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.