Not everyone’s relationship with their mother is straightforward and easy. Novelist Kate Kerrigan writes about overcoming turbulent times.

“While I never lost touch with her, I didn’t feel I could talk about my life”

Although as a child, my memories of my mother are warm and loving, as soon as I hit my teens, we began to clash. From the black eyeliner I insisted on wearing, to the non-regulation leg warmers I wore with my school uniform and the boyfriend with a motorbike – it seemed that everything I did was wrong.

Description: Novelist Kate Kerrigan

These normal teenage grievances, however, were made worse because my parents’ marriage became very turbulent at this time. Everything was geared around “not upsetting your father” – so boyfriends and make-up and discos all had to be kept secret. As the eldest of four, I felt the responsibility of my parents’ marriage heavily on my shoulders. My own difficulties in school seemed unimportant compared with the magnitude of my mother’s problems, so I started to keep all of my troubles to myself.

This dynamic continued on into my twenties until, finally, my parents divorced. Although I now had the opportunity to grow closer to my mother again, I was so full of resentment over my “lost” years that I didn’t want to.

Description: Lucky customers on the day heard Kate read from her new book ‘City of Hope’

Lucky customers on the day heard Kate read from her new book ‘City of Hope’

While I never lost touch with my mother, I didn’t feel I could talk to her about what was going on in my life. There was no dramatic falling-out – just a sad coldness that developed over time. I did my bit as a dutiful daughter, helped her look after my grandmother, looked out of my younger siblings, drove her here and there – but I shared nothing of myself with her.

Our turning point came when I was 30. Unemployed, single and childless, I was staying in her house when the news came that my youngest sister had become pregnant. I was furiously jealous. My mother came into my room and found me howling, pounding the wall, shouting, “I should have been me!”

Immediately, instinctively, she gathered me into her arms and comforted me. In that moment, I felt completely nurtured and understood. I realised that there was no other human being on earth who would ever love me enough to sympathise with such ugly feelings. And crucially, I also realised that I still needed her as a mother – and I told her that.

She cried and said, “I have been waiting for you to come back to me”. I saw then the many times my mother had been there for me – rushing over to Dublin when my boyfriend left me, and loaning me the money to buy my first flat – that, in my anger, I had chosen to ignore. I knew it was time to finally grow up, let go of the past and move forward.

So, I made a decision to form a new relationship with this woman who had all this love towards me. From that moment on, it was as if the intervening years never happened and we were the best friends we had been when I was a child. Since then, I’ve shared almost every big decision with her – even listening when she picked out the boyfriend she thought I’d marry! “He’s the one”, she said, when she first met Niall, and she was right.

Description: novel City Of Hope

I live near my mother now and write my novels in her house every day. She is my muse and best friend and my closest adviser. I know she is tortured by the past, but since becoming a mother, I understand how difficult my mother’s life was back then and I am in awe of what a wonderful job she did in rearing us.

I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to rebuild our relationship, and hope I will be as good a mother to my adult sons as she is to me today.

Moira says “I felt terribly aware that Kate was supporting me at times when I should have been supporting her. I never felt we were estranged because my love for Kate was always so strong, but I could see she was unhappy and I longed to be able to help her. I am so grateful that life gave our friendship a second chance”

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