It's not that their pregnancies were the result of violent assault; most were the result of a loving, long-term relationship. It's not that they don't love their kids. But the feminist theory we devoured as students never mentioned motherhood, certainly not in a positive light. Come to think of it, they never mentioned marriage without scorn and derision either, despite the health benefits associated with the institution.
No, my mum never chained herself to a courthouse, or had her mouth taped shut for a whole day (embracing the uni-era nicotine cravings) while wearing a bright purple shirt to show solidarity with women who had been silenced by sexual violence. She never said anything that would encourage my feminism. She married my dad - arguably one of the coolest men ever - and had my brother and me.
What we learn from our mothers is, it turns out, far more visceral. Without words, my mum taught me that it's okay to be vulnerable with a good man - and vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and love. She taught me which kinds of men to avoid for my own emotional well-being. She taught my brother to be good to women, not in a patronising way, but in a whole-hearted way that validated them.
we can unpick what we want to take with us into adulthood. It reminds us that feminism is a conversation, not a rule book.
A woman confident of herself, her femininity/feminism, her role in her partnership, and her abilities is a better role model of feminism for her children than any apologist with fine words. Even women who stay in abusive relationships are feminist role models - the ones who provide a scary warning of what not to do; watching with outrage as Daddy hurt Mummy formed the thinking in so many of my contemporaries. As we discuss our childhoods, we can unpick what we want to take with us into adulthood. It reminds us that feminism is a conversation, not a rule book.
Last Sunday was Mother's Day in most of the English-speaking world (just not the part that still celebrates the Church of England's Mother's Day). So, ladies (and gentlemen), join me in toasting mums - the ones who taught us about good nutrition by making us tasty, healthy food, even when they were exhausted. Join me in celebrating the women who taught us to read and nurtured our love of great female writers, the women who taught us the feminine handicraft we now use as activist expressions. Will you join me in doing something to validate the powerhouses of healing, comfort, and nurture that helped us survive childhood and blossom into (reasonably) well-adjusted adults?
Bridget Schuil - Lover of science, plants, tea, wine, peaceful pursuits and fast cars. You can follow Bridget on Twitter and read her blog here