Floundering … or Fulfilling? Different Perspectives on Mothering.

Last weekend I flew from Sydney up to Dubbo, on my way to a schools’ riding expo at Coonabarabran; it was not a long flight, but there was enough time on the way there and the way back to read, cover to cover, Melbourne writer Romy Ash’s first novel, Floundering. This novel is worth a read – it has been shortlisted for the 2013 Miles Franklin award, a prize given to the “Novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases”; moreover, it is powerful and intense, gripping the reader in a fear for the young narrator and his brother as they leave with their estranged mother (now returned) on a trip away from their normal, daily life. The presence of love but the absence of mothering makes for a subtly nerve-wracking journey by the reader; you will be unsettled by the novel and by the loneliness it contains … and for precisely this reason you should nonetheless read it.

What a contrast, then, to arrive at Coonabarabran and to find mothers (and fathers) working with love and care to look after their own, and each other’s, daughters. Around the campfire, preparing food, encouraging their daughters as they jumped the crosscountry course or prepared for the Polocrosse … these mothers were present for their daughters and giving them the support that they needed. Community, companionship, collaboration – the effect of these on the soul was all the greater for the insight that my reading material had given me into a life devoid of mothering. I was struck by what a difference mothering makes to young people, and I was grateful to be reminded of it in practice.

Mothers are special. They birth their children and they love their children. They feed their children and they nurture their children. They are instrumental in bringing up their children. Not every family has a mother, and many of these families find ways to recreate the love of a mother in alternative ways. When mothering is seen in action, it is wonderful.

To mothers everywhere – thank you.

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