if individualism, ambition, competitiveness and criticism are the dominant element – if we become, to paraphrase Thompson, too ‘up ourselves’.

Yet long term accepting relationships become more and more important as we age, and our children grow up and grow away. Then we are left, where we started, with ourselves and our simple capacity for friendship, possibly the single most valuable human skill there is, and a key part of family and love partnerships too.

We are also most likely to have a good relationship with our adult children if we have passed onto them ( probably by example) the habit of kindness, acceptance, forgiveness ( up to a point) and understanding who other people are and why they are the way they are. Teach them judgmentalism, impatience, self absorption or that its ‘all about me’ and ‘showing’ other people or worse, ‘showing them up’ …well, that’s who they’ll end up being and they are likely to deal with their own ageing parents that way too.

Oh dear, I’m beginning to sound like the Today programme’s Thought for the Day. Enough!