Mothers are daughters’ earliest and, in many cases, most influential female role model. It can be a hard role model to live up to. Daughters absorb everything their mothers do, from how they see their bodies to their attitude to work. Mothers in turn learn a lot from their daughters. I have three. The problem is that I rarely have any large periods of time alone with any one of them and all are very different complex and fabulous personalities.
So when I spotted a new workshop that explores the mother daughter relationship through creative writing I thought it could be interesting. Daughter one was keen. I’d like to say it was because she was enthusiastic about spending some time with her mother, but the reality is she is desperate for things to put on her list of creative activities for her IB course.
So we headed into London on a Sunday afternoon. The workshop was held in a small ancient stone church sandwiched between two extremely tall office buildings made of glass. We went in, passing through a religious ceremony with men in long tunics singing and women with plateloads of bread and fruit, past a beautiful courtyard bedecked with plants and towards a yurt stationed in another courtyard. It was the perfect setting. We sat on the floor in our mother daughter groups.
The Women Writes workshop, the first of five, aims to help mothers and daughters express emotions that may otherwise be hard to express and learn each other’s language and ways of expressing through creative writing. We did some icebreaking activities in our ‘teams’ which aimed to get us to speak about what our favourite places were and so forth. Then we began doing free writing on themes including colours and women. I realised that my brain is totally focused on the everyday while daughter one’s is on a higher plain. Her bits made my bits look really deep.
I’ve always known that daughter one was a deep thinker, but she is also quite a writer. I could feel her growing in confidence during the session. In the second half of the workshop we were asked to write separately, rather than in teams. We started with the words “life isn’t a box of chocolates”. I went off into a description of how complex and messy life is and how you can’t make assumptions, unlike with, for instance, a strawberry cream chocolate. Daughter one referenced Aristotle and talked about the meaning of chocolate and life in general.
We were asked to write the title of our own autobiography. I could hear daughter one saying under her breath “Boredom”. She settled for “What if..” or “Spring”. She felt her life was just beginning. I took this as a positive. Mine was all about trying to find some place to belong. Hers was about leaving home. We left the workshop and headed back home. Daughter one is keen to go back for the next sessions. So am I. Daughter one is in her last year of school. It is good to spend as much time with her as possible.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.