Let’s imagine a scenario most of us are familiar with: you are sitting with a group of new college friends in someone’s messy student accommodation. It’s one of the first weeks of term and you have exhausted the usual thrilling conversation starters of “what course do you do?” and “where are you from?”
What follows is the inevitable move onto the secondary round of get-to-know-you questions. They may consist of such probes as “why did you choose to come to Trinity?”, “what are your new flatmates like?” or even “what do your parents do?” It is that last question that sometimes gets me into awkward situations.
More than once I have met this unassuming question with an honest reply about what my mum does for a living, only for my answer to spark a situation where I am suddenly being shouted at. So, you might wonder, what is it about my mum’s job that has the ability to elicit such a strong reaction?
As you potentially could have guessed, she works in politics. More specifically, my mum is the party treasurer of the Liberal Democrat party. To break down this sentence so as to translate the weight it carries – my mum is in charge of the finances for the UK’s third-biggest political party. She also runs a very successful publishing agency that she helped set up and is on the board of a political think tank. To put it simply, she is what you might call a #girlboss.
And yet, opening up about something as ordinary as my mum’s job often leaves me susceptible to being shouted at. While I can understand and sometimes share the anger that people often feel surrounding the decisions that were made when the Lib Dems were in power with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015, I will always defend my mum. To others she may represent a certain political ideology, but to me, she is simply my mum whom I love.
This often leaves me dealing with feelings of frustration at being judged for an aspect of my life that I have never had any control over. The family I was born into was never my decision and neither was what my mum decided to do with her career. I am often similarly confused at the misperceptions people adopt upon hearing that I have a politician for a parent, such as the assumption that me and my mum share the exact same political views. I am often tempted to ask, “How many people do you know who have the exact same views as their parents?”. Or “if you want to know about my own personal opinions, why don’t you ask about them?”.
While I love my mum wholeheartedly, we don’t always agree. In fact, we disagree regularly, but always in the privacy of our home and with respect for each other’s views. Sometimes, the fact that my mother and I are able to respectfully disagree with one another and I don’t wish to publicly thrash her for her views has been met with confusion, especially in my first few weeks of college. While people often like to candidly express their opinions about my mother, I don’t care to hear them.
Why? Because I know her as a mother before anything else. To others, the person I love most in the world is often reduced to a 2D caricature which people attach their own prejudices and expectations to. To me, she’s the single mother who raised me to be kind above all else, the women who sat up at night sewing costumes for my childhood school pe
rformances, who got off a plane that was about to take off when I was having a mental health crisis, to name a few. No conflicting view that anyone holds about her could take away from the fact that I have an amazing mum.