Mother’s Day is around the corner, and we’re thinking about all the wonderful things our mums have done for us over the years. The lovely Katie Piper and her mum Diane have written Things I’d Tell My Child – a delightful rumination on motherhood and the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. Here’s Katie’s own personal introduction…
Becoming a mother has been the most amazing journey for me.
From the moment I knew my first baby was a girl I started to plan, and to hope and dream. I wanted so much for her – health, friendships, love, work she enjoys – in other words a meaningful and fulfilling life. And, of course, it was just the same the second time around, all those dreams still firmly in place, despite the extra circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, the battered toes from falling over stray toys and the soundtrack from Frozen stuck on a loop in my head.
Near the top of my list of hopes and dreams for my girls, Belle and Penelope, is the wish for us to enjoy the same great relationship I had with my mum, Diane. The mother–daughter bond is something special, and I couldn’t wait to experience it with my own daughters. But I also knew that the world had changed so much since I was growing up. What would I need to know, to learn, to understand in order to give my daughters the strength to cope with everything that might come their way?
I want my daughters to be strong, brave women who can speak up for themselves and navigate life’s ups and downs with confidence. The world can be a tough place, and something unexpected can come along and change everything, so I want them to be able to take life in their stride, the good and the bad, and still keep their centre of gravity – the calm place inside that knows ‘I am me, whatever happens’.
Of course, like almost every parent, I feel protective. I don’t want anyone to hurt my daughters, ever. But the truth is they will get hurt. I can’t protect them from a mean comment, a job that doesn’t work out, a failed relationship. All I can do is teach them how to deal with those things when they happen. The way you manage adversity is the best measure of anyone, because if you can come through the toughest of times in one piece, you can cope with anything.
I know that the example I set my girls, in all things, will be vital. But what do I teach them about friendships, relationships and a woman’s role? And how do I help them navigate a world that is changing so fast?
Before writing this book I did a lot of exploring, talking and looking around. I talked to friends, to experts and to mothers – young and older. And I’ve included some of their stories in the book, because there’s nothing like someone else’s insight to help you see what’s happening in your own life. Many of us are single parents, caring for children alone and that’s a tough call. There are times when I find it hard even with the support of a loving, involved partner, so I have enormous respect for the mums, and the dads, who do it alone.
Some of the most valuable insight and advice came from psychologist Kairen Cullen, who has vast experience of working with mothers and daughters of all ages. Her quiet wisdom and spot-on observations have been a huge help.
I also talked to my mum, Diane. Who better to turn to for mother–daughter advice? We talked about our own relationship and Mum’s relationship with her own mother. It’s fascinating to follow a line of women, from my grandmother, to my mother, to me, and then my daughters. Each one of those relationships is different to the others, and yet they are all built around the unique mother–daughter dynamic. Loving together, sharing, talking, laughing – infuriating each other at times – but such an important relationship for both of us, and at the heart of the way we see ourselves and the world. I talked to Mum about how she did things when she was a young mother, and how she feels now, looking back on bringing up me, my brother and my sister? She’s been amazing, always there for me through everything, steadily by my side. I hope I can do that for my own two girls.
I’ve asked Mum to contribute her thoughts to the book, adding her own special angle on subjects that are close to her heart. We’ve added a chapter on coping with trauma, as many of us find ourselves having to do, and Mum will have a lot to say there. We’ve included extracts from the diary she kept after my acid attack, which I hope will help others going through unexpected tragedy. She’ll also share what it was like when I left home twice – the first time as an excited teenager, the second time putting a foot tentatively back out in the world, two years after the attack. I think Mum felt a lot of concern then, about how tough life might be for me as I rebuilt my life.
Mum is also a doting grandmother to Belle and Penelope and she has given me so much good advice – I couldn’t have done it without her. But they’re still very young and I’m still in the early stages of the motherhood journey, whereas Mum is a few steps ahead of me and can talk about what it’s like having adult daughters.
I think Mum would agree that bringing up happy, healthy daughters has become more challenging. Girls today have more opportunities than those in any previous generation. But they also face unprecedented pressures. They’re expected to become top executives, surgeons and judges, and at the same time to be slim and attractive and to know how to navigate the world of online communications.
That’s why I want to look at what it means to raise a daughter in the modern world, what we learn as mothers and the incredible power of mother–daughter relationships.
I’ve looked at many of the issues we mums face in raising our daughters; issues such as body image, the pressures of social media, role models, dating, sex and safety, and mental health. I’ve also looked at the power of the internet (and how to use it wisely), the work/parenting balance and how to teach girls to speak out and to be part of the big conversations in life about the things that matter.
Although my focus is on daughters in this book, I should mention that much of the information, insight and advice I’ve discovered and brought together is equally true for sons. Boys also face a tough world and many challenges as they grow, and parents have just as many concerns for their sons as they do for their daughters.
We all know there’s no such thing as the perfect mother–daughter relationship; each one is unique and that’s what makes them special. Some mums and daughters have such an intense relationship that they seem to live in one another’s pockets. Others have so much space that they can go for weeks or months without seeing one another. But the bond is there, no matter what, and none of us would be without it.