Saturday, March 26, 2011

A mother of none

Something has been bugging me for quite some time now, and I have been trying to find the words to blog about it. It's the way adults are defined in the news in terms of their parental status. A father of four was stabbed in Limerick. A mother of two was killed in a car crash. Mention of their number of children always thrown in to further compound the tragic effect.

A number of months ago, two women and two children were stabbed to death in a town in County Limerick. One of the women was the mother of the two children, the assailant was her ex partner. The other deceased woman was a friend of hers. I can't remember the names of the victims, but as I was driving home one evening, the tragic events were reported like this on the radio. "Jane Bloggs, aged 25, her two children John and Conor, and her friend were stabbed to death in the house in the town in County Limerick". Yes you read correctly, the mother and two children were named in the report, but the other victim, a twenty year old woman, didn't warrant being mentioned by name, it would seem because she was neither a mother nor a child. What the fuck is that all about?

If I was killed in a pile up on my way to work the news would read "A forty one year old woman was killed this morning on the M7". But if it was one of my friends who happens to be a mammy it would be "A forty two year old mother of three was killed this morning on the N17". Not nearly as tragic for the loss of a non mom. It wouldn't take account that I am a wife of one (an ex wife of another, but we won't go there!), a daughter of two, a sister of six, a sister in law of nine, an aunt of nineteen (or 23 if you count in the four on John's side), a niece of four, a cousin of too many to count, a colleague and friend of many. But a mother of none, so hey, it wouldn't really count as a tragic loss, would it?

My husband lost his sister to a brain tumour ten years ago. She passed away at the age of thirty six, an indescribably huge loss to the family she left behind. She was married, but didn't have any children, due to infertility. She left behind a husband, two parents, three brothers, a sister, parents in law, sisters and brothers in law, cousins, colleagues, pupils and countless friends. People who still feel her loss acutely to this day. When her name comes up in conversation, most people ask me was she married and did she have kids? When I say no, she didn't have kids, people don't quite know what to say then, but the implication is that her passing was somehow less of a tragedy than if she had children. Tell that to an eighty year old woman who stands at her beloved daughter's grave, a woman who will never get over that loss until the day she dies. Now that's heartbreaking.


  1. You're right. There is also the age thing, usually under 30 = tragic loss of a promising life. Over, well, unless she's a mother she was clearly past achieving anything.

    Often combined with the middle class thing - young professional verses the unemployed.

    Just got to make sure no tragic accidents befall us.

    So are you coming to London?

  2. I think so. I've been invited to a hen in London on May 28th, so I just might make a long weekend of it. Would you be game for meeting up on the Sunday maybe? Help me nurse a possible hangover?

  3. I hate that "no kids, no loss" mentality too.

    Great post, by the way. Thank you.

  4. You're welcome Illanare! I revised my blogroll today and added you.

  5. It is true and a very Irish thing of defining people. The first time I heard it I was quite puzzled. I agree it's very insensitive towards those who die childless as if it mattered less. i believe they give those details (which don't really matter to the story) to maximise sympathy from the audience in a morbid way.

  6. It's that horrible part of IF that makes us feel like we don't "count" or that we're not valuable until we have children. My ex-SIL used to push that button whenever she wanted to hurt me. It's such a raw hurt. I feel angry to feel less than valuable without a child - yet ashamed and like I agreed with it, too. Even now that I have a baby, it's a hard feeling to shake. I still don't feel like I belong with the "real" moms.

  7. I'd like to put it more down to lazy sub-editing rather than anything else.

    Tragedy = throw in the kids for sympathy. Same old formula.

    Anyone know how many kids 'Former Minister Michael Lowry' has?