So far, I have avoided the personal in my writing - preferring to focus on the political. But the personal is political. The maternal is political. And so it is fitting to write this today. The day the nation goes to the polls to cast votes for parties who have no respect for family life, or the desire of children to have greater time with their parents, or the desire of many a parent to spend more time with their children; and the day after a person who denigrates mothering publishes a letter full of maternal sentiment - with no hint of irony.
Yes, the 'businesswoman' Katie Hopkins used HuffPost to write an open letter to her children in which, to the surprise of many on social media, she betrayed herself as human rather than some inflammatory wicked witch of the Tweets she has made herself out to be through criticising all from stay at home mothers to ginger children. A true troll.
Reading it compelled me to write an open letter to my own children to tell them in no uncertain terms how I feel blessed to be sharing time with them, and look forward to continue being there for them during their childhood, before and after school, during school holidays, and whenever they need me - if I can. And that I am proud, during this short time in my life, to be a mother at home, a rebel in a culture which expects business as usual.
There will also be a few nuggets which help their mum get through the sad times, because we forget to share that stuff sometimes.
So, here it is.
To my Darling Children,
You are at home today with me, your mother, in the warm and dry, playing with a cardboard box and I am grateful for being able to spend these precious, short, few years with you - to truly get to know you and understand you, to hug you, comfort you and just 'be' with you. To love you in the way of the verb, not just the feeling, always mindful that you do not belong to me - you are merely on loan.
You let me in to how you see the world, at just 4 and 2: "Mummy if mashed potato is potato which is mashed, then would chips that are mashed be mashed chips?" and "Look at meeeeee, Mummy!" You grant me the privilege of seeing a glimpse of your mind as it spins, learning something new every day, seeing wonder in the smallest thing. At your pace.
But I won't always be here. As human beings, we are all going to leave this world eventually. It breaks my heart that one day you will feel the pain of losing your mother and that I will not always be there to guide you, to love you, to hear you and to see you for what you are. You. Wonderful, imperfect, amazing, unique, you. But I hope I can be here long enough to see you live your life, to have children of your own if you decide to, and to be proud of the adults you will become - and, yes, I will be proud of you. I already am. Every day.
Whatever happens, I wanted to write down a few things for you to remember as you grow.
- Loving kindness costs nothing but is priceless; and compassion is underrated and neglected in Western Culture. Find both and keep them in your life.
- One day, society might want to convince you that I wasted my talent, my time and my ambition by giving up my job to look after you, my children. That my time would have been better spent in an office in London, away from you. That you would have been better off looked after by strangers. That I will have viewed being a mother at home as a burden. Don't believe it.
- Some people behave in hateful ways and spout insults for no apparent reason, out of jealousy, or out of a belief that being spiteful is witty, fun and something to aspire to. It's not. If you are ever on the receiving end of it, remember that it is not your fault; you are never to blame for the actions of another human being.
- Remember that you are a worthy human being, that your body is your own, and that nobody is entitled to treat you in a degrading, humiliating or violent way. Insist on respect and give respect. Nothing less than that will ever do.
- Everyone was born a baby - we are all here for a short time and no matter how wonderful someone might appear, or how much they seem to have, we all come into the world and leave it the same way. With nothing but our body and our character.
- Perhaps you will want to get married one day. If I am not there to watch you, know that you will carry me in your heart. Be sure to marry for the marriage and not the wedding.
- How you feel and how you behave, not how you look, are what matters.
- Both of you, try not to hurt people. Work on your empathy - it is a muscle.
- I hope to be there for the good times, but most importantly, I want to be there if you are hurting. Because, at some point, both of you will need support, a cuddle, some love, reassurance and kindness. And I want you to know that I will hear you and help wherever I can, no matter what.
- I am sorry for all the times I fall short. I am a human being and am imperfect. Please forgive me.
- I want you to know that although life can be very difficult, it is hard sometimes because it must be. Without the lows, the highs wouldn't register. Without the lows, the sweet would be bitter. Everyone suffers at some point - but nothing lasts. Not even the lows.
- If you fall short sometimes, remember what I always say: "Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even Mummies and Daddies". It is your life to lead. Lead it well and be kind to yourself and others.
- But most of all, I want you to know that I love you. I will never regret that cuddle, that extra breastfeed, that night where both of you draped your sleeping little bodies over mine, that trip to the ducks or that day spent at home because it was raining outside. I will never regret being at home at this time in your lives. I feel truly blessed. It is hard sometimes, tiring and relentless, and I find new ways to mess up daily - hey, as you well know, I'm not perfect - but I wouldn't change it for anything because being with you both is hands-down the best thing I have ever done in my life. Thank you.
When I am gone - whenever that might be - if I am in your memories then I will be with you even though I cannot be holding your hand.
This piece first appeared on 6 May 2015 in the Politics of Mothering