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.