Three Mothers – An Unconventional Setup

Guest post by: Stacey Cavanagh

No matter how old you get, no matter how clever or how self-sufficient and independent you become, you never stop wanting your Mother on a bad day.

It might be a stupid argument with the boyfriend (that will undoubtedly repair itself after half hour and sugary cup of tea) a long day at the office or simply a hormonal day, but when I feel down, it’s my Mothers I want.

Yes, I said ‘Mothers.’ Plural. I have three.

I wasn’t brought up on a lesbian commune, I wasn’t adopted or passed from foster home to foster home and I haven’t stolen anyone’s identity. But I do have three Mother figures in my life.

There’s my actual Mother, Helen, there’s my Nan, Teresa and my Auntie Angela. I was spoiled.

As a teenager, I had it pretty easy. I had my Mum who would love me unconditionally and put up with the teenage tantrums from hell. She sacrificed everything to ensure I was able to have the best education possible and put up with me at my worst. It was my Mum I’d go to first when I’d done something I was proud of or when I was crying, either over spilled milk or a broken heart. I always knew I could tell her anything and not be judged. I was lucky. I was able to confess the first time I’d spent the night with a guy… painfully embarrassing conversation, granted. But no judgment passed, just sound advice.

I lived with both my Mother and Nan from the age of 8 following the separation of my parents. Nan became a grandparent and a second parent all in one. Sharing the job of raising myself and my Brother (financially, practically and emotionally) with my Mother, she took a lot on. The thing about Nannas is that they know everything there is to know about parenting. They’ve been through it – in my Nan’s case, 4 times. This means they tend to worry less and are able to see any dispute from both the child and parent’s perspective. Nanna was my port of call when I needed a second opinion… or when I needed someone to persuade my Mum to let me do something. If I’m ever getting a little too big for my boots, Nan has no qualms telling me!

My Auntie Angela lived literally a one minute walk from us during my teens. After a recent divorce, she struggled to settle in living alone again. This created a mutually beneficial situation. She liked the company, and I liked the independence I got staying with Auntie Angela. And so, during my teens, I spent most nights there, getting up in the morning and going home to get ready for school. We got on as best friends. I was trusted with the house when she was away at weekends – a trust I might have abused one or two boozy occasions. A bunch of teenagers with a house and a load of booze has a tendency to get messy (sorry, Angela!). But it was Angela who held my hair back when I got drunk enough to feel sick and who helped me to explain it (and apologise) to my Mother. It was Auntie Angela who listened to me rant about how “my Mum just doesn’t get it,” on the days I wasn’t getting my own and who managed to make me and my Mum see reason on the days we weren’t seeing eye to eye.

So, as I was saying, I had three Mother figures. I was lucky. I can’t count the number of times people have questioned the fact I did not see my Dad much as I was growing up and asked “how did that affect you?” It’s almost as though people expect you to have become a self pitying alcoholic sitting in a corner with a bottle of vodka and crying over the fact that you lacked any male influence in your life. That certainly isn’t me.

I’m not saying that the traditional family unit isn’t a good thing. I’m sure that perfect two parent families are amazing. What I am saying is that, contrary to popular misconception, it isn’t the be all and end all.

All I really needed growing up was someone to look up to, someone to keep me in check, listen to me whinge, laugh with me, let me make my own mistakes and love me in spite of every last one of them. And I got three people who did just that.

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