Friday 15 December 2017

Colette Fitzpatrick: In praise of my mother, who I can rely on to connect me to my roots

Gabrielle McMullin
Amy Poehler
Trinity College Dublin
Rima Karaki

Over the years I have, occasionally, written about my mother.

As Mother's Day approaches this Sunday, I've been reflecting on a woman who, just by the sound of my voice, can tell when something's wrong.

Worn out after my second baby, each time she rang to see how things were, I cried. It was simply because of the kindness in her voice. Because even though she was miles away, I knew she was with me.

My mum is of a generation of women who had to give up work because of the work marriage ban. This bizarre rule meant if you got married you had to give up working, right up until 1973.

There was one exception - a shortage of teachers led to the lifting of the ban in 1957.

I think that my mother would admit herself that she'd have been happier if she could have worked outside the home. She always warned myself and my sister to "hold on to our jobs".

Fiercely private, she doesn't want anyone to know her age nor any aches or pains she might have. It's her business.

But with her children, she's quick to jump into our affairs. It's because, she once told me: "When you have children all you want is for them to be happy and you don't ever, ever stop worrying, even when those children have children too."

Modern as she is, she has never really taken to email or texting the way my dad has. I think it's because she secretly fears we'll stop calling her. She takes my call, no matter what. It's one of her favourite things to do, to natter on about everything with her daughters.

I do too, with my own. Even though at two, she outwits me and has several best supporting actress gongs under her Peppa Pig belt.

My mother's doled out advice down the years, some of which I've quarantined and some of which I abide by. She once told me she never liked purple because it reminded her of "the religious". I have seldom worn it. Thanks in part to her, I've never "poked my eye out with that".

I have a very vivid memory of being sick as a child, with mumps or measles. She sat by me for days, and gave me a red tea set. I was so thrilled to get it. She had felt so sorry for me, she wanted more than anything, to put a smile on my face.

Today, when my own kids get sick, she calls frequently and wonders how they are.

The best thing about my mum is what she's intentionally forgotten. She didn't abandon me during my long 'awkward phase'. She hugged me even when I didn't hug back. Especially when I didn't hug back.

Her bizarre interest in the royal family remains a mystery to me. Her sayings ("when the bills come in the letterbox, love goes out the window") are a source of amusement.

But my mum is genuine and doesn't pretend to be anybody but herself. Money never impresses her, nor conspicuous consumption. Rather, what she'd term "being well reared".

Mother is a verb and a noun. On this Mother's Day, mine is the person who connects me to my childhood and my roots. To where I belong.


Trainees should comply with sexual advances? Ignore this doctor's advice

My little girl isn't even three. But it doesn't stop me wondering what she'll end up doing in life.

When she's 'making me dinner' I imagine her as a chef. When she's 'taking my temperature' I wonder will she be a doctor.

The latter's unlikely given that even if you added together the points her daddy and mammy got in their Leaving Certs, they still probably wouldn't be enough for medicine today.

But it has never crossed my mind that medicine mightn't be a career you'd want your daughter to go into, because some people in that line of work might expect her to accept unwanted sexual advances from superiors.

This week an Irish-educated doctor said it would be better for the careers of women trainees to comply with sexual advances.

Dr Gabrielle McMullin, who was schooled at Trinity College and is now based in Australia, said: "If you are approached for sex probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request."

Now while the surgeon might have thought she was imparting some straight forward advice, what she actually did was only serve to perpetuate sexual harassment.

The other inference is that this is what successful female medics have done in the past to get to where they are now.

I also think McMullin has done a massive disservice to colleagues, men as well as women, by suggesting that they would all shun a female trainee who made a complaint.

McMullin has since tried to backtrack saying she just tried to point out the grim realities faced by many young women doctors in a sexist environment.

But that's not what she did initially. She advised women to comply with demands.

What she should have done was advise women not to comply, so that nobody felt the need to choose between keeping their self-respect and their career.

When it comes to ageing, ask Amy

One of my girl crushes is in town today. Amy Poehler is getting the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from Trinity's Philosophical Society.

 This girl is so cool, she doesn't have a Twitter account. My favourite quotes from her book, 'Yes Please' include advice from her mum on friends: "Always tell people when they do a good job. Your female friends will outlast every man in your life. You don't want to be the sexy mom."

From her dad: "Ask for what you want. Girls can do anything boys can do. Don't listen to experts." Poehler herself, on ageing: "Fighting ageing is like the War on Drugs. It's expensive, does more harm than good, and has been proven to never end."


The woman who took his ball away

I SEE a female Lebanese TV host is being lauded for fighting back after a male guest told her to either "shut up" or to "stop talking" (depending on which translation you go with).

London-based Islamist Hani Al-Seba'i ignored presenter Rima Karaki's (inset) request to get to the point of his argument. I guess Mr Al-Sebai was like any other politician who didn't want to answer the question put to him and instead went off on a tangent to say what he wanted to say without reference to what the conversation was about.

What was obvious though (and which is not the case with all politicians) is that he was having a hissy fit because his ball was taken away by a woman.

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