I am 38. A few years back I wrote about having my daughter,
Susan,* when I was 20, about how my doctor told me to have an
abortion, how my parents supported me to raise her, and how later I
went to court to keep custody of her from my parents and how I
worry about her like any parent.
My daughter is an adult now and has moved out of my parents’ home.
She has a partner, her first child and a few debts to her name. I
was over the moon when my grandson was born. But something Susan
said at the time hurt me. It got me thinking about being Susan’s
mum and how we see my role differently.
You see, when Susan was growing up her grandparents tried to tell
her they were her mother and father. She always called me Kathleen
even though I told her I was her mother from the start and it was
no secret that I am. I thought she called my parents “mum and dad”
to keep the peace.
When my grandson was born I realised Susan had never regarded me as
her mother. She told me I wasn’t going to be nan to my grandson. My
mother – his great grandmother – was nan. I was just Kathleen. I
felt hurt. I had been so looking forward to being a grandmother. I
had bought her lots of baby things and lent her money to get her
I was doubly hurt when Susan said I wasn’t who she saw as her real
mum, even though I am her biological mother. Worse, she acts as if
I have never been a mother. I know she’s a first-time mum but it
hurts when she says things like “Kathleen, you’ll understand some
day when you have a child of your own”. I said to her: “Whose womb
do you think you were born from?”
My dad has always given me a hard time about moving out of his
house when Susan was about 10. Susan says I abandoned her, even
though I asked her to come with me and I had support to raise her
on my own. She didn’t want to move school and lose her friends so
she stayed with my parents. I moved a 10-minute drive away, went
home every weekend, called her each day and paid for everything she
needed plus board to my mum at weekends. I didn’t abandon her. I
moved to get some freedom. Now Susan is a mum herself she no longer
accepts this. She, who herself asked me for money to leave dad’s
home at age 18, can’t see why I wanted to move out.
I really appreciate the support my parents gave me to raise Susan.
I know that without their support Susan would probably have been
taken off me at her birth just because I have learning
difficulties. But I wish I had more support to raise her on my own.
Perhaps then she would see me as the mother I have always seen
myself to be to her.
Kathleen Franklin has learning difficulties and is chair of
Milton Keynes People First.
* Not her real name