But, let's face it, you don't need me at the party. You've got more than enough cheerleading from the cut-flower and greetings card industries. So excuse me while I turn my writerly attention to the bad-enough mothers and their offspring.
Who do I have in mind? I'm not thinking of the chicks grown older, if not much wiser, fretting over cellulite and what to put in Jocasta's lunchbox, of the kind of Bad Mothering that entails passing off a shop-bought cake as home-made. I'm not thinking of the ever-so shaming mothers whose clothes were too drab or flashy or individual for the tastes of their teenage daughters, who were too friendly or aloof towards her friends.
I'm thinking of the Mrs Wintersons and her less flamboyant sisters, of the Jeanettes and her less robust or less talented sibs. Mothers veering so far off target they must be running blindfold, yet they’re panting and sweating as if giving it their all. Mothers whose damage to their children is obvious to
everyone but themselves.
All Night, the Babby
Mummy and Me
Madonna and Child
plus a song from Emmylou Harris, Mary Black and Dolores Keane.
Yet, with the right support at the right time, any of these stories could have had a happy ending. The mothers might have been treated to breakfast in bed today courtesy of their children. Those children might have had a genuine secure base to which they could retreat when life got tough. They might have been a family that showed (not told) by how they lived their lives that they understood Why Love Matters.
So hurrah for attachment theorists for highlighting the crucial role of early infant-carer relationships in our lifelong mental well-being (and managing not to scapegoat mothers in the process). And a huge great roar for those going beyond singing and writing and theorising about broken attachments, such as Kids Company, The Oxford Parent Infant Project and other individuals and organisations trying to make things better for children who didn’t get the start in life they deserved.
I promise a less emotionally challenging post next time (it’s probably going to be on muscular verbs) but, in the meantime, what’s your view? Who are your favourite fictional mothers and do you prefer to hang out with the good-enough mothers or the bad-enough in your fiction?