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Byron Shire
July 7, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Mothers We Miss

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers. This complex role of nurture is so unappreciated, so deeply embedded into our sense of worth, so important to how we conduct our relationships, how we feel about ourselves.

For some Mums, Mother’s Day is a reminder of a deep pain. In the shallow story we tell on Mother’s Day so many women’s experience is missing. This day of cuddles and breakfast in bed and slippers and hand made cards is for some a brutal day of loneliness and sorrow. We don’t tell these women’s stories because they contradict the mythology. They don’t match the ‘good selfless mum’ story so we silence them. We really need to share their stories.

This thought occurred to me when my son told me about a woman he was working with. He teaches older people how to use technology. The other day he turned up at a woman’s house and she told him about her son who has a heroin addiction. About her estrangement from her daughter. She started to cry, so he hugged her. He told me she cried so hard he hugged her for half an hour. I was proud that my son had the compassion to know how to sit with her pain, and the insight to know that kindness in that moment can be transformational.

It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. For many mums this is a hard day. So I want to acknowledge the mums who have suffered. The women who’ve tried so hard to have a baby but it didn’t happen, either because of fertility, or timing or circumstance. The women who’ve lost a child, or miscarried, who have had to bury a baby and then live with a silent perpetual grief; such stories of children they can never share.

I want to acknowledge the mums who have survived domestic violence and those still surviving. Those mums who live with a dangerous mixture of fear and hope. Those mums who live with the anguish that their choices have hurt their kids. 

I acknowledge mums who have struggled with their mental health. Mums who have battled to find their sense of self in the role of motherhood. Mums who feel guilty for loving their kids but not loving the role. And mums who have substance and addiction issues. 

I think about the mums in our community who face homelessness. The mums who drive to their secret locations in their cars or vans and put their children to bed. Only to wake at first sunlight to make breakfast and dress the kids for school. I wonder who celebrates them and their courage and struggle? 

I acknowledge the mothers who are estranged from their kids. Those who have lost connection. The mums who live with the regret of trauma-informed decisions that will haunt them their entire lives.

I think about mums who are in jail. Those who live with the stigma of being  incarcerated. 

I think about mothers who struggle to show love and affection because of what happened to them when they were kids. I think about difficult mothers. About grandmothers who have become grandparent carers.

I think about the mums who have arrived as refugees. Those who struggle to find a safe place for their family. For the mums who have risked everything to find home in a country that doesn’t make them welcome.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers. This complex role of nurture is so unappreciated, so deeply embedded into our sense of worth, so important to how we conduct our relationships, how we feel about ourselves. 

So here’s to the stories we don’t see. The mothers who exist in the margins.

I see you. We see you. Happy Mother’s Day.

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  1. You have just conflated women who are reaping the results of bad behavior and decisions, with women who have suffered genuine misfortune.

    If you are having trouble “loving the role” or “struggle to show love and affection because of what happened to them when they were kids.” ask your doctor about the free women’s health services to help you. Even if you are just having trouble connecting with your child, or you just seem to not be able to find the patients for them, or any little issue or suspected issue, or your paranoid that you may have an issue, just go talk to someone, you will be surprised.

    It is not your fault if you have an issue, it is absolutely your fault if you don’t try to do anything about it. Nothing like having a child to bring out every little issue you have with your childhood, especially the ones that have never been a problem before and that you had no clue even existed. It can be overwhelming to have this new internal load dropped on you, on top of everything else in that crazy first year.

    So you may ask…
    Does having these issues make me less of a parent? Yep
    Will ignoring these issues harm my child? Yep
    Are the other parents around me messed up too? Yep, most all of them
    Is therapy scary, embarrassing, or painful? Yep Yep Yep
    Can I reverse damage I’ve done to my kids? Yep
    What if my issue isn’t really an issue? Then you will be like the 5th person to have asked about it that day and we also pay them for telling you when a thing not a thing. You will be told you are a good person for asking and given a pamphlet with phone numbers and websites that no-one ever reads.
    What if my kids aren’t really kids any more? I’m 43 and my Mum’s therapy for her childhood issues has helped me resolve my issues with her parenting of me and thus helping me be a better Dad so, Yep
    Am I a terrible person? That’s not for other people to judge. If you can do something and you don’t do something then you will always know that you didn’t do something. Maybe you need a little time first, that’s OK, do what you have to do to do it. Your not evil, no really, your not. Sometimes we need some help to be the best you can be, and that maybe way better than you can imagine yourself.

    It sucks, it’s not fair, but that’s how it is, none of us like it.

    • Funny I just thought this was about celebrating all mothers, even those that don’t match those cosy idealised fluffy-slipper-clad smiling models in toaster ads. I thought it was about recognising that mothers (indeed people) come in all shapes and sizes with all different backgrounds, qualities and shortcomings. I didn’t read any conflation here.

      It’s not necessarily the intention but it even gives heart to those of us who have always felt we fell short of the perfect Earth Mother ideal.

      I was about to congratulate Mandy on getting through two days without attracting an outpouring of outrage (not that your response is). I thought there really must be safety in motherhood statements.

      • Are there any parents that match “cosy idealised fluffy-slipper-clad smiling models in toaster ads”. And if so, how are they doing that? Wearing toys on their feet? That would last about three seconds.

        I could imagine you would see mothers that have got themselves locked up in jail as equal to a Mother who lost her baby in child birth. I could imagine you would see a mother who has one that’s a drug addict and another that won’t talk to her as the victim. Well gee, how ya think they got like that? Must just be bad kids.

        I celebrate those mums that got their ducks in a row before getting pregnant.
        I celebrate those mums that were responsible but got pregnant anyway, and instead of taking the easy way out, dropped everything and change their life and themselves for a baby they hadn’t even met yet.
        I celebrate those mums who have issues and are getting help and doing all they can to be better.
        I celebrate those mums that are too wrapped up in being a mum to think of themselves because being mum is all that matters.
        And I absolutely empathise, on a very personal level, with those mums that did everything right and still didn’t get to be mum for very long. There’s nothing I can say about that because there are no words for that stuff.

        If you would like to know more about peaceful parenting, please look up Philosopher Stefan Molyneux at FreeDomain. There are lots of free resources for raising happy healthy kids and understanding yourself. His thirteen year old daughter is super well balanced and really smart, and not just because her mum is a clinical psychologists and her dad invented the Universally Preferred Behavior Theory, these two have really come up with ways of interacting with your children that work, and you can call into the call in shows he does and ask questions. Hard website to navigate, but it’s all free. Liz may like the playlist on “Origins of War in Child Abuse”

        Oh, and if Mandy doesn’t want to be criticised, don’t try to get a seat in the green room, cause I’m a Teddy Bear.

  2. You’re really kidding in that first little quip about wearing toasters – surely Christian?

    “I could imagine you would see mothers that have got themselves locked up in jail as equal to a Mother who lost her baby in child birth.” Where have I written this? What I was commenting on was what was written in the column and your suggestion of conflation.

    What I think – if anyones interested – is that one doesn’t have to make assessments about a degree of personal “goodness (?) to celebrate a person’s humanity and the efforts and challenges they have met as mothers. Trying to rank people on some sort of hierarchy of virtue seems a bit of a meaningless exercise.

    I fall well below perfection as a human being so I hope that I’m correct in my assessment that one of my few strengths is that I’m not quick to be judgemental (certain political figures excepted). Judgemental of ideas perhaps, but not people with all their complexities of nature and nurture.

    Sure, if someone stands for political office they need to expect scrutiny of their ideas but not criticisms for the sake of hurling mud.

  3. Thank you Mandy for shining the light of empathy into the dark corners .
    The small minded may learn from your example.
    Here’s to all the mothers and the love they selflessly give.


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