Clara Barnhurst

My mum gets two Mother’s Days. One in March when the UK recognises it because that’s where I am, and another in May when America recognises it because that’s where she is. It’s one of those quirky consequences of having an internationally flung family; we enjoy the little oddities it throws at us. It helps make up for being so far away.

I’ve written about my mum a great deal. To the point where she is sometimes wary of what she tells me because she knows I’ll write it down. Ringing this morning was no exception when she said to me, “The best way you can take care of me is by taking care of you.” A poignant message, given the hardship of the past two years. Despite, or perhaps because of, the difficult time we’ve managed to grow closer as mother and daughter.

I was always close to my mother. I’ve always felt I could share anything with her and I counted on her presence. I told a friend the other day that good parenting was being there, even when it was hard. In this, my mum has always been an excellent parent.

Apart from the odd conversation with friends about their families once in a while, I never thought of my relationship with my parents as exceptional. We are close as a family; we stick together. We share. When you grow up with something, it’s sometimes hard to notice how exceptional it is. I was close to my mum and that was ordinary to me.


Coming out to my mum was never a worry for me, which makes sense considering I grew up in a queer family anyway. I had no fear of my family accepting me; my hesitance was more out of fear of the consequences for myself. Once I was out to them, I wouldn’t be satisfied until I was living the life of my choosing. Coming out to them meant coming out to everyone. My mum broke the silence once I finally did by asking what I would like to be called.

My mum and I went from intermittent at best contact to nearly daily contact. Usually just a text to say we love each other. She’s been more open with me and I’ve grown closer to her. It sounds a bit twee but we gained that relationship where we can share anything. It’s as though the difficult teenage years where things never quite seem to work are over, some twenty years later than normal.

Coming out doesn’t always bring us closer to our parents. Too often it drives our parents away. I know I’m lucky and it makes our closeness all the sweeter. Awesome mums are awesome, and not enough people get to have awesome mums. I would share mine, if I could.


My mum has access to parts of me I’m not sure I have access to on my own. She will say things to me that I integrate immediately despite hearing the same thing from several others, including myself. I don’t believe I would have survived these past two years without her. I certainly wouldn’t be as stable mentally as I am now. My brothers and stepfathers helped a great deal as well, but my mum was the focal point for me in the family. She was the one that held the parts of me together that nobody, not even me, could see. She was there when it was hard.

I suppose it’s that trust in a person that grants the kind of access my mum has to my locked bits of psyche. I trust her to be there, no matter what. No matter how hard it gets for her or me. She can have the keys: she will be there for me even if I can’t be there for myself.

That access allows her to experience things I’m not ready to. I shared the results of the portrait exhibit I’ve written about in the past - blog to come soon - and her response stuck with me more than the painting, in a way. “So lovely - makes me cry. So proud of you!”

I don’t think the person I describe above - someone who can rewire you with a comment; someone who sees you for you better than you do; someone you know is simply there - has to be a mother. I don’t think it has to be one’s own mother, biological or otherwise. This person, for me, just happens to be my mother.

I do think that if we’re lucky to have such a person in our lives, we need to hang on to them. We need to be careful not to take them for granted - people we see as fixtures, however powerful, often become assumed. We need to look after ourselves so we can look after them. When my mother told me I could look after her by looking after me, she was passing on an important bit of wisdom. Something I knew. Something so many had said to me before, but until she said it, I didn’t understand it. Not really. Yet again, she turned a key in my mind and let me understand a part of myself.

I hope the folks in America had a good Mother’s Day. I hope they had someone like my mother with them and I hope they were able to make that person feel special. Whoever that person is, be it a mother or a chosen family member. I hope that as people become more honest with ourselves, they get to meet our mother figures with new eyes, as I was able to. I knew my mother my entire life. I met her when I finally let go and told her I was her daughter.


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