I did say some horrible things, but the truth is I adore you
PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:06 27 March 2017
This week, to mark Mother’s Day, Ellen Widdup writes an open letter to her own beloved mother.
Dear Mum, Bringing my newborn daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago was terrifying,
I wasn’t sure what to do. Clumsily holding her, worrying about my ability to cope with this tiny human and not at all confident that I was capable enough to be the parent she needed me to be.
Then you turned up carrying a shepherd’s pie and an armful of flowers and everything was OK.
You warned me the world would change when I became a mother but I couldn’t comprehend the enormity of it.
The truth is that the moment you give birth, you have the great existential realisation that it’s no longer all about you anymore.
For me, it also finally opened a door that allowed me to properly connect with you.
I say finally because, as we both know, my teenage years were difficult. I was angry for no reason. Unreasonable, unpredictable, furious and frustrated. Desperate to spread my wings. Safe in the knowledge of your unconditional love to behave disgracefully. Everything is a phase. You taught me that. You still say it occasionally, when my eldest strops from the room, my son has a meltdown or the baby climbs inside the dishwasher.
But I can’t imagine it was easy for you to pass off six years of our life together as a hiccup.
Especially when it must have struck like a thunderbolt on my 13th birthday – a selfish rebellion to what? My happy, tranquil childhood in a safe, loving home full of laughter?
I want you to know that I was always proud of you. Even when I was hiding behind my scowl.
Proud sounds like a word meant to be dished out from parent to child and not the other way round. But it’s the right one. I was proud you were mine.
Always available, never too tired, never too busy.
You made us feel treasured. As if we were your reason for being.
You taught us so much. You seemed to know everything; and anything you didn’t, you would seek out on our behalf.
You would whisk us off to the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Tate, and together we would draw pictures, fill notebooks and buy postcards.
You were beautiful, too. You would sashay into the school playground in a cloud of perfume, long blonde hair and a slash of pink lipstick across your mouth, and my friends would gawp.
I was so pleased you were mine. I still am.
Having my own children made me see you in a new light, through the lens of motherhood. It has allowed us to be best friends. And these days we share everything.
But here is something I haven’t told you – occasionally, I compare myself with you, and find myself wanting.
When I remember my blissful childhood, it makes me horribly aware of all my failures as a parent.
The fact that I am not always available to my kids. I’m often tired, often busy, and my lack of patience makes me a poor teacher. I love them. I love them so much I could burst. But I find motherhood as exhausting as I do rewarding.
I admire you so much for your ability to savour every second as precious.
You regularly tell me how wonderful you think it is that I have a career; how impressive it is that I juggle so much. That I am a wonderful mother. Championing me at every turn.
But all this just serves to prove my point.
You’re still my greatest fan. Always reminding me that I’ll always have somebody in my corner, who loves me for who I am, flaws and all.
We fell out recently. I said some horrible things and for a split second my teen-self reared her ugly head.
I said I could manage without you. But I can’t. And nor do I want to.
You’re perfect. You’re everything I can only hope to be. And I adore you.
Happy Mother’s Day.