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A mother I admire…

By March 19, 2020May 22nd, 2020No Comments

Mother figures – mammies, grannies, aunties, sisters, friends, sometimes even dads, granddads and uncles. They don’t always take the same shape, but they’re always among the most special people in our lives. Some of team rogue list mothers they admire.



The mother I admire is going to be surprised when she sees this, because for reasons I can never fathom, she sometimes gives herself a hard time about her mothering skills. From what I can see, it’s because she occasionally might shout at her kids. It is possible to parent and not do that? I think not. 

She is one of my best friends, Sophie White, a mother of three boys, all of whom resemble her in different ways, all of whom share her ability to charm a room.

She is a wonderful mother to her boys, as you can see by the way they unthinkingly make themselves at home on her body in the various manners of a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a several-week-old; clinging to her, sucking on her, barrelling into her. It’s that presumed ownership small children have with their mothers. But it is not for her mothering skills to her boys that I am here to admire her.

It is for what she does for other women as a mother. In all her writing, and her podcasting, Sophie is always honest about how hard it can be, at times, to be mother. I don’t think she realises what an act of solidarity to other mothers this is. How reassuring it is. Readers, and listeners to Mother of Pod with herself and Jen O’Dwyer, will know what I mean. 

It’s not easy to say that at times you are struggling with something that at times feels like a competitive sport, your performance of it the very definition of whether you are succeeding at being a woman. 

When I had my daughter, we knew each other vaguely, but she decided we would be friends. An early adopter, she was the first of her group to have a baby; she needed a friend with a child, she told me later. A few days after my daughter was born, she arrived at the house, deduced my fragility, and made me feel like this was completely normal. I shudder to think how I would have fared without her reassurance.


Immediately I’m flouting the rules here and choosing two mothers to talk about. I have endless admiration for my own mother, and my nanny, who passed away when I was 21, but who was like a second mother to me. Likewise, my granny who died when I was only four, but whose traits and personality I’ve apparently copied thoroughly. Writing about them would result in many tears, and necessitate a trip to the Apple store to replace a waterlogged keyboard. Which in the current self-isolated climate, wouldn’t be practical.

Instead, I’m choosing to write about two of my best friends, both of whom became mothers in the last couple of years. 

Dawn had Seán against the odds. He was (and is) a little miracle, and when Dawn was just a few weeks pregnant and I heard he was going to be arriving, I was ecstatic. Dawn’s growth into a mother has been nothing short of incredible. When he was just months old, she opened her own business, launched her own skin clinic and is now successfully operating, all the while being the best mother to her little ‘micro man’, as she calls him. I admire her for her dedication to her own dreams, dreams that go hand in hand with her absolute dedication to motherhood. She’s raising a son who will be respectful and in awe of the females in his life, all thanks to her setting the perfect example of a strong, determined, capable woman.

Áine, one of the most all round impressive people I know, had her daughter Robin last summer, and transformed before my eyes into an even more impressive person. The calmness with which she approached pregnancy, birth and motherhood blows my mind. She has taken on motherhood with such love and elegant discipline – whether it’s blending delicious and nutritious meals for her baby girl from scratch, or making sure she’s looked after herself, knowing a happy mammy makes for a happy baby. She’s taking a pro-active, practical and incredibly generous approach to motherhood, putting Robin first at every step. I admire Áine for many things, but watching her as a mother has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.


My choice for the mother that I admire is the mother on social media. Contrary to received wisdom about Mumsnet and toxic Facebook groups, I have found powerful support, friendship and connection from other women on social media in the often lonely and isolating landscape of Motherland.

In 2013, I had my first baby and was living in decidedly more analogue times. I often quip that I didn’t have a smartphone and notably that was the baby on which I got crippling postnatal depression. Glibness aside though, the isolation of that year was cruel. I had no friends with babies yet. I did all I could to find other women who were new mothers in the park. I’d spot them easily enough, we all had eyes like piss holes in the snow and a certain walk that says “recently wrecked vagina” but it wasn’t easy to impose my slightly deranged friendship on them.

When I had my second baby in 2016, I had a new phone, a brand new Instagram account and, I realised, a growing tribe of women ready to reach across the virtual void and say “yes, I also feel like the shittiest mother in the world today”. Or “don’t worry, I also think I am shouting all day long” or “try breast angels for your ragged nipples that feel like you’re crawling on skinned knees every time the baby latches” or “have you checked for tongue tie” or “nah, my kid only ate crisps and plain pasta too and he never got scurvy” or “yes, I constantly think I’m fucking it all up”. Or perhaps most importantly of all “you’re actually brilliant and these ungrateful little shites don’t know how lucky they are to have you ;)”.

The mothers on social media helped me feel normal in all the sprawling angst, acute joy and relentless tedium of motherhood. They helped me more than they can ever know. Orlaith Donlon, Louise McSharry, Katie Healy Nolan, Roisin Anna, Sarah Tobin, Soobie Lynch, Natalie Lee, Eimear Varian Barry and too many more to mention. Some are women who since I first followed them on social media have become IRL friends, some have shared their phone number to counsel me through breastfeeding my third baby (the self-doubt and unsteadiness can hit at any time), some cheer me on in the DMs, and some don’t know I exist but they all inspire me and, in sharing their lives, give me a sense of community and fun and solidarity in this divine shitshow that is parenthood. Thank you and happy Mother’s Day.


I have a complicated relationship with the concept of motherhood, so I’m not nominating one mother as a mother I admire. Instead I’m nominating every lone mother who exists now or has ever existed.

Almost a quarter of children living in Ireland today come from lone parent households, most of them headed by women. Cuts to lone parent supports implemented by the Fine Gael/Labour government in 2012 resulted in the poverty rates for lone parents doubling. Lone parent families are now amongst the most economically deprived demographic living in Ireland today. The government hailed the €45m they took from lone parents as a success story. It was anything but.

Women like the indubitable Louise Bayliss, who set up SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of their Kids), have been fighting the government for decades to get equal treatment for lone parent families. Louise has campaigned for a statutory maintenance agency to be set up.  At the moment if a father doesn’t pay the maintenance he is supposed to, the mother still has the money she is supposed to be receiving from him taken out of her welfare payment. The state treats her as if she has a higher income than she actually has. The lack of enforcement of maintenance payments has left many lone parents living in poverty. 

We like to think we’ve moved past the times when lone mothers were locked away in Magdalene Laundries but the truth is some of these former laundries have been re-purposed as Homeless hubs and are full again with lone mothers and their children. While the women living in these hubs aren’t required to do manual labour for the Catholic church/state – they are having their freedoms curtailed and can’t even lock their own doors at night. The way we are warehousing lone mothers and their children in these places will I feel, one day be the cause of an inquiry. 

There is a reason we’ve seen a localised spike in the number of lone mothers taking their own lives in recent years. Since the Catholic Church arrived in Ireland it has been a cold place for a single mother. While the influence of the Catholic Church has waned in recent years, the State seemed to pick up where they left off.

Here’s to every lone mother today. But most especially those who are homeless, living in poverty, dealing with mental health, physical health or addiction issues, and mothers who have not been supported or appreciated by society. I see you. I value you. Thank you.

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash


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