Wednesday, 16 April 2014

25. Literary Mums

I’m a tad early to be talking about mums since Mother’s Day isn’t until next month but I thought I’d use the topic as a tie in to my newspaper column.

Since the link isn’t available, I’ve posted straight from the source.

Mother’s Day is fast approaching and it’s something I treasure because for a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever be a mum. However, miracles do happen and I’m now a proud mum of two. Yes, they try my patience and attempt to alter my tenuous hold on sanity, but I wouldn’t change that for anything. Parenthood also made me appreciate my parents more and I’m sure Mum was being complementary when she mentioned something about my kids turning out just like me.

Whether you’re a mum through giving birth, adoption, stepchildren or sharing maternal love for another, it’s a tough gig. You’re guaranteed long hours, sleepless nights, career hopping, (I can be a driver, nurse, teacher and advisor all in one day) and yet a simple smile and the curl of small fingers against your own makes it all worthwhile.

Celebrate the love that transpires on this occasion, but understand that for some, it’s a rough day. I haven’t forgotten the time when I would have given anything to hear ‘I love you, Mum’. For those still waiting to hear those special words or are missing their mums especially on Mother’s Day, please remember they need our support too.

I know motherhood is not what every woman wishes for and that’s fine by me, but I couldn’t picture my life without children in it. And call me old fashioned, but I wanted to be married when that happened. Again, that doesn’t suit everyone and I don’t have a problem with that either. Many heartbreaks later (and that’s potential suitors as well as the path to having children) I became a mum. :)

Parenthood can be such an integral part of our existence. It’s a life changing moment and no matter how many ‘help’ books you read on the subject and how much well-meaning advice you can stomach, nothing ever prepares you for the enormous impact that tiny bundle has. Parenthood can enrich partnerships or tear them apart, and it can be the basis of some amazing stories. There are spoilers here so please read at your own discretion.

Where would Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth be without their Marmee (Abigail March) in the classic tale of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women? She was there for her daughters wherever possible, constantly adjusting to the many different temperaments, trials and tribulations her family endured. Raising four children with little money and a husband away fighting in the war at a time when society expected women to stay at home with no real source of income would have been a trial itself. This was a novel of great matriarchal strength, courage and fortitude.

Who didn’t want a mum like Molly Weasley from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series who uttered the famous words ‘Not my daughter, you bitch’ when Bellatrix LeStrange attempted to murder her only daughter. According to my teen, this is the best line in the series. ;) Molly was an amazing mum to seven children, eight if you count Harry Potter whom she loved as much as she loved her birth children. She was firm and fair, praising their achievements and pulling her children into line when they misbehaved. And she was a much-underestimated character as parents are in the real world as well as the fictional one.

And then there’s Caroline (Ma) Ingalls. A pioneering mother, she cooked, cleaned, fed and cared for her family without any of the modern appliances we take for granted and yet, despite their hardships, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House stories told of happy times that vastly outweighed  the tragedies families faced in that era. As a child watching Little House on the Prairie on TV, I longed to live in that cute little house with the woods as my playground. Naivety can be such bliss at times. :)

Of course, not all literary mums make us think of loving thoughts and big, warm hugs.

Margaret White, the abusive, insane, domineering mother in Stephen King’s Carrie is a fine example. A religious fanatic, any time that Margaret believed Carrie had sinned, (and what she considered a sin defies reality) she would throw her daughter into a specifically decorated closet, leaving her there for hours or days until she believed Carrie had atoned for her sins. Is it any wonder her psychically gifted child lost her precarious grip on sanity?

In the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch, Norma Bates, yet another psychotic, domineering mother passed her insanity on to her only child, Norman Bates. His frequent conversations with her – despite the fact that she has been dead for 10 years are an integral part of the tale. Bates murdered her in a fit of jealousy after she got a new boyfriend and, consumed by guilt, he preserved his mother’s body, still dressed in her clothes, and came to believe that she was jealous of any woman to whom he was attracted. Infamous shower scene anyone?

The mother figure who terrified me most, (to the point I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest of the series) was Corinne Dollanganger from Flowers in the Attic by V.C. AndrewsWidowed, and forced to return to her estranged family home with her four children, Corrine’s mother agrees to let her move back in on the condition that Corinne hides the (illegitimate) children from Malcolm, her husband and Corinne’s father, until he dies. Instead of finding an alternative to this outrageous proposal, she imprisons the children into an attic for years where they become malnourished, delusional, incestuous and developed many social abnormalities. Attempting to murder them by sneaking rat poison into their food was an especially unpleasant maternal touch.

So on the days when I wonder if I’m being the best mum I can be, thinking about Corinne and how much I’m not like her definitely gives me hope that I’m on the right track.

What do you think? Who are some of your best and worst literary mums?


  1. Literary mums? Hmm. Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is quite ridiculous. I actually like Amelia Peabody Emerson from Elizabeth Peter's Egyptian archaeology adventures. Anyone who can survive her son, Ramses, is mother of the century material!

    A lovely heart-touching column, D.

    1. Mother of the century, huh? Sounds like Ramses was quite the handful. I wouldn't have lasted long in Mrs Bennet's time. Their idea of proper behaviour for a lady and mine are miles apart. LOL

      Thank you for your comments as always. :)