I’ve been sick this week – it’s been hard to maintain any prolonged period of concentration – oh for about five days now. Here is a short reflection on both International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday – which seem to have fallen unusually close together this year.
I am Harriet Long and my mother was Jacqueline McKenzie, her mother was Martha Arbuckle and her mother was Violet Kincaid and her mother was Lily Kincaid. My father was Kim Long and his mother was Bridget Gates and her mother was Pauline Hooton and her mother was Florence Mackrowe. I have not known many of these women – but I bet they’ve all got wonderful stories to tell.
As a child and then young adult I spent a lot of time reading paperback family sagas – tales of generations that moved characters through time, eras, relationships and family identity. I’ve spent my life hearing the stories of a huge and loud Irish clan running the streets of Derry eventually spreading out across Ireland and the British Isles as well as the tales of families joining together in the South of England within exclusive Christian gatherings and the subsequent departures, separation and reunions over generations. I’ve heard tales of loss and pain, joy and celebration – and right within the heart of my story are the women who have made me and my family and families possible*.
I think I live in a world now where I’ve got more choices, more opportunities and a stronger voice because of the women who have gone before me. I know it in the bones and blood of me, in the images and symbols of my childhood and home and what I carry into my family architecture now – reaching out to those who maybe don’t know the touch, the place of or even the names of the women who’ve gone before. I know the way I work is influenced by these women, the way I worship, the way I advocate, the way I experience compassion and activism, the way I argue, cook, organise and dress. I know I’ve confidence because of these women who’ve worked in their own lives and stories to give the next generation something new, fresh, stronger and true. How I would love to spend an afternoon in a garden with all these women – where would the conversation go?
I am white, safe, educated and protected. I have been fortunate to be healthy so far, stable and encouraged to nurture some pride and confidence. I know that millions of women around the world do not necessarily have a voice, a place or sense of their heritage or legacy despite having their own stories to share (I like how D.L. Mayfield highlights this tension here). I know that today around the world there have been meals, dances, songs, speeches and interviews talking about and celebrating women in intensely diverse spaces and places. There has also been time to highlight the issues, difficulties and oppression of women around the world. Today is a good day because it highlights the phenomenal contribution and participation of women to our world including motherhood, but also aside from it. [Mothering] Sunday is important because where would any of us be without our mothers – but it’s also a hard day for those who’ve lost mothers to death, substance abuse, neglect, court processes, wrong expectations. There are those who long to be mothers, there are those in the process of becoming them.
Motherhood and family is a fantastic thing – but I am glad that International Women’s Day comes first in the month and celebrates the wholeness of being female not just the parts.
*Of course there are men too, without whom my families would also not be possible, but today I’m noting the women.
Linking this to the Patron Saints & Spiritual Midwives synchroblog here today.