Mummy Activists

The awe-inspiring Hayley Goleniowska of Downs Side Up redefines "Mummy Activism" in our ninth Mama Activist guest post. What does mummy activism mean to you? Are you a mummy activist...?

When Pippa asked me to write a piece on "Mummy Activists" I have to admit it wasn’t a phrase I’ve heard that often. I guess I had never considered myself as such, although perhaps warrior mummy had crossed my lips.

You see the word Mummy to me is gentleness, firm guidance, a hug and a kiss after a bumped knee, pacing worriedly during illnesses or surgeries,  reassurance on a windy night, homework helper, making dinner in a homely apron.

The last time I was a rather wishy washy activist was during my uni years, when I might have marched in fair weather to save the rainforest, turned veggie because my friend who was a good cook was, or sat in a library all night protesting about Poll Tax whilst drinking coffee with some rugby player I rather fancied. I’ve never been a particularly political animal. That’s what activists are isn’t it?

Well, thank you Pippa for getting me thinking, because the fact you asked me to write for you means you think I am an activist, and a Mummy Activist to boot. 

The strap line of my blog Downs Side Up is “Gently changing perceptions of Down’s Syndrome from within hearts.” And there you have your definition. A Mummy Activist will change the world subtly without you even realising she’s done it. 

While you are clicking "Like" on a quirky picture of our family with a catchy slogan on Facebook, you are internalising and normalising Down’s Syndrome. It’s becoming part of your daily life.

When you read a funny blog post about a badly timed poo or a recipe for constipation-busting biscuits you probably think of how relevant they are for your own family, whether your children have DS or not, and so you realise that our families have more in common than not.

You may have seen our daughter Natty modeling for Frugi, Jojo Maman Bebe or Eden Project. Again a subtle inclusive message, a role model for other children with disabilities and a shining light for new parents. We’ve just returned from a fabulous group photo shoot where we gathered 8 of the UKs models with Down’s Syndrome together in the historic house of John Langdon Down who first described the Syndrome. Such a beautiful setting and so many mixed emotion standing there remembering the past for individuals like Natty. But we have been pioneers pushing barriers gently out of our children’s paths. The world is so much more their oyster these days as a result.


Perhaps you have heard me speak and watched me pour my emotions into doing that, even seen me cry at a podium. I know many say they will never forget that experience and I know I have cracked a few hard professionals’ hearts that way. My heart, is on my sleeve, and there is no better activist’s weapon.

For you see, in my opinion, getting cross and beating people over the head with my mantra is a sure fire way to get them to switch off, stop listening and box me up in their minds in a section marked ‘boring/angry disability mum’.

Just before Christmas, Geoffrey Clark UKiP candidate called for the compulsory abortion of babies with Spina Bifida and Down’s Syndrome amongst many other nonsenses. It took me 3 days to calm down, channel my anger and write him an open letter, fuelled with love for our children and pity for him. I’m glad I waited and resisted the knee-jerk reaction letter that came into my head first. You can read the letter here.

I have just returned from London where I was asked to give evidence in Parliament on the Disability Abortion Law to a multi-party commission. I decided to employ the same technique there, despite my horror at the legality of abortions ‘up to and including during birth’ for babies with disabilities. The only way to win this one was with photos, anecdotes and buckets of passion. I think it had the desired impact. Read Downs Side Up Gives Evidence in Parliament.


Then a few weeks ago I found myself persuaded by Kate on thin ice to join her in a Naked Mum programme, designed to boost Mums' confidence, and celebrate our bodies that created our beautiful children.  More to the point, we must not blame our bodies, our children are not mistakes.

A good friend volunteered her photography skills and a date was set for the shoot. Can taking your clothes off create change? Does it define you as an activist? Well the photos haven’t been released yet and already nearly £800 has been raised, but more surprisingly many Mums have written thanking me for being so brave and highlighting that Mums of children with disabilities are just like any other.

Proud, protective, and a bit squidgy round the edges.


If you liked this post you might also like Love Mum Body (our gallery of bits of our mum-bodies we'd like to love more, with some wonderful guest posts).

You might also like these other fab posts in our Mama Activism series:

Activate Mama Bloggers (about Team HONK and Red Nose Day)

Parenting and activism: @Lulasticblog

Mumra and other thunderous Kats@katpearce

How do you measure making a difference? Jenelle @TrashN2Tees

On Empowerment: Teika @mothersmilkbks

An activist at heart: Lisa @lisahassanscott

Better than nothing: Chelsea @msmummyoftwo

Making a difference with micro-movements: Charlie @charlieplunkett

And these Mama Activism posts from us at story of mum:

Let's change the world piece by piece: Pippa @storyofmum

Powerful mothers: on body distraction and changing the world: Pippa @storyofmum

We also talked about Mama Activism at our last #somum Make Date.

And please sign Save the Children’s Race Against Hunger campaign petition.


What does Mummy Activism mean to you? Are you a Mummy Activist too...?