When my mum died after a long fight with Alzheimer's, grief threw me an opportunity to consider her legacy to me, and my three daughters. A friend said to me, "We all leave our shadow behind". So what is my mum's shadow? What will mine be to my darling daughters so they have what they need to thrive in the modern world?
When my son was born I spent at least the first six months wondering why, on a good day, he didn't like me and, on a bad day, he hated me. I felt ashamed of these thoughts and kept telling myself, logically, that it wasn't possible for my son to think or feel either of these things yet at such a young age.
Have you ever heard someone say that they want to be 'just' a mum or a dad when they are an adult? If they have, I wonder what the reaction was? We are always expected to have another role. Mothers are now expected to go to work, have a career, and play a role financially even if a partner supports them.
So let's return to that young girl in the art gallery for I believe she can, symbolically speaking, help guide us through this tangled maze. Certainly, she provides us with our first important clue, about the many ways that adolescence itself turns so many confident outward- looking girls into anxious and uncertain young women.
I have never seen any dads in the hub. Not even partners. The hub is usually a child-free zone too, a place of mothers in conversation while their children fend for themselves. This day there were lots of crying and distressed pre-school children who needed the attention of scattered lone parents, before their actual parent in the hub noticed.
I was 16 when I first fell pregnant (accidentally, of course), and again at 20. I didn't want my first two children. "Daddy, I have changed my mind," I cried big tears when I was being wheeled into the delivery room. "I don't want a baby!" In the beginning, I never felt that I was a good mother. In fact, I have always believed that I was a bad mother, blaming my youth for my shortcomings.
Having been Miss England in 2009, and now being a mother I personally feel that the two roles cannot coincide. Until you actually carry out the role of Miss England, you cannot possibly appreciated how much time is spent on the road, travelling from one place, or even country to another - it's all well and good saying but it's your choice etc but it would not be fair on a child.
Then last Summer, for the first time, I found myself looking around at other women and comparing. I felt conscious of every little lump and bump - three kids in five years can do that. Discussing this with two friends some months later, I expressed how uncomfortable I had felt wearing a bikini last Summe...
This loss of everything I took for granted in my adult life was much more overwhelming to me than the love I felt for my baby. I know, I said it, shoot me world - and what a world we live in when it comes to 'views' on mothers. How we should feel, how we should look, how we should react... the expectations are real and they are fired at a new mother like arrows from a bow.