It’s really interesting. Did you know that there is a group of women known as the Dublin Cohort who were given contaminated Anti D treatment during childbirth which infected them with Hepatitis C for life? Many developed chronic liver disease but others were discovered to be clear of infection years later. The question is how did their immune systems overcome what is an incurable disease? Can the body’s natural killer cells be boosted to counteract infections such as Hep C and HIV? One hundred and seventy million people worldwide currently have Hep C and every one of them would be please to know that there are people like my daughter working long hours in lonely labs looking for new pathways to minimise the side-effects of treatments.
However, smart or not, this aforementioned daughter has gaping holes in her education. I stood with her recently in a well known supermarket as she deliberated in the cleaning products aisle. She gazed in consternation at the colourful bottles on display. She was having difficulty differentiating between detergent, with which to cleanse clothes, and fabric conditioner, with which to separate the tangled weave and leave garments smelling of 'summer breeze infusions with pure oxygen freshness'. Much to my amusement she was genuinely bewildered and admitted that she has never really known which was which. I blame her mother! When she had her head in Chemistry and Maths books I should have been teaching her to hand wash delicates and iron collars and cuffs first. Had I not neglected instruction in the essential art of homemaking she might have been better prepared for important life choices.
The Sunday Times ran a feature in their Style magazine this week detailing advice mothers give to their daughters on how to achieve success and happiness. Apparently formal education cannot teach the life lessons our offspring need to know. Among the ‘Pearls of Wisdom’ imparted by loving mothers to their daughters was the warning to beware of a boyfriend who fits your skinny jeans (because his legs should be bigger than yours) and the injunction to snog at least one man with really long hair!
I was clearing out some of my parents’ papers this week when I came upon their marriage certificate. I was amazed to find my mother’s occupation listed as a ‘domestic’. I had never heard this word used as a noun until we went to live in Zimbabwe where maids were officially known as domestic workers or ‘domestics’ for short. Ours was called Veronicah, or at least we thought that was her name until several months into our relationship she confessed that her name was actually Ronicah but a white woman had mistakenly added the prefix and she had not had the courage to contradict her. We settled on Vero.
My mother was not just domesticated ie a woman with finely tuned skills in polishing, sweeping, cooking, scrubbing and baking but she was a domestic ie a woman who was defined by this homely role. Like many in her generation she never had a paid job outside the home, in spite of a latent longing to be a teacher.
Being a domestic was certainly not bliss in the days before automatic washing machines, microwaves, dishwashers and dysons. Women had few choices and for those like my mum who grew up during the war, there were even fewer as the men went to fight and the women took over jobs on the farm. However, without any ‘ologies’ to her name her spirit was strong enough to break the mould, date a German prisoner of war and be the first in her village to go off to college in Scotland, no less.
Anyway, according to Style magazine I’m going to turn into my mother and my girls are going to turn into me:
‘The daughter of the mother is a total clone, a carbon copy from the elasticated waistband down and the doughy chest up.’
How did they know about my doughy chest? Heaven help them if this is true. I had more opportunities than my mother and I want my girls to climb higher than I. It’s character and courage that count for women. I don’t want to pass on beauty tips to my daughters like ‘a tan fades but wrinkles don’t’ or teach them how to make a fancy cocktail - they can discover those things for themselves. I want them to be strong on the inside, to remember who they belong to and to love people. I want them to have the strength to go for it, to say what their real name is, to stand up for what is right and good, to have the courage of their convictions and to keep on becoming till the end.