When my mother was hospitalised with a progressive illness six years ago, I wasn’t ready to deal with the consequences. Had I been a good enough daughter? And would I have time to do all the things I wanted with her before it was too late?
Thankfully my mother pulled through but from that day on I vowed not to take a single moment of our relationship for granted.
Through meeting and talking with other women about their mother-daughter relationships, I decided to form the Daughterhood. Every month nine women would meet at my kitchen table to talk about the good, the bad and the guilty of the relationships with our mothers. The women ranged from the Busy Daughter, who kept hiding behind the sofa every time her mother called round, to the Daughter of Narcissism, who felt unlovable because her mother had never expressed any love towards her, to the Dependent Daughter and everything in between. Each of us committed to doing things with and for our mothers which called, “Motherwork”. We hoped that by doing these things, our relationship with our mothers would improve, in some shape or form, before it was too late. You can make up your own “Motherwork” but here’s what I focused with my mother as part of The Daughterhood:
Get To Know Her
One of the first things I did when my mother Mary got sick was ask her about her life before I was born. Since then we’ve chatted about everything from her relationship with her own mother, to her fears of ageing and living with a progressive illness, to her love life before she met my father.
“Did you ever have your heart broken?” I asked her one day. I listened to her as she drifted off into a reverie of remembered romances and flirtations. It reminded me that there are so many layers to my mother’s life and that I’m only one of them.
Travel With Her
We used to travel together all the time. But since my mother got sick it needs more planning. One of her biggest dreams was to go to the Arctic and we fulfilled this last year.
Thankfully, not every mother’s idea of a good time is a trip in sub-zero temperatures. Whether your mother’s idea of getting away is a holiday in Spain or a city break, travelling with her is a way of spending quality time on neutral territory. There are opportunities for conversations that you otherwise might not have.
Cook With Her
My mother doesn’t cook much on her own anymore but we love cooking together. Some of the best conversations we’ve had have been spent sipping a glass of wine, waiting for a fish pie to bake. It’s time spent together that doesn’t feel forced and the act of cooking is a good distraction if a one-to-one sit down conversation is too difficult.
My mother walks at a slower pace than she used to. I used to walk ahead of her impatiently, thinking, ‘Could you please walk a bit faster, Mhamaí?’
We’re not the best at adapting to our parents’ slower pace as they age. Sometimes it’s as simple as counting to three in your head when you find yourself about to lose the plot.
Keep Her Up To Speed
For our mothers, people who remember the days of one digit telephone numbers, keeping up with technology can be a nightmare. But it can also have a hugely positive impact on their lives.
My mother now has an iPad, a mobile phone, a Kindle, a Bluetooth speaker, a smart TV with Netflix, a laptop and a digital camera. It hasn’t been easy introducing her to all these gadgets but, in terms of her independence and enjoyment of life, it has been worth it.
As painful as it can be, take the time to keep your mother up to speed with technology. It’s a fine line between not making her feel inadequate and giving her the confidence she needs to use them.
We all lead busy lives but as we approach Mother’s Day it’s a great opportunity to be more conscious of your how you behave towards and with your mother, regardless of the relationship. This year I encourage you to do your own “Motherwork”, before it’s too late. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
By Natasha Fennell.
The paperback edition of The Daughterhood by Natasha Fennell and Róisín Ingle is available now (published by Simon & Schuster). thedaughterhood.com