Proshanti Tales

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by Anthony Silkoff and Rizwan Hussain, two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

Scroll through the small image menu below to find the story you want to read. Then click on the large image to pause and read that mothers' story.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I was nearly born in my mother’s kitchen, my mum told me, but the neighbours managed to rush her in the car to the hospital. People used to help each other, they were poor, but it was good. They never had nothing so they helped each other. Not like it is now. When Mrs Cohen was short a few coppers we used to help her out, that’s the way it was. Bad times, but good people. You don’t get it like that today. Nisht ahir un nish aher... (Neither here nor there).

My mother was a wigmaker on Christian street, she told me that, I don’t remember her doing it. We were poor like everyone else, she worked very hard, she had to look after the little children running about.

When it came to my turn, I was quite scared when I found out I was pregnant, I was 19, still a baby myself. They said in the hospital to my mother: “a baby had a baby”. I looked like a baby in the bed!

I had a wonderful pregnancy though, I had him in the hot weather. I felt wonderful, the second one as well. Also born in hot weather, 9 years to the day. But the girl was born at Pesach (Passover), I had trouble with her. My mother said to me, I think you’ve got a girl, oh it was a terrible pregnancy. Nisht ahir un nish aher... I couldn’t eat anything... oh it was awful. With the boys, I ate like a horse.

I brought my kids up Jewish.  I sent my kids to cheder (sunday school), but if they didn’t want to go, they didn’t go.  What they choose to do when they grow up, that's not your fault, if they marry an English girl for example.  I didn’t like it when my son did that at first, but she's a lovely girl actually.

I never would've had a child outside of marriage; it’s just wrong. I’m a broadminded woman, but its not necessary. I say, live together if you want, but don’t have children, why struggle? It’s ridiculous, what’s the point?

If I had my time again, I’d never think of having one at that age, it’s ridiculous, I was a snotty-nose, what did I know about babies? I didn’t know how to change a bloody nappy. I didn’t, my mother had to come and bath them. It’s wrong for children to have babies. Yeah, go out and enjoy yourself, but use discretion, you can have sexual intercourse without having babies.. Years ago we had one baby after another; we had no TV, that was our pleasure! For the sake of 5 minutes pleasure you’ve got all that aggravation! Prevention is better than cure.

It’s a pleasure to be a mother in a proper way.  To be a mother is to bring them up with a husband in your own house, at your own pleasure; then you’ve got no aggravation. The worry you have for children never goes, as old as my children are now I still worry about them.  It’s natural.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I was born in the Congo in 1955, in a place that has now been reclaimed by the jungle.  My mother was an incredible mother.  She was just very good at it, she was always very happy; she loved being there in the jungle with us.  There must have been so many difficulties though, but it was a very happy life, very carefree and fascinating.

As I was growing up in the 60s, teenage culture was quite alien to my mum.  I would never ask my mother’s advice about clothes, or anything to do with boys.  My mother’s opinion was that you had nothing to do with boys until you were married.  You couldn’t ask her about anything sexual; her advice to me was don’t ever kiss a boy because when you kiss someone, you open the floodgates.  Because of that, I found my first kiss very disappointing!  There were no floodgates at all.  

My mum didn’t understand, and she wouldn’t have approved of, the life I lived.  I had to live quite a secret life; if I went out drinking I had to disguise my breath!  Even if I talk to my mum about it now, she says, “no, no, you didn’t drink!”; she’s in complete denial.  I tried to tell her I took drugs, too, she just doesn’t want to know. 

My parents were both pioneer missionaries and very independent. My mum’s role has always been to support my father’s ministry, but I think if she had been brought up when I was she would’ve been a minister herself.  She’s always seen that as a mission, a calling in life.  Women didn’t have the freedom to do that kind of thing back then.

We’ve talked about that quite a lot. She has a very simple faith, she’s not a simple person, but her faith is very uncomplicated, I used to argue with her a lot about it.  We argued about feminism, I thought she far too easily took on the servant role.  She tried to train my brothers to get on with housework, but she gave up with them quite easily.

I’m surprised my mum’s faith influenced me in the positive way that it has. When I turned thirteen, I completely rebelled and I didn’t want anything to do with religion.  I know sometimes I upset her, that was the worst thing, because I was argumentative, and I rejected church.  It was fine when it was discussed on a philosophical level, but it was more difficult when it became personal.

In some ways it is surprising to me that I turned back to my faith when I was twenty-one. I went to train for the Ministry when I was 26, so I was at theological college until I was 30.   I was the only female full-time ministerial candidate at my college; it was really hard, in the 80s, to be a woman in the Baptist church.  To have stopped and had a baby is probably what they were all hoping would happen, so I had to wait to have my children later.

Now that I have daughters, I have tried to give them the freedom to live their own lives. My mother taught me how to be a mother - I'm not as good at it as she was, but I do want my children to feel free about what and how they believe.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I was born in 1921, in a maternity home on Commercial Road.  My mother was always there for me, and a very capable woman.  My mother sang all day, no matter what else she was doing.  When she sang, she had an enormous repertoire of Victorian and Edwardian songs, very engaging tunes; the sort that would bring tears to your eyes.  They had tough lives, and this would come out in their songs.

She sewed, she cooked; she did everything.  She was very literate, she wrote wonderful letters.  My mother spoke and wrote Yiddish, I can still remember the words when I read them.  She was a prop for the community, too.  If anyone needed any medical help, she would be there for them.  My mother was very special, I only ever remember a very young mother; she always seemed very young for her age.  She would play, she would skip, and do all the things a schoolgirl would do. 

My mother didn’t go out to work, but I don’t remember any of the women in our area going out to work. Remember, women had to do everything; they washed by hand, with no back up gadgets like washing machines, everything took a long time.  If you had mats, you shook them, brushed them, and most people kept their homes very clean.  When it came to Pesach (Passover), my mother whitewashed the walls, cleaned everything.  Also there were no school meals; all the children came home for lunch, so the mother would be cooking a midday meal too. Women were busy if they kept a home nicely.  Anyway, I think if you’ve got small children, you should be at home with them.  I know that can drive you mad, I can understand why you’d want to escape!  I had three children myself; there are times when you want to get away.

There was a lot of smacking when I was a child; my father never smacked, but mother did occasionally.  It was the accepted thing.  I think it’s wrong, your children grow up the way you treat them; that I’m sure of.  If you bring them up with cruelty, where the child is afraid of you, that’s not the way to bring up a child.  You must have discipline, but there are better ways of doing it. 

It depends on the child.  I had one child who could be punished by withdrawing any of his toys, and he showed indifference to it all; it was very infuriating!  He grew up very well in the end.  Every child is different, so you can’t treat them all the same; but you can still love them and care for them equally.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I was born in Princelet Street, Spitalfields, in 1928.  My mum was actually being treated for indigestion while she was, in fact, pregnant with me.  So I came as quite a surprise.  It’s very difficult to give an objective view of one’s own mother.  I have nothing but good to say for my mother, she was a wonderful, completely honest, hardworking woman, as most mothers in our circle were at that time. “Good working class” was a positive thing, unlike today when it has negative connotations. My mother was certainly working class, but that was a good thing. 

I was 21 when I had my first daughter. I wasn’t daunted, it was a natural thing. In those days, it wasn’t so public. You tried to hide it. I remember my mother-in-law saying, I was six months pregnant and I didn’t show. People were proud of hiding it; nowadays the minute they’re pregnant they’re wearing loose things... it’s very different. Like everything related to the human condition, there are pluses and minuses to that. There are many good things related to the feminist revolution, of which I like to think I was a pioneer, but there were also many bad things. 

I think I was a nice mum, I was laid back, I remember once being in a discussion group of young mums. They were saying how terrible it was in the summer holidays, and they didn’t know what to do with the children. I said, have you thought of giving them a bucket of water and telling them to go into the garden and make a mess? Of course, nobody liked me after that.

That was the kind of mum I was. One child’s mother came to collect him from our house, and found him going down our stairs on a tea tray, as if he were on a ski slope. She said, “Stop! You can’t do that! What will Aunty Renee say?!” He replied: “Aunty Renee taught me how to do it!”.

I object very much to these self-help books that tell you how to bring up a child; you could do it with one child and it will work fine, but not with another child.  Every mother is different, too.  How you feel one year is not necessarily how you’ll feel the next year. I always object to those books, but if people make money out of them, good luck to them!

I don’t think there are good mothers or bad mothers.  There are plenty of good mothers who are not loved by their children, and plenty of wicked mothers who are.

In the end, we have to die, in order to be spared the sight of our own children getting old. Now I see my own children looking at me growing old. Sadly, grief is the price we pay for love; if we didn’t love so much we wouldn’t grieve so much. But it’s worth it, it’s totally worth it.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

It was very difficult, traveling in different trucks and different cars. We got to one town and we’d have to move on to the next because there had been a shooting or looting. All the other children were with us too. 7 months pregnant, 7 young children, it was so hard. It wasn’t safe, it was so hot. There wasn’t enough food.  Anything could’ve happened.  I was so scared for the children and the baby in my tummy. I was dying for water one day; my husband pleaded with someone to give some water for me. They said “ok but two sips only!”

I couldn’t climb up and down the trucks all the time, I remember all the children cheered “well done Hooyo (mum)!”, every time I climbed up or down.  If I would’ve had the birth in the bushes, anything could’ve happened, I was so scared that there wasn’t any medical help.  In the end, that birth was actually the easiest.  I think, because of all the difficulties going on with the civil war, Allah wanted to help me with an easier birth!

When I moved to Manchester and got settled, the kids got older, and I felt more comfortable. One of my friends there had mental issues, and the children had to be taken into care with Jamaican foster parents. One day, one of the children ran to my house and locked herself in the bathroom, crying and shouting “I want to stay here, don’t make me go back to that house!”, because she knew me as her ‘Aunty’. She didn’t know these foster parents.

It was at that point I thought I should try fostering myself, I know I can’t do very much but I wanted to make a difference to one child.  Islam teaches that if you change the life of one human being, then you change the world, that’s what I believe.  I was the first Somali foster carer in Manchester. Since then, I’ve fostered 22 children.

I want to encourage Somali families, if they have the patience and the time, to be foster carers.  Children have the right to learn about their own identity; although that Jamaican mum was black, we don’t share the same culture.  We don’t eat the same food, we don’t have the same faith.  It’s not being racist, there simply aren’t enough Somali foster carers, perhaps because of social services!  No one wants social services in their life.

Back home in Somalia we do fostering but with a different name, the only difference is paperwork. My dad was the eldest of his family, and he took one of his brother’s children to look after him. So we know about fostering, just without the paperwork.

The most difficult thing for children to deal with is the loss of their birth family. Still in their mind, they know they don’t belong with us. Nothing can replace a child’s real parents. Sometimes it’s best for them to return to their real mum, if possible. I can feed them, care for them, but I can’t be their real mum.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother.  When I came out as a lesbian, in my late 30s, that was the start of the end of our relationship.  She just couldn’t hack it at all that I was gay.  I didn’t want our relationship to break down entirely, so we decided that I wouldn’t talk about it, and she wouldn’t ask about it.  For all those years until she died, I never talked about my life; she never met my partner, and she didn’t know that my daughter, her granddaughter, is a lesbian.

My mother was a traditional post-war mother.  It was an awful time for women, with that appalling, deathly routine: you clean this this room on this day, you cook this meal on this day, you breastfeed the baby every four hours… It was an incredibly oppressive time for women.

I can’t remember as a child ever being cuddled.  She was always there as a domestic presence, but I don’t remember much warmth from her.  And that affection is massively important, hugely important; it’s the bedrock of a child’s life.

Still, it felt very odd when my mum died last year.  She had been in a care home for a while, then suddenly she got pneumonia and went into hospital, and I was told she was dying.  You can’t really predict how you feel when someone dies.  She was old, she’d had a long life, she died reasonably peacefully, and I wasn’t even close to her.  But I did lose my mojo for quite some time.  I didn’t want to see anyone; I didn’t want to sit down with friends and talk.  I suppose, she was still my mother, I was bound to feel something when she went. 

 --

I already had a daughter from my first marriage, but I wanted to foster with my new partner after I came out as a lesbian.  As well as conventional fostering, we’ve also hosted young people through the Albert Kennedy Trust, which works with LGBT young people who have been affected by homelessness.  One of their programmes is called the supported lodging scheme, for those who have had to leave home, usually for reasons to do with their sexuality.  My partner and I host people at home, and we have a young man staying at the moment.

I don’t think having a birth child really prepared me in any way for looking after a child with, for example, massive attachment difficulties.  That’s the most challenging thing, dealing with behavioural issues, no doubt.  

There have been funny times too; we once had a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome staying with us.  With that syndrome, everything’s very black and white, and they say what they mean in very unbridled terms.  She was a really feminine girl, she loved her make up and all that stuff.  She said to me one day, “Annie, why do lesbians wear such awful clothes?”  She was great!

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

All the notions of equality held by women of my generation are completely undermined when they become mothers.  You realise that actually, very old concepts of sexism are absolutely still there.  It was after I’d had my son that I began thinking about this, and coming to terms with the fact who I thought I was, wasn’t who I was. 

I was working full time, I quite enjoyed my work, and I felt like I was in a partnership of equals.  I was just really alarmed at how quickly that was eroded at having a child.  My husband’s a feminist and is very involved in caring for the children, but I feel like there are so many forces at work that it cant be as equal as we’d like it to be.  Things like the father getting two weeks paternity leave, and the mother gets up to a year maternity leave.  Right from the beginning there’s this state-sponsored sexism, laying down the roles. 

Women just find themselves taking up that role. They make friends with other mothers in the local area.  They get used to taking the kids swimming, arranging doctor’s appointments, buying them new shoes.  And fathers get used to being lumbered as the wage slaves, playing second fiddle in the home.  Men are charged with bringing the money in, that’s the deal.  Or being drafted in to help with a particularly tricky nappy change!

Women don’t challenge this enough.  Men don’t challenge it either.  Men and women will often answer surveys saying they wish things were different, but actually don’t seem to do anything about it.  We can't just sit there waiting for the right policy to come along; we need to change our own behaviours too.

Somebody described motherhood to me as much better than you could have imagined, and also much worse. It’s both.  There are days where I just want to shut the door and leave, and there are days where you’re just overwhelmed by infatuation for your children. 

Since giving birth to my daughter, I’ve seen a new side to my son develop.  I wasn’t sure what way it would go.  But when we brought our baby daughter home from the hospital, her brother was immediately sweet and kind to her, and he has been ever since.  They’ve become two little allies; she knows that they are partners, and that we are different, adult creatures. To see that understanding between them is incredible.

The most difficult part of motherhood is the overnight loss of autonomy. It takes five hours to make yourself a sandwich, because you’re running around after them.  When they’re very young they don’t even like being put down, everything has to be done with one hand.   But that way in which your patience is stretched and stretched, makes you find resources that you never believed you would have; that’s one of the most amazing things about it.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I missed my mum a lot when I moved to the UK from Ghana. I talked to her on the phone, I would ask her if she was ok and I wished I were there to comfort her, if she’d not been well or lost one of her family members. But I’d still manage to go back every two years.

My mum died last year; I went to visit her in Ghana three years ago, and she had dementia by then. Everyone was saying how she’d lost her memory, so one of my sister-in-laws asked “do you know who this is?”, pointing to me. My mum replied: of course I know, that’s Elizabeth.” Everyone was so shocked! She really had fun with my son; I really appreciate that moment that she got with her grandson.

My mum’s dad was a church pastor; she really went by the word of God, every Sunday we had to go to church. You have to hold on to something, if you don’t have faith you don’t have anything. That’s really impacted how I bring up my son. I try to teach him that, no matter what you go through, you always have to look to God for strength.

My mum was very strict. Every evening she sat us on the mat. She read to us, and when she finished reading she asked us questions; if we didn’t know the answer, she would be really angry! Back home they say you don’t spare the rod and spoil the child. You got your punishment. Obviously we got scared, so we didn’t get ourselves into trouble. You cant say whether it was right or wrong – that’s what made us what we are.

I don’t beat my son; I thought it was better not to. It’s better to talk to him than do it physically. However, looking at society these days, back then you dare not do anything wrong because you know the consequences; today, there’s no fear. There’s no punishment, and you get away with it. But my son still knows his limits. Instead of using the rod, I just send him up to his room, or take away his mobile phone or computer.

Motherhood isn’t just about giving birth. Your actions, the way you do things, they way you bring up your child, that’s what makes you a mother. People can look at your child, and then they know who you are.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

Mum was a horse dealer; we grew up near Dover.  She took a shine to this old bloke who owned the fields, so we moved in with him when I was about 7.  My mum said to us one day: “I’ve decided to move in with him; you can come with me, or you can make your own way.”  That was how she announced it to us, when I was 7 and my sister was 3.  So we moved in with her, what else could we do?

I didn’t go to school much.  I’d be dressed and ready to go and my mum would say: “there’s these horses that need sorting”.  She never thought it was important, she said I’d never use the education, even though I really begged to go.  She’d say: “what’s the point of education for girls?”.  She got that wrong, definitely.

Still, she did once give me a good piece of advice: “when you feel danger, always jump forwards, not back”.  It saved my life when a bloody great sheet of Asbestos fell off the roof; if I had jumped back it would’ve cut me in half.

My mum never really loved my sister.  She tried to get her adopted once; it was only because I kicked up a fuss about being left alone that they stopped it.  Mum was always palming her off to be minded, because she was no use on the farm.  She used to leave her with other families around Dover.  This particular family liked her so much, they wanted to adopt her, but I didn’t want to be an only child. 

My sister still hates mum, even though she’s dead now.  My sister will say: “she was your mother, nothing to do with me.”  My mum really didn’t want her.  I was strong, whereas my sister was afraid of the horses.  My mum kept calling my sister useless; when you’re called useless you become useless, what’s the point in trying? 

My first baby was born when I was 21, and I had four in the end.  I was bloody overjoyed when I first got pregnant.  I thought: there’s somebody who’s going to love me!  I think I’ve been a better mum than my mum was; at least I love all my kids the same.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

My parents separated when I was very young.  I had a very loving upbringing with my father and his mother.  My grandmother was like a mother to me, she had always wanted a daughter.  My overwhelming memory of my grandmother is a vast amount of warmth.  Just cuddling up to her, feeling that maternal love that I didn’t get from my own mother. 

At the age of 9, my mother had remarried and she won custody of me.  The court decided that it was best for me to be with my mother, as she could provide more financially.  I remember being talked to by the court’s child psychologist.  I think I wanted to stay with my father, but I didn't feel I could say that.  I told the psychologist I could see the advantages of both. 

I lived with her until the age of 19, and it wasn’t a happy time.  She thought she was doing her best, she gave me as much love as she possibly could.  But she was busy, always rushing around being a Doctor and she didn’t really know how to be a mother.  I had issues as a young teenager, a lot of issues, even though I was very privileged.   I  felt very insecure, and even attempted suicide; a cry for help from my mum, I think.  She was doing her best, but she just didn’t know how to be a mother to me.

I was angry with her for a long time, we all play the blame game; it’s all our parents’ fault.  But my mother and I have very similar personalities.  We both have hot tempers, she’s a mirror for me; there are lots of lessons I can learn from her.  Over the past year I've done a lot of healing, and I’m a lot freer with her now.  I had to let go of that blame, that anger, to be able to fully love her.  She lives in Australia but she was here last summer and, because I was finally able to let it go, it was beautiful being with her, there was harmony.     

My oldest child is 12, he’s very similar to me.  He’s got a hot temper, we do clash.  He’s also one of my greatest teachers.  I’m learning to be with him more, rather than spending time; time’s not a currency.  Rather than just firing questions at him all the time, just sitting with him, asking him how he's feeling, where he's at; I find he opens up a lot more that way. 

I don’t subscribe to any religion, but I feel very much that I do have faith, and a connection to God, to spirit, through yoga and meditation.  The spirituality of living on planet earth is very important.  I share that with my children through morals, through what I teach them, through everyday situations and challenges.  I teach them that they’ve got a direct connection to God; you don’t need to go to church to find that. 

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I was born in December 1922.  My earliest memory of my mum is when my sister was born, I was 5 and a half.  She was born in the same flat as me, in Boundary Street, Shoreditch.

My mother was a terrific mother, an excellent mother.  She made sure we knew we were Jews, but we weren’t religious.  We would fast on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and we would keep Pesach (Passover), but we wouldn’t go the whole hog.   

When my dad passed away, my mother had to go out to work to keep us.  She found a job that wasn’t suitable for her, but at least it was bringing in some money.  She was cleaning floors in a Lions Tea Shop; she was desperate.

I had to leave school when my father died.  I should’ve been at school until I was 16, but mum was worried about money.  The headmaster called me into his office when he found out I was leaving, and asked me how I felt about it.  I told him I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice.  My mum had made up her mind and that was that; I left school when I was 14.  Mum got me a job as an apprentice dressmaker; I hated it, I loathed it, I still talk about it now.  I was furious with my mum for taking me out of school.

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I had my first child when I was 22.  I had 2 daughters.  I was horrified when I found out I was pregnant, because my husband had gone into the army and he was away when I found out. I wrote to tell him, and the first he knew about it was on the frontline at Holland.  He said a motorcyclist rode up to him, said “your name Gold?  You just had a daughter.” and then rode off again.  It was a bit sad not having him around.  But I wasn’t the only woman it was happening too.  You just hoped they were going to come home; it was 3 months before he saw her. 

If you’d ask my sister about me, she’d say that I’d rather not have had children; but that’s not true.  I just didn’t want the first one at the time that it happened, because of the war.  It wasn’t the time to start having a family. 

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I wasn’t very broadminded when it came to discussions with my children.  I was a bit straight-laced.  We talk much more openly now that we’re all much older, than I did when we were younger.  Times change; I don’t know if it’s better.  I think everything’s too easy these days; everyone’s so promiscuous!

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

It was 1992; I was just coming up to my 32nd birthday and full of the excitement of having a baby.  My GP, who knew that I had lived and worked in Africa, suggested that I should have an HIV test along with the regular tests in pregnancy.  I was completely fit and well, so I thought fine, no problem.   All the other results came back fine, apart from the test for HIV.

Nowadays, over 99% of children are born HIV-free if their mother is on medication.  But in 1992, before antiretroviral drugs were available, if I went ahead with the pregnancy it was feared it would affect my health, the baby’s health, or both of us, leaving my older children motherless.

Losing a baby is devastating.  Having a miscarriage is bad enough, but having to have an abortion because of a life-threatening illness... it’s horrible.  Testing positive for HIV back then was basically a death sentence; along with the grief of losing the baby, I thought I was also going to die.

My husband was incredible.  He was, and remains, HIV negative, by the way.  My GP was an incredibly lovely lady; the first thing she asked after the diagnosis was: “can I give you a hug?”.  The HIV consultant very kindly saw us the next morning, on a Saturday, and my obstetrician was wonderful.  Nonetheless, even with that fantastic support network, I was completely devastated. I remember walking down Regent Street thinking the best thing I could do was to just throw myself under the next bus. 

However, that evening I went to meet a group of other women living with HIV. The woman who was leading the group said that she’d been diagnosed in prison, while there on a drugs charge.  The warden told her; he came and opened the hatch in her door, said, “oh by the way you’re HIV positive”, then just slammed the hatch shut and walked off.  She decided to get out of prison, get off drugs, and make sure that no other woman would have to go through that experience. 

If she turned her life around, how dare I take the easy route out to go and think about suicide?  I, too, had to sort myself out and go and do something for other women.  I’ve now started the Salamander Trust, which works on HIV and women’s rights.

A third of people with HIV in the UK are women, and hardly any of us are open about our status, because of the horrifying stigma.  When my two children were at school, if ever the word HIV would come up, other kids would say “GAYS! AFRICANS! JUNKIES!”… there was such such racism and homophobia, criticising anyone of a different lifestyle without any sense of solidarity.  HIV brings all of society’s worst prejudices to the fore.

The stigma is there in religious communities too. From some, I’ve had fabulous support.  Sadly, from others, there has been very little understanding. There are pockets of excellence, but wide oceans of intolerance. There’s a great Ugandan priest with HIV who says: “religion brings out the best and worst in us”.  I’ve felt drawn to Buddhism over the last few years, but in my experience, most people who don’t have a faith still have an extremely firm set of ethical principles.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

The inspiration for founding Proshanti was my mother.  My mum was the example I base my life on.  That’s why I feel so strongly about motherhood.  My mum was involved with the independence war in Bangladesh; a few times they wanted to kill my mother and the rest of us, they lined us up to kill us, they even tried to burn our house down… so many struggles she went through!  She was a very brave woman, she didn’t give any information about my brothers; she told the army that they would have to kill her before they could kill her children.

After the war, my mother started doing voluntary work in the village, one of the things she helped with was maternal healthcare, for the really poor people.  She was helping with births, counselling mothers, arranging some finance for when the baby was born.  She was a really strong volunteer in the community. 

She died suddenly in 1993, of a heart attack.  My mum had always wanted to set up a college for women and girls, there wasn’t anything at that time; but it didn’t happen in her lifetime.  When she died we decided to do something for women’s education, and we started up a college.  It has 700 students now.  We wanted to do that in my mother’s name. 

When I came to London I saw there were a lot of difficulties for the local Bangladeshi community; lots of women are not in education, they don’t speak very good English either, so I started doing voluntary work just like my mother.  Working with others, over the last 20 years, we’ve helped set up the Bromley by Bow Centre (BBBC).  My mum would be very proud if she knew about it. 

I wanted to take the BBBC team to my hometown in Bangladesh.  When we went to Juri, the local people found out we had a doctor and a nurse with us from the UK, and they started queuing each morning to receive some treatment!

When we came back, we decided to found Proshanti.  Since then, we’ve identified that the women and children are particularly vulnerable, they’re often housebound and they don’t have enough communication with others.  There’s a hugely male-dominated culture in Bangladesh, sometimes it’s hidden but it’s always there.  Women don’t have much of a say, even when they are pregnant, every decision has to be made by men.  So we wanted to focus particularly on maternal healthcare.  We need more volunteers and resources to continue to support these women, through Proshanti. 

I hope that people viewing these stories will take away some important knowledge to help future generations; I think that’s really important.  I hope, too, that people will donate money to Proshanti, to secure the future of women and children in Bangladesh.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

I always wanted children. When I got married, my love for my husband made me want children even more. As Baha’is we believe that love is the source and the cause of creation. So, even as humans, we create out of love.  We have two-fold purpose in life; one is to grow spiritually and to prepare for the next world; the other is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, advancing materially but also spiritually.  We see it as our responsibility to raise children to be those citizens that will carry forward the civilization.

Human beings are essentially spiritual beings; we have a lower and a higher nature.  The lower nature is like an animal instinct, the higher nature encompasses all the virtues within us. As a mother I help my children to develop the higher nature, their virtues like love, generosity, and forgiveness, so that they become human beings who think about others first.  The way we do it is manifold: we say prayers every day, the children memorise the quotations from the Baha’i writings.  My little daughter is four years old; she loves these quotes.  Sometimes she’s playing and I suddenly hear her say this to her dolls: “you live to do good and to bring happiness to others”.

Abdul Baha’i, the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith, says that children are like little plants, and you need to help them grow in the right direction.  Once they are fully-grown, and they are crooked, it is almost impossible to correct it.  So as a mother, it is important to be constantly aware of all my children’s developments.  The responsibility of motherhood begins long before the birth; you need to prepare spiritually and mentally.  I prayed for both my children while they were in my womb, I sang songs to them, I played classical music to them in the womb.  I think it’s very important to prepare yourself as a mother.

I used to be more judgmental of other mothers, and I’m trying to make myself less so because everyone is in a different situation.  The more you experience, the more you realise you cannot judge others.  However, it makes me very sad when I see mothers get frustrated and angry with their children.  I don’t like to see a child treated with less respect than an adult; obviously you need to guide them, to discipline them, and they also need to show respect for you, it doesn’t work just one way. But, I don’t like it when I see children treated as inferior; as a Baha’i I don’t think I can look at children as though they are mine, they’re not; they’re entrusted to me by God, and it’s my duty to raise them.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org

My Mothering Story

I was born just outside Nairobi in 1959; I was one of six children, the oldest girl.  We had a very traditional Indian upbringing.  I don’t remember my mother much apart from her being in the kitchen.  Think about it, she’d had a child almost every year, there were a lot of us to wash, and dress, and feed.  She was constantly either breastfeeding, or expecting the next baby.  I remember her doing my hair; mine used to have two plaits.  I used to cry a lot when she combed my hair, she didn’t have time to be slow and gentle.

I was frightened of my mum.  I never even told her when I broke my leg, I just pined until she realised something was wrong.  The truth is, my mother had six children and I wasn’t her favourite; I couldn’t go to her, even with my deepest troubles.  So I never relied on my mum for advice on bringing up my own kids; my faith became a far greater guide.

I didn’t develop my faith until my children were 8 and 10.  When my eldest was about 5, we took them to the temple so they could learn Guajarati, and I asked if I could volunteer.  While volunteering I used to sit in and listen to the presentations on Hinduism, and that’s how I became interested in my faith.  I have to thank my children for that!

Even before my faith became stronger, I did bring up my children with the ethos of Karma.  If you do good things, you’ll get good things.  And they were brought up with the ethos of Dharma, duty to your family, to all their grandparents and great-grandparents.

I became a single parent when my own children were 16 and 14, and I divorced from my husband.  He used to see them at weekends; during the week the responsibility was on me.  The 14 year old was very challenging, perhaps because we had to move away to a new town, to a new school, leaving old friends behind.  We both found it very, very challenging.  He was taller than me, bigger than me; it was quite intimidating because he had a lot of anger following the divorce.  I did bear with it for 4 years, but when he turned 18 and the aggression was still there, I was actually physically frightened.  So I gave him an ultimatum on his birthday: shape up or ship out.  He shipped out to his dad’s.  That was tragic for me.

I did not realise how difficult I’d find that to cope with.  I was left with one child, and my other child had gone, it was like a bereavement.  He didn’t keep in touch, so for almost two years I had very little contact with my youngest son, my baby. That was the biggest challenge to my motherhood.  I had to learn how to live without him.

He’s 27 now, that was 10 years ago.  We see each other regularly now, we socialise together; we go out for meals and to the cinema.   I still think, if I hadn’t kicked him out, he wouldn’t be the nice man as he is now.  I made the right decision.  I didn’t want to be frightened in my own home.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by twoFaith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.

My Mothering Story

To be quite honest, I think I was a disappointment to my mum in many ways. I think she desperately wanted a little girl – a petite feminine, little thing, with gorgeous hair that she could put in bows. I couldn’t stop her trying; I have many memories of screaming while my hair was put into rags to turn me into Shirley Temple over night. It just wasn’t me; it never has been me.

I’ve never actually come out to my family. I’ve always lived out, but I’ve never had that “mum I’ve got something to tell you” conversation. But I think she knows: I remember, going back about 15 years, my mum was on the phone to my brother’s ex wife. My mum told me that this woman was being particularly nasty that day, and these were my mum’s exact words: “then she tried to tell me what you are... But I told her, I already know”. That is the only conversation, to this day, we have ever had about my sexuality.

So, my mum doesn’t seem to have any issue with my sexuality, but she really struggles with my faith. I’m now a minister for the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a denomination specifically started for the LGBT community.  She really doesn’t understand why I wanted to be ordained, or why I go to church.  When I was young I would pester my mum to go to Sunday school, because she never wanted to take me. It was only when we moved to a property with a church at the end of the road, that she allowed me to go by myself, when I was about 7 years old. I have no idea where it came from, I just don’t know a time when I haven’t been in love with God.

People often say I have a maternal instinct; I laugh and say, “no, it’s a paternal instinct.”  Any young children I meet, they seem to recognise a kindred spirit in me.  I think I just haven’t grown up, they realise that I’m really only three years old.  There was a time when I was trying to get pregnant through artificial insemination, a friend providing a donation, but I was never successful.  And now it’s biologically too late.  So I’ve provided that care to foster children instead. 

I’ve now fostered 4 children.  Fostering is challenging; you have to remember that they are not your birth children, and the state is ultimately responsible for them.  So there are some things you might do normally as a birth parent that you can’t do as a foster parent.  You can’t pop into the hair dressers to get their haircut, without permission.  You can’t go sit in their bedroom without the door open, and somebody else in the house.  You no longer have any privacy, you become public property. 

It’s difficult to know what role I was playing, obviously they had a mother, so was I their mother? Or their father?  They just called me Sharon.  But I do remember a time with one of the boys, I’d just taught him to drive and he’d got a car which needed a bit of bodywork doing to it.  He had all his mates helping with the car one day; I walked off to the kitchen and I heard one of his mates say “I know the other lady’s your mum, so who’s Sharon?” I wondered what he’d reply, and he said “that’s my dad with tits.” That stuck for years.

 

What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.

Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.

To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.