A letter to… all my mothers

To my mum: I was 12 when you died, and now, looking down the barrel of my 30th birthday, I realise more than ever how unfair it was on everyone that you were gone before your 39th birthday.

I’ve had far more time without you than with you, but not a day goes by when I don’t think of you. I know so little about you as a woman in your own right: all of my memories are through a child’s eye, or are second-hand stories passed on. I hope you would have approved of the way I’ve turned out. I hope you approve, too, of the women I’ve used to fill my mum void. You’re irreplaceable, of course, but they’re doing a pretty good job.

To my stepmum: I know I was a brat when you arrived, and the excuse of being a moody, grieving teenager will only take me so far. I’m sorry for the early years of our relationship – there is a huge sense of shame that I associate with that time.

When you married Dad it was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember calling you my “stepmum” for the first time the day after and it felt so normal.

Having a similar career to you means that you understand my work woes in a way that Dad never can, and I appreciate that more than you know.

To my auntie: you’re the only adult I was ever able to talk to about boys, sex, and that one time I smoked weed. Instead of judgment, you reacted with interest. Your sensitivity throughout the early mum-less years laid the foundation for a solid adult friendship. Thank you for providing me with some semblance of the relationships I see my friends have with their mothers. I no longer get envious and sad when I think of what I’m missing, because I have you.

To my ex-boyfriend’s mum: there was no obligation for us to keep in touch when, at 17, your son dumped me, but now, 12 years on, we’re still in contact. You said you thought of me as a surrogate daughter and it brought me to tears. I have learnt so much from you about how to be a strong, independent woman, which is definitely what you are.

You were the cool mum – Download festival in a hoodie and Converse – but now, you’re my cool friend for so many other reasons.

You have no idea how much I appreciate you sticking around because you want to, and not because you have to.

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