I met Hilary through the family I nanny for. I first noticed her curly hair and lovely accent. And when she invited me over for afternoon tea (with real china and cookies) telling me how much she loves writing letters; I knew we were kindred spirits! I’m thrilled to introduce to you Hilary.
1. How has Motherhood changed you as a woman?
You know I think it has. It probably has brought out particular aspects of me that I hadn’t really explored before. It has given me a much greater – and a deeper appreciation – of life itself. Of its small beginnings, of its quiet growth, of the loving conditions which are necessary for it to flourish. As a woman, you get very close to this process in your own child. It’s a very intimate connection, between you and someone else’s growth. Of course, it brings with it a fearsome sense of responsibility, but there’s also a sense of lightness, of joy in it all. You ‘get’ that sometimes, when you are not too tired or overwhelmed by the practical demands. 2. What is your full time occupation?
No occupation is entirely full time, happily for any of us. I do a lot of parenting and home-making – so in a sense that’s full time. But I also do much free-lancing: teaching history, writing, reviewing music and dance. A potpourri of occupations, you might say.
3. Tell us about your family (number of children, the family you were raised in).
My parents raised a family of three children. I fall in between 2 brothers. My husband also has two brothers. We ourselves have had three children to date. Margaret, our eldest, passed away at 2 days, around Christmas 2012. Cecily came next and is now almost two. Edmund arrived a few weeks ago.
You know, when you took the photos ( we had never got photos taken before as a family), I was thinking about the absence of our eldest daughter and felt sad that she wasn’t there under those blooming linden trees. But you know, something quite lovely happened during the shoot, which only dawned on me after. Cecily got rather fussy during it, so I gave her my pearls to keep her happy, and you zoomed in on that, although you couldn’t have known what that meant to us. Perhaps it was sheer intuition. I like to think so. You see, the name Margaret actually means pearl. So in a sense, she was there too. That’s a gift you gave us by photographing the family. One day, your photos will help me to explain gently to the others about their eldest sister. 4. What is one family tradition you have raised your family with?
Many of the traditions come from the family we were raised in. Funny how one finds oneself doing the same things, more or less. That said, my mother had a dreadful fear of thunder storms so she would make us all take shelter under the dining-room table. Ha! I thought when I was young that that is what normal people did. There’s one tradition I won’t be carrying on. I love going out in thunder storms and getting properly soaked.
My husband and I are still in the process of talking about traditions – they will very much evolve over the years as our family grows. There are traditions of faith that we bring them up in – and that will involve feasts like Christmas and Easter. My husband likes the idea of associating particular music with big feasts – e.g. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah and so forth.
Pretty keen on poetry, drama, story-telling and writing – so no doubt, we’ll be hectoring them into all that, when they are at all articulate. Does that sound over-earnest? Golly. It does a bit. Determined that they will be letter-writers with their little friends who live in various countries across the world. Imagine the richness of experience that comes with being able to correspond with a child of your own age in Sweden, say, or Mexico? I suspect we will all write letters together. What fun!
5. What are your “must-haves” as a Mom?
A humble tote bag! If I had one of those humungous ‘Mom bags’, which seem to contain everything but the kitchen sink, I don’t think I’d manage to get out of the house at all! Stuff is the enemy of spontaneity. A small tote bag, however, with the few essentials, does beautifully.
I like to live a bit on the hoof and that hasn’t changed with parenting. And if you don’t have something, it makes for an adventure. Young Cecily ended up in her father’s undershirt in the airport at Baltimore after a rather difficult flight cross-country. A bit crummy I know, but there it was. Well, it was her 23rd flight, and she wasn’t quite 1.
I’d rather be spontaneous and integrate children into normal life than have a perfectly planned life, and be perfectly boring. In short, life is more exciting, I find, without too many ‘must-haves’.
6. What is something you are talented with or passionate about?
With my innate Irish inhibitions, I’d be embarrassed to talk about talents. Have a great love of good conversation, though. With all our gadgets and virtual realities, I hope it’s not one of those dying arts. It’s one of the great pleasures of life. We also delight in having house guests to stay with us, and are always persuading friends to come from here, there and everywhere. There again, one of the great pleasures. We keep a guest book religiously, and the only rule of visiting is to leave a message behind.
As regards parenting, I’m pretty keen on creating an environment where children experience beauty, creation and creativity – beauty in nature, in music, in art, in books, in people. Simple things like a walk in the rain or writing with an ink pen, or well, any number of things. 7. Any advice for new Mothers?
Sustainability. Nobody has written a book on sustainable parenting to the best of my knowledge! Keep things simple and balanced. Humanity has been bringing up children for millennia, and we are, on the whole, quite decent at it. No need to buy too much or get too faddish. Have several matriarchs in your life. Borrow ideas from different eras and cultures – it’s enriching and liberating.
Also, if possible, you will have married a pediatrician. They come in useful, as I’ve found. No trips to the emergency room, as panicky first-time parents…
8. Where do you call home?
Wherever my family is. Because I have family ties in Ireland, America and Australia, I feel I have a ‘presence’ of home in all of those places. A bit of a logistic challenge – it’s hard to feel dear ones are so far away. 9. What is a favorite past-time you do with your child/children?
Showing them the beauty of order in the home and in the world, helping them ground themselves in a peaceful sense of ritual. Sharing with them the name for things – flowers, trees, all sorts of things, as their curiosity develops. Listening with them to music. Letting them do things in the kitchen, baking and washing and chopping food and so forth. 10. What has motherhood taught you?
The importance of allowing a child to grow, waiting for it to happen. I’m a teacher by training so all that side of it comes naturally to me. I can give orders and lessons – I know the drill. But patiently waiting, letting someone blossom in their own way, at their own pace, that’s been a very different kind of thing – a novel experience, and quite a humbling one for me, who is a natural more prone to taking action and being directive. There’s a time to grow, as the bible says: we often just have to create the right environment, stand back and let it happen. 11. Do you have a favorite quote about motherhood?
It’s a poem. And it’s not about motherhood as such, but it is about nurture and the ardors it involves, and as such, it speaks to me. It’s Seamus Heaney’s St Kevin and the Blackbird. And it speaks of just what I’ve been talking about – that decision to allow something to grow, that imperative to care, despite the costs. The legend told about this Irish saint is that he put his hand out of his cell and a bird laid her eggs there and settled to nest. And such was his respect for growing life, that he kept his hand extended till the eggs had hatched, till the chicks could fly away. It’s a very profound poem about love, I think. There’s a link with what we do every day as parents.