Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
There’s a lot of pressure for moms around Mother’s Day. It is intended to honour and acknowledge what a great job you are doing as a mother. But what if you don’t feel like you’ve done a good job? Or what if you’ve had to make a painful decision to give a child up? Mother’s day isn’t always chocolate and flowers.
Because this Sunday is Mother’s Day, Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about a book that features a mother that might not be the one that comes to mind while we celebrate Mother’s Day.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: Phyllis Whitsell was adopted from an orphanage – while growing up she was told that her mother had died of tuberculosis. But Phyllis never believed it was true. She prayed every night for God to take care of her birth mother, holding onto the hope that she was alive and out there, somewhere. Finally, after years of searching, Phyllis finds her birth mother, Bridget, known locally as Tipperary Mary. But the loving reunion Phyllis had hoped for is complicated by a difficult past. The mother she discovers is a broken woman – a victim of early onset dementia, an alcoholic, and a woman crushed by years of missing the daughter she gave up. By this time a community nurse with her own children, Phyllis keeps the discovery from her family. She begins to care for Bridget, visiting her at home, buying her new clothes, tending to her illnesses and giving her as much love as she can. All the while, Phyllis struggles with telling Bridget her true identity. And when she eventually introduces her son to his grandmother, Bridget doesn’t believe her. Bridget never fully understands that her tender new caregiver is the daughter she lost so long ago. My Secret Mother by Phyllis Whitsell is an extraordinary true story of forgiveness and compassion, as a daughter’s search for her mother becomes a journey from abandonment into love.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai starts out with a little bunny saying “Mommy I- I- I AM SO MAD AT YOU!” The book continues with gorgeous illustrations and simple language as little bunny lays out why he’s so mad at his mother. She sleeps in late on Saturdays (always, always, always), she yells at him for no reason (at least that’s what he thinks), she shows up late to pick him up from school, she forgot to do his laundry, and she always tells him to hurry up, but never hurries up herself. In fact, little bunny is so mad, he’s going to run away.
For a kid’s book, an impressive and perplexing number of theories abound as to why little bunnies mother sleeps late on Saturdays, yells at her son, runs late when picking him up, is behind on the laundry, and might not be moving the quickest. Perhaps mommy bunny is a single parent and is balancing raising her child and working? Perhaps mommy bunny is tired and a little short tempered because – as the illustrations suggest – little bunny was playing sailboat in the toilet. Perhaps, as some readers have speculated, mommy bunny is also managing a mental illness on top of it all, but is really trying to do her best by her son. Perhaps parenting is just hard, and no matter how hard you try, at some point your kid is probably going to get mad at you. Whatever the reasons, the message of the book is that despite mommy bunny’s struggles, and despite little bunny’s anger, they still love each other in the end.
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Three years after giving up drink, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne while celebrating the birth of her first child. That simple act marked Jowita’s immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails for a new mother who is at first determined to keep her problem a secret.
Jowita’s memoir, Drunk Mom about her relapse into addiction is an extraordinary achievement. The writing is raw and immediate. It places you in the moment–saddened, appalled, nerve-wracked, but never able to look away or stop turning the pages. With brutal honesty, Jowita takes us through the binges and blackouts, the self-deception and less successful attempts to deceive others, the humiliations and extraordinary risk-taking. She shines a light on the endless hunger of wanting just one more drink, and one more again, while dealing with motherhood, anxiety, depression–and rehab.
Thankfully she lived to tell the tale and says in an interview that she wrote the book as an apology to her son. She has been questioned as to why she would want such an apology to be so public. To that she says that we live in a very public world.
Maybe living in a much more public world will help some people with the knowledge that others struggle too. Becoming a mother does not mean that our personal baggage disappears, but we do hope that we can raise our children as untouched as possible by our personal demons.
Whether you are a mother, or have a mother, this Mother’s Day let’s celebrate motherhood in all its wonderfulness and imperfections. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM May 1st – 7th, 2016.