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The Things We Wish We Could Say To Our Mums, But Can’t

Photographed by Eylul Aslan
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s the one holiday we all agree on. We dedicate this day of 365 to thanking our mothers and showing them through brunch or lunch or champagne or tea or chocolate or some other purchasable token of love, that indeed they are loved. That we are grateful for their un-purchasable gifts of unconditional love, of a lifetime of altruism, of their bodies.

Yet still, there are things we want to say to them, that we can’t, for whatever reason. Because the truth hurts. Because it doesn’t matter now. Because we realise that they are, after all, only human. Because it would cut too deep. Because it would expose a part of them that they wouldn’t feel comfortable exposing. Because the mother-child relationship has an order: It’s that the mother advises the child and the child respects the advice and accepts that it comes from a loving place.

Is it fair then, to analyse our mothers' lives from our privileged, young, pert, post-internet, let’s-all-talk-about-our-feelings-all-the-time positions? What would happen if we said “maybe you should do this more”? Or “I wish you understood that”? Or “You should have more confidence”?

Would they cry? Would they agree? Would they open up? Would they be grateful?

We asked eight women what they would like to say to their mothers, but can’t, and received profound replies.

*Some names have been changed for all of the reasons above.

Sophie, 28
I wish I could say to my mum that I forgive her for not saying that she loved me until I was 21. I can’t say I will ever really understand why she couldn’t say those three little words but I do know that she showed me her love in countless other ways. I wish I could ask her what happened in her life that makes her so guarded and closed and stops her from showing any affection in public. I wish I was brave enough to try and understand the woman that she is.

Lea, 24
Every day I want to shake you, not because you annoy me, not because I'm embarrassed, not because we argue, none of these things – I want to shake you because you're amazing and you don't know it. I forgive you for picking me up from school in wellies, for the three-hour walks on Boxing Day, for taking us on holiday with nothing booked and always getting the shittiest hotel. None of these things matter now, I wish for all of those things I once freaked over. I love you, dad loves you and the family all love you. You just need to love you.

Martina, 24
My mum works in politics and campaigns tirelessly for women’s issues. I wish I could tell her that, despite being thankful for having such a strong feminist role model, I also needed care. I wish I could tell her that I didn't need a judge, or all the guilt. I wish I could tell her that I wished she was more honest and more thoughtful, more patient and more responsible. I wish I could tell her that I forgive her for everything that happened and for always putting her career above us, but that I suffered in silence for many years. I wish I could tell her that I have always needed a mum.

Tessa, 24
I would tell her that I wish she'd open her mind and say yes to things more. If I mention something she hasn't heard of, she just switches off. If I ask her to go somewhere she doesn't know, she's reticent. I love to hear stories of when she was younger, and travelled, and let go – she sounds like so much fun – but I have to hear them from my dad. She would never tell me. I'd like her to loosen up a bit and read a book I recommended to her, or try something new. If she did that, she might like it. If I told her to do that, she'd ignore me. One thing's for sure: it would give us more to experience together.

Natasha, 31
I wish I could tell my mum that it’s up to her to be happy, that it’s not everyone else’s responsibility. I wish I could tell her to take pride in her appearance and in her life and in who she is. I wish I could tell her that making an effort with people and with yourself, though hard for introverts like us, brings joy. I wish I could tell her that it’s worth it. I wish I could tell her to cheer up. I wish I could tell her to look on the bright side. I wish I could give her the confidence to be happy.
Rosie, 27
I wish I could tell my mum that I had an abortion but I can’t because she’d never forgive me. I wish I could tell her that it was the right decision for me, but she’d call me a murderer. I wish I could tell her how much it hurt.

Sarah, 28
I'd tell her that I respect that she always says what she thinks, regardless of the circumstances. I wish I could tell her that while I’m grateful for the bohemian upbringing, and I like the person it’s made me, I also just wish she’d just made me dinner sometimes, and cleaned the house. That I wish she would give me a bit of sympathy sometimes instead of saying “well that’s life.” That I wish she’d been more affectionate when I was growing up, and now. But finally that I’m glad of it all because she taught me, inadvertently, that I never have to conform to stereotypes and that a woman’s opinion matters.

Alice, 26
Considering the frequency with which my mama supports and congratulates me for the most minor achievements and insignificant things, I wish I told her far more often what an inspiration she is to me and that the reason I push myself to be the best I can be is entirely down to her. I am totally in awe of her success; as a businesswoman, as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as a sister and everything else she is to so many lucky people. She is courageous and kind. Beautiful inside and out and truly exceptional. I know we all think our mother is the world's greatest but I am eternally grateful for my mama. She is my rock. I'm ashamed I don't tell you enough but thank you with all my heart. Love from your grumpy and grouchy but forever adoring daughter, Al.