I had a baby! Almost eight months ago now. I’m still pretty proud of myself. And totally overcome still by how wonderful Kezia is. But when I come to connect my new parental status with my life in literature I am suddenly hit with a problem. It seems that mothers are hugely absent from books – in almost all stories they are either dead or completely useless.
I put the problems to two of my fellow well-read English Literature graduates, and within about an hour and covering all books we could remember we had come up with a list of just eight mother characters who could be said to have a decent character of their own. That’s miniscule!
And I can see some reasons why this is. Mothers are the people who tell you to be careful, who bring sense, who look after you, and if an adventure and danger are going on they are, at least stereotypically, going to try to stop you. So it’s pretty convenient to have them dead or so weak a character as to be useless. (I realise I’ve even done this in my book.) But I think it needs to change.
Growing up, I looked to fiction and to characters to decide what sort of person I wanted to be. I ate apples in the attic like Jo March. I spied on adults (and ate tomato sandwiches) with Harriet. I wrote rhyming couplets like Isabella Quagmire. I wrote a diary like Cassandra Mortmain. Above all from all my heroines I learnt courage, what it was to grow up, and that it was okay to be me.
So now, with the dearth of mothers to copy, what am I do to? Where are the kick-ass Mothers saving their children? Bringing up awesome kids? Encouraging adventure, living awesome lives? I’d guess in the more ‘women’s fiction’ genre there would be more stuff like this, but I don’t want emotional family drama necessarily but something a bit more exciting that I can get into.
My mum is awesome. She’s lived a full and adventurous life, highly disrupted by four awesome children, but always pursuing her dreams and learning and changing and growing. And she has always, always (and still does now we are all grown with big lives), encourage adventure.
I’m going to share my list of awesome mums of literature with explanations of why these mothers are my heroes soon, but for now, please, everyone, write some awesome books about Mums!