Flying down the stairs on a tea-tray

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. I have nothing but good to say for my mother, she was a wonderful, completely honest, hard-working 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.

ReneeI was 21 when I had my first daughter. 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.

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 was a laid back mum, 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 suggested 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. 

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, “You can’t do that! What will Renee say?” He replied: “Aunty Renee taught me how to do it!”

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. 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.

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.

Renee's story is featured at London's Museum of Motherhood, due to launch at the V & A Museum of Childhood on Thursday 21st June, along with a book. All revenue from ticket and book sales will go to fund Proshanti, a charity supporting maternal healthcare work in Bangladesh. You can buy tickets here for the launch and follow them on facebook and twitter.

You can also win a pair of tickets to the launch by joining our next mums' Make Date. Join us on twitter on 20 June 8.30pm – 9.30pm BST (other timezones here) using the hashtag #somum for a chat and a doodleMuseum of Mum. To see what a Twidoodle's all about, check out our first ever attempt last month... Hope to see you there!

Read other stories from the Museum of Motherhood from Lilu and Alice