25 July, 2020

The Motherhood Maze

Reflections on Motherhood. If you have ever felt that your parental skills are questionable. Read this and feel better.

Why am I such a terrible Mother? I could shoot myself today, rip out my tongue and stick pins in my eyes. I just sent a text to my only child who is living very far away and it was totally misinterpreted.

My problem, not his. The morning started out well with an unexpected call from my child. Our communication pattern is erratic but, given that communication is not, generally, a male strong point, it’s acceptable. Who am I kidding? I want to speak to him every day, I want to live in the same country as him, I want to meet him for coffee, drinks, I want to, I want …


Rewind, listen, don’t have opinions, listen, support, be careful with your words and you might just get through the motherhood maze.

I am reminded of the story of the man with the tin plate. This was a jolly tale relayed to me by my own father. It goes like this. A son and his father are sitting by the roadside. The son takes some food from his sack and the father produces a tin plate which had been attached to his belt.

Why do you always carry around that plate father ?”, asks the exasperated son.

“My father gave it to me, son and I am going to give it to you so that you, like me, can carry it as a reminder.”

“I have plenty of plates”, replies the testy son. “Typical that all I’m getting from you is a tin plate. My mate got a house. Anyway, what does it remind you of and what do you think it could possibly remind me of? Are you totally losing it?”

Silence ensues wherein the father looks, knowingly, at his son.

“My father gave me this plate 50 years ago. Like you, I sat on this roadside beside him. He passed me the plate and I will never forget his words, just as you will never forget mine.”

“You think?”, replies the rolling – eyes son.

“Son, he said to me, hand this plate to your son as it is the plate that my father handed to me just before I dumped him in The Home.”

Now I don’t know exactly where I was going with this or why but it has something to do with the circle of life or maybe that is The Lion King. Anyway, the point is that your children don’t see the generational connection. They always remain your children but they, themselves, move from this need.

This is where parental caution is required. One thoughtless word spoken or texted in haste can lead to months of silence. Years if it is a daughter. I do try very hard to get this right. Occasionally I mess up.

So, today my child was explaining how desperate the global situation looks for his generation, how the present is truncated and possibly the future as well. The generation of young people in their 30s + has it rough. There is no doubt that it will get even rougher. Being in the Hospitality Industry is always challenging, being in the Hospitality Industry during COVID-19 is a nightmare and, of course, the COVID Madonna, the recession, is starting to hit.

Pair all that with the climate, the war games, the real wars, the threat of impending, even more destructive, viruses and the future looks bleak indeed. Just call me Nostradamus.

I was part of the privileged generation. We had grants for education, no loans to pay back. We had free, good medical and dental care. We got unemployment benefit without having to undergo a Rorschach test.We could live apart from our parents unless, like me, you were somewhat Oedipal but that’s another story.

OK, it did take a turn for the worse in the 80’s what with Thatcher and the recession but even then there were job opportunities and you weren’t financially abandoned by the Government. Now if you live in Belfast, as I did, it was a bit tougher because we were killing each other but still… We also got pensions. No wonder our offsprings take a jaundiced look at us. I am not happy to be wrinkly and aged but I would have no desire to be young now.

My son at 33, has worked harder in his life than I ever have in mine. What will his reward be? An uncertain future in a chaotic world? A body which, as a result of relentless physical and mental work, could let him down when he needs it most and where is the safety net then? We are facing a crisis such as none of us have ever lived through. Thanks to Globalisation we are all globally screwed and our children will be the ones who will pay.

Back to the Mother thing. It does intrigue me how the umbilical cord is never really cut but I think this is our fault for having a womb in the first place. I suppose I shouldn’t reveal this but who cares? It’s a blog and nobody reads it anyway. It does feel a bit of a betrayal of my much-loved son BUT I never really wanted children. I never felt the biological imperative or the broody thing that conjures up hen- like images. It was an accident and, yes, I did consider an abortion. So there! It was, however, in a life full of monumental errors, the best mistake I ever made. Without doubt. The medical term assigned to me, erroneously as I later discovered, was Elderly Primagravida. That would make you feel good wouldn’t it? This was the 80’s and nobody gave a shit about how you felt.


However, I was only a young thing of 30, not 35 so they shouldn’t have used that label. I heard it so often that I began to think it was my name. Like I say, who cared? Not even me.

The best thing that ever happened in my life was the result of a very drunken encounter with a diaphragm and enthusiastic use of spermicidal cream. The diaphragm is a diabolical method of contraception and I think its design is based on the Casanova half a lemon method, although I could be wrong.  For the fortunately uninitiated, let me briefly explain the theory. Diaphragms or caps come in different sizes so, in some cases, you may have to carry out the procedure with something resembling a yarmulke.

Step 1: Make the cap into a figure of 8. Yep you can see how this could all go badly wrong if the user is, as was in my case, any way impaired.

Step 2: Apply spermicidal cream cautiously ensuring that the outside of the cap is covered.

Step 3: Whilst propping up one leg, insert cap fully into the vagina.

Step 4: If still awake, enjoy rampant sex with partner.

Here’s how it went for me on a chilly January eve when I decided to throw caution to the winds, thereby gifting the world endless culinary delights. After all who gets pregnant the first time? Right? WRONG. The irony of me is not lost on me that part of my work at that time was teaching sex education

Steps1,2,3: I had been celebrating my 30th birthday and entered the torture chamber at 4 a.m. I had been drinking for approximately 10 hours. Figure of 8??? I located the cream and applied liberally with no sense of caution. As a result of this abandon, the cap was extremely difficult to keep a hold of. I squished it into a figure that is indescribable and propped up my leg on the claw foot bath which was raised off the floor. Just as I was about to go where only one man at this stage had gone before, it shot out of my hand and slithered under the bath. I attempted to retrieve it and, on the extraction of the dust-covered article, banged my head on the bath, rendering myself temporarily unconscious. Brain impaired, I then vigorously engaged in Step 4.

10 months later, the joy of my life was born. I remember thinking that birth was a bit like death. There was no way back after a certain point.

It was not an immediate bonding as we both suspiciously eyed each other. I made frequent use of the night nursery and I also caused great disdain by refusing to breastfeed. I was already shaping up to be a Bad Mother. Another benefit of our generation was that you were not kicked out the day after, clutching your child with one hand and your stitches with the other. By the time I left the hospital, I was in love, depth and ferocity of feeling which I had never experienced before and which never diminished. All my worst fears had been realised. From now on my life would never be my own and my continued existence would totally rely upon the vagaries of this 8llb and 4oz beautiful individual.

I never clipped his wings but I am sure I have, unintentionally, supplied him with material for Therapy. In my heart he is eternal, in my mind, he is 7. In reality he is his own man but at least he hasn’t given me the tin plate. YET!

Letty’s bio
Born in 1957 when dinosaurs roamed the earth and televisions were black and white.
Still New
Teenage years.  Counting pimples, writing valentine cards to myself, dodging bombs in war torn Belfast.  Waiting to be invited to the party.
Adulthood.  I am the party.  Developing a talent for addiction, unfortunate choices  and bad hairstyles.
Discovering that work is a necessary evil and that marriage is a life sentence without the satisfaction of murder.
Embracing contraception with enthusiasm until a dodgy diaphragm left me embracing my son.
Counting  wrinkles.
No more work
No more husband
No more Belfast
Much more Stockholm
Much more love
Much more me.

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Born when dinosaurs roamed the earth and televisions were black and white.

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