Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

Women we admire

September 24, 2017

One hundred and twenty-six years ago, a dedicated group of women turned up on the steps of Parliament. They were there to present a petition asking that women be given the vote, and 9000 signatures filled the roll of paper.

Although that petition failed, the moment was still momentous. It set the stage for another more successful petition, two years later, signed by almost 32,000 women. But it was the lady already sitting inside Parliament, watching on, who has always had my interest.

Laura Jane Suisted was not a typical 18th century woman. Born and bred in Britain, she had immigrated to New Zealand at the age of 22, bringing with her an unusual amount of independence, determination, and writing skill. She would put those to use shortly, but first, she married an entrepreneur, destined for financial success, in Otago.

Their marriage had to survive several failed businesses, flooded homes, and infertility. It did, and James Samuel Suisted finally made his money. Laura Jane, as she became known, was finally able to make her indelible mark on New Zealand history.

In 1884, a new writing interest captured her attention. Already a published writer, and regular contributor to several publications, Laura Jane found herself now sitting in on the sessions of our 30-year-old Parliament as a note-taker. According to the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, she was probably the first woman to do so.

There was a more important “first” to come. In 1891, the very same year that Kate Sheppard and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union handed over that first petition on the female vote, Laura Jane was admitted to the New Zealand Institute of Journalists.

She was the first female member in its history.

It took almost a decade as Parliamentary correspondent for several newspapers to earn a spot in the Institute.

So it was that one of my relatives gained a front-row seat to the greatest political debates of the time. She did it without the help of anti-discrimination laws. She did it without other women smashing the glass ceiling ahead of her. She did it without even having the right to vote for the very politicians about whom she wrote every day.

She achieved that incredible career using things I admire far more: sheer determination, raw talent and mountains of skill.

Now, 124 years after women gained the right to vote in this country, and 126 years after the New Zealand Institute of Journalists officially admitted its first female member, the question is not just “how far have we come?” but “are we still made of the same stuff?”.

After all, there is a terrible risk that comes with having tangible political power (in the form of a vote), for both men and women. That risk is that we begin to think it a substitute for righting wrongs we see in between elections days.

We begin to blame politicians instead of wondering what we can do ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, election days are critical, and the privilege of holding political power in our own hands is not something to be taken lightly by any of us. The values and policies for which we vote will change our country in years to come.

But women like Kate Sheppard and Laura Jane remind us all of something else too; they remind us that who we are on the days in between elections matters just as much. They remind us that what we do on the ordinary days can also change the course of history.

After all, it was on an ordinary day in 1891 that a woman was first named “member” of our Institute of Journalists in this country. And it was on an ordinary day in 1893 that women finally earned us ladies the extraordinary privilege of being able to vote today.


Dealing with death

September 16, 2017

One week out from a general election, our politicians just can’t seem to stay away from life and death issues.

Last week, it was abortion. This week, National MP Simon O’Connor got himself into hot water over the issue of euthanasia. He criticised the Labour leader for supporting both a zero suicide rate and euthanasia laws.

His boss, Bill English, texted him to tell him he was wrong to link the two, which makes you wonder whether English actually read the report on euthanasia that O’Connor, along with politicians of other stripes, produced recently.

On page 43 the report deals explicitly with the arguments differentiating suicide from euthanasia. The section points out that one of the world’s most important health organisations recognises that it is actually very difficult to do so.

“The World Health Organization acknowledges significant definitional difficulties in its most recent publication on the issue”, we read. “In its 2014 report, “Preventing Suicide: A global imperative”, it defines suicide as the act of deliberately killing oneself.”

That definition describes precisely what New Zealand euthanasia laws will aid people to do.

Our Kiwi report then points out that some try to differentiate between rational and irrational suicide, but again, the experts are not on board. Here’s what youth counsellors and suicide prevention organisations say:

“Suicide is always undertaken in response to some form of suffering, whether that is physical, emotional, or mental. All forms are deliberate and intentional.”

What that means is that suicide, euthanasia and assisted suicide all involve deliberately choosing death as a response to suffering.

And it isn’t just experts pointing out that the difference is difficult to pinpoint. Check out the response from our politicians to O’Connor’s comparison: According to Prime Minister Bill English, “we don’t do that”. According to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern “it’s just wrong”. Even the author of the End of Life Choice bill himself simple said “the two issues could not be further apart”.

In fact ACT’s David Seymour dismissed O’Connor’s claim using the example of suicidal young people, a group we are rightly fighting desperately to save in New Zealand. But in Belgium where euthanasia is legal, a suicidal young woman won the right to euthanasia. Why? Because the courts agree that death is a reasonable and good response to suffering – physical or mental.

The issues are not quite so far apart as Seymour claims.

That is exactly why definitions matter. If international and local experts can’t clearly differentiate euthanasia and suicide, if our politicians are unwilling to enlighten us, then what hope have the rest of us got when we are trying to explain the difference to those suffering mental anguish around us?

The horror of suicide is an all-to-frequent reality in this country, so the question is critical. Besides that, family and friends left in mourning by a suicide, or those supporting the suicidal, have a right to know euthanasia laws will not mix our messages on the value of living through suffering.

If our fight against suicide is to be effective we simply must be able to explain why some physical suffering justifies death while the mental torture that is severe depression, or bipolar, or schizophrenia, does not. Don’t all involve horrendous, prolonged mental or physical pain? Don’t all involve loss of dignity at certain points? Don’t all involve loss of quality of life? Don’t all involve a shortened life expectancy?

When compassion means allowing some to choose death to relieve suffering, how can it also mean convincing others to live through it?

If we cannot answer these questions, then surely, we have to face the fact that what we are fighting with one hand, we are feeding with the other.

This article was first published on


Making a choice

September 9, 2017

I would like to make a deal with the leader of the Labour Party.

I will vote for you, Jacinda Ardern, if you can convince me that decriminalising abortion will not take the lives of a more living human beings.

I don’t want to believe it does, after all. The implications for many women I know and love are, if abortion takes an innocent human life, almost unutterable. But the implications are worse for the child, and that’s why it is important I know, absolutely, before I can vote for you.

From my years of reading about this issue one thing sticks out: those who support abortion argue about women’s rights and protection. Those who oppose abortion do so because they say it ends the life of a living human being.

That second claim seems to me to be rather astonishing. Women have rights and need protecting, of course. But if the thing inside our womb is also a living human being, then it too has rights and needs protecting, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

The question then, that I absolutely MUST answer, is whether the thing produced by the combining of an egg and a sperm, and which spends nine months growing inside a woman’s womb, is in fact, a living human being.

Some tell me it is just an embryo, or a foetus. However, this doesn’t describe what species something belongs to. It simply describes a stage of growth. So if two human beings reproduce, it logically follows that they produce a human embryo or foetus. As the pro-life atheist Christopher Hitchens says, as a member of the human species, it then ought to have all the rights, including the right to life, that the rest of us enjoy.

Others have told me the thing is just part of a woman’s body. But the thing has its own unique DNA, quite different to the DNA replicated identically inside every other cell belonging to the individual we call its mother. In other words, it has its own individual biological identity. And that makes sense to me, because we know that a woman does not go on to give birth to a bit of her own body, but rather to another individual, nine months later. We also know that a woman cannot have an abortion unless she is pregnant; the same state by which she produces another individual.

But is this individual human alive? Well, if it isn’t alive, why do we need to have an abortion? We have abortions because that thing inside us is growing from the moment of conception, and growth is one of the signs of life, according to my 6th form biology class. Age, viability, or any other philosophical or biological measure by which we attempt to claim something is alive only leads to horrible ethical conundrums. For example, if the ability to survive outside the womb alone determines whether you are alive or not, then young children, the very old, and the disabled, are not alive and we may do as we please with them.

Some say the fact another living human being is involved doesn’t matter: That women simply need protecting from the way things used to be. But we don’t live in a society that looks anything like it did when abortion was illegal. Besides, who says that the rights and protections of a mother and her child are mutually exclusive?

You talked about choice on Monday night, Ardern. But if abortion involves ending the lives of human being, I can’t vote for you.

Like the child, I would have no choice.

This article was first published on




Hope for mental health?

August 19, 2017

An important issue has lurked on the edges of the limelight for most of this election, sadly shunted out of reach of the main beams by leadership changes or falls from grace.

For weeks now politicians of most persuasions have made policy announcements or passing comments about it, but it still hasn’t had all the attention it deserves.

I’m talking about the topic of mental health in New Zealand. Specifically, our suicide statistics, which set us apart in the developed world for all the wrong reasons.

In fact, our youth suicide rate is so high that it made headlines on the BBC in June. “The rate of 15.6 suicides per 100,000 people is twice as high as the US rate and almost five times that of Britain,” ran the story. The article focused on what might be behind that rate, and the conclusions punted to the British public were far starker and more blunt that what we are brave enough to say.

“There is a “toxic mix” of very high rates of family violence, child abuse and child poverty that need to be addressed to tackle the problem”, says an expert in the article.

But beyond the foreign news headlines lies yet another staggering statistic; that New Zealand’s rural population suffers from far higher rates of suicide than does its urban one. In fact,”suicide rates are higher in rural areas at 16 per 100,000 people compared with 11.2 for every 100,000 people living in cities”, said yet another report earlier this year.

In total last year, the equivalent of 11 people each week took their own lives in what must be acknowledged as our nation’s mental health plague.

But again, rural or youth suicide isn’t the problem. It is a symptom – a symptom caused by a bad relationship with drink, with partners, or with guns. A symptom of broken families, abuse and poverty.

And that is where politicians and policy announcements come in. So far the subject of suicide has been treated as if it exists in isolation. So far we have heard about how to help mental health services cope through extra funding, or programmes that might be put in place to breed resilience. These are important parts of care, but they don’t address the problems.

Problems like family violence or child abuse or bad relationships that are linked so strongly to our negative mental health statistics. Problems like the breakdown of our communities that leads to isolation and an inability to connect to someone-anyone-who can help.

We are not, in other words, talking about causes, only the consequences.

That simply won’t do.

If we are to start seeing a shift in our statistics, surely we have to get beyond the band aids and start looking at why depression or mental health issues are so prevalent in New Zealand in the first place?

Surely we have to start scratching beyond the surface – no matter how scary it might feel- to find out what stark realities hide beneath.

And surely if strong, healthy, loving families, or connected communities, are linked to low suicide and mental health illness rates, as the Ministry of Health seems to suggest, then we need to start talking about how to nurture these. Yes, we may end up tripping over the toes of some of our deepest values, like the individualism that makes it so hard to hold families and communities together here, but saving lives is worth a little compromise, I think.

We can’t keep kicking the issues around like a political football. Surely when it comes to tackling an issue as serious as suicide, we are all on the same team.

This article was first published on






A good society

August 5, 2017

If you are looking for some light reading over the weekend I have a suggestion.

Buried deep within the websites of various news media outlets this week I found a shockingly easy-to-read, terrifyingly informative 50-page report by the Health Committee.

I know, it sounds suspicious. Government reports aren’t easy to read, and they are certainly not very informative most of the time.

Somehow, though, this one is. Perhaps it is to do with the subject matter. You see, the report is on euthanasia laws.

Yes, this week the results of a two-year long investigation, involving a record-smashing 21,000 submissions, 108 hours of oral submissions, and testimony from experts and citizens from faraway lands, landed.

Unfortunately, it landed on the same day that new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was asked about her baby plans. Obviously, that little scuffle was more important than the most significant potential law change facing New Zealanders in years, so the most significant document relating to that most significant potential law change was buried.

Buried under layers, and layers of opinion.

Anyway. The main bit to know is that the Health Committee made no recommendation. It did not recommend in favour, nor did it recommend against, a law change.

The other main bit to know is that 80 per cent of those who submitted were opposed to euthanasia laws being introduced.

But the real juice was in between all of that. It was in the fact that New Zealander’s clearly wore their hearts on their sleeves for this Committee.

There were those who came to talk about their experiences of family suicide, the suffering and death of loved ones, or their own illness or disability. There were plenty of experts from medical groups, palliative care groups, and mental health groups. They shared their thoughts, and also their hearts, on how euthanasia laws would impact their patients and themselves.

The interesting bit, perhaps, was that the reasons Kiwis oppose euthanasia laws were far more diverse and emotional than I realised. Take, for example, those who spoke up saying they were concerned for members of the ” LGBTIQ community, where legally assisted dying might be seen as incongruous with anti-suicide campaigns.” Or, take those who spoke about their own experiences of depression and concerns that euthanasia would have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Euthanasia’s current champion, ACT leader David Seymour, has tried to downplay all the opposition by hinting that the Catholics conspired to tilt the inquiry process. But I have to say, it is rather impossible to hold that view after reading the full document. There are simply too many reasons, with too much humanity in them, to think that opposition to euthanasia laws is mostly institutional.

And that brings me to another point about the report. It is quite fascinating to see all of the arguments for, and against, euthanasia laws laid out right next to each other with international evidence thrown in. You can’t help feeling that compassion belongs to both sides of the argument. But you also can’t help noticing that the arguments basically boiled down to individual rights versus the collective good.

It seems to me that on the one side are people who basically believe that a few mistakes (read: people euthanased against their will) are a fair price to pay for the right to death. On the other side are those who think protecting a few lives is a justifiable reason for foregoing a right.

And that, of course, reveals the question we all must ask ourselves. Which do we value more, rights or lives? Which laws, ultimately, will give us a good, and compassionate, society?

So, if you haven’t already, go and listen to other Kiwis by reading that report. The question is far too important to answer on our own.

This article was first published on








Life issues and the media, a battle over bias?

July 27, 2017

Voice for Life’s Hamilton branch invited me to speak at its AGM a few weeks ago on the way life issues are covered in the media. It was a fascinating topic, and I spent a good amount of time thinking, or reading, about it.

I even spent a couple of days scrolling through news sites looking up every key work I could think of to do with those subjects. I looked up research reports on media content and survey’s on Kiwi journalists.


Well, I suspected the main questions I would get would be on bias. And biased journalists.

So I wanted to check out the data for myself.

It led me to some rather controversial conclusions. I do, for instance, think there is a bias in the media against pro-life positions. But I don’t think it is necessarily the journalists’ fault.

Let me explain.

As I hunted through story after story looking at headlines, the amount of space dedicated to each point of view, and the way in which “experts” were treated (was credibility undermined or over-emphasized, for instance), something started to stick out.

Over and over again those who held a pro-euthanasia or pro-abortion stance expressed their argument through a human story.

There was Lecretia Seales, looking stunning as she held up the moon in the twilight. She shared an incredibly intimate journey with us as she walked to the edges of life, and her story of cancer was her argument. It was right and fair that journalists reported her story with respect, and gave her space to fully express her views.

She was featured along with Helen Kelly, Maryan Street, David Seymour and others who were willing to open up their pasts and their hearts to us on the topic of euthanasia.

But over and over again, the pro-life camp held up a dry, crusty bunch of facts – occasionally producing a press release in place of a real person.

And that just doesn’t cut it. In a world where media moguls are relics of the past and media companies are crumbling empires, journalists are desperate for compelling stories to get us to read.

But even if those pressures weren’t keeping audience numbers at the forefront of their minds, every journalist knows that people stories are powerful stories.

That is because we can all connect with what it means to be human. We all know fear, love, anxiety, hope or any other emotion. We can’t connect – emotionally at least – with facts.

That means facts are best seen as condiments bringing out the full flavour of the main dish – the story – for us.

Now, interestingly, as the euthanasia debate has developed over the last four years, more and more personal stories of those suffering terminal illness, yet opposed to euthanasia, did begin to emerge.

Presumably, these courageous people realised that their story was the best way to explain their argument, and that they had to share it if they wanted to see coverage of a different sort. Jayne Malcolm was one such courageous, stunning, human.

And the stories of Jayne Malcolm were as beautifully, respectfully reported as were those of Lecretia Seales,  in my opinion.

Did she get on the front page of Not that I remember. But then she didn’t launch a court case over euthanasia, thereby doing something highly newsworthy on a hot topic.

So you can see where my talk went. When it comes to life issues in the media, those in the pro-life camps play a part in biasing the debate…because they won’t tell their stories.

Bravely, right after the talk one of the members of VFL Hamilton told me her story. She was the survivor of an abortion.

“But you know,” she finished “a lot of us in the pro-life movement are there because of stories like that.”

Well then, let’s make the world a richer place and start telling them.



A matter of the mind (altering substances)

July 12, 2017

If there is one social issue that I don’t understand, it is the drug debate. I have tried desperately to take a side, to pick a team, but there is one little problem getting in my way.

It all keeps coming across as a sad little comedy.

I know the issues around recreational drugs are serious. I’ve read, and read, and read. I’ve read definitions, and experts, and arguments and counter-arguments.

But none of them quite get to the heart of the issue. None of them dig right down and ask the fundamental questions about what is going on, the questions I want answered. None of them, for example, seem to wonder at why we feel such a desperate need for drugs – desperate enough to fight for a law change – in the first place.

I’ll come clean. I’m one of the 25 per cent who never have tried cannabis. I have had my chances, thanks to flatmates, friends and neighbours. But I never felt the need. To be brutally honest, I was already happy, already having fun without help, so to waste money on mind-altering drugs seemed pointless.

And that’s what gets me. Why do so many people seem to feel such a pull towards pot? Why do so many seem to really want weed?

It’s this same mentality that shocks so many of our European visitors when it comes to alcohol. We don’t seem to be able to celebrate anything in this country – birthdays, weddings, someone’s life or even the weekend – without getting wasted.

I’ve seen my share of it. In High School my mates were vomiting or lying comatose on couches by 10pm at night as our German exchange students looked on in horror. Every weekend at University was a drinking binge, and I would watched it unfold in all its grotesque glory. The jumping out of second story windows, the sobbing about boys, and the unrelenting, incoherent rants were in equal part hilarious and deeply, desperately tragic.

Once I got into the workforce things weren’t much better. There were just the complications about what to do with kids when planning a bender, and how to deal with your boss after they had seen you wasted. That, and handling the hang-over, of course.

And that brings me back to my question again. What makes mind-altering substances such a necessity in this country? Is it social anxiety? Curiosity? Depression? Boredom? Existential crises? The question, I freely admit, has pounded all the more urgently in my head because I read The Herald’s haunting series on youth suicide in New Zealand this week.

And yes, I know what you are thinking. I have had all these conversations before: How could I understand the debate if I haven’t tried drugs? After all, it’s just a bit of fun! And by the way, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it..

But I could say the same right back.

Is it really that hard to conceive of enjoying life without some sort of mind-altering substance frequently at hand? If so, doesn’t that tell us enough about the real problem?

That’s what I mean about cannabis. Whether or not we get to do drugs seems so ludicrously irrelevant a question to ask when we haven’t stopped to wonder why we might want to.

What, when we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, with every opportunity spread out before us (relatively speaking), makes us feel like we must have marijuana?

After all, when you really get to thinking about it the happiest people in the world surely aren’t the ones free to do drugs, but those who don’t feel the need to in the first place.

This article was first published on

Step off the sidelines

June 17, 2017

The euthanasia debate is back on and if there is one thing we can’t afford to do, it is to sit on the sidelines.

What I mean by that, of course, is wriggling out of the debate by saying “oh, I’m not sure what I would do personally, but I guess if others wanna do it it’s up to them”.

I have heard that line probably more than any other in the discussions I’ve had about euthanasia. Many of us feel a bit icky about the idea, and yet think that we have no right to interfere if others want to be euthanased.

It’s their choice, after all, isn’t it? And who are we to get in between another human being and what they want?

Aside from the fact that it defeats the point of a democratic society, there is another problem to deal with.

We interfere with individual freedom all the time. And we do it because we believe that individual freedom has to be balanced against a thing called the “social good”, which means “what is best for the rest of us”.

We do not give individuals the freedom to take anything they see and happen to like. We call that stealing and it is a crime. We do not give individuals the freedom to have sex with whoever they would like, whenever they would like. We call that rape, or incest, or abuse depending on the situation. And they are crimes.

And at present we do not give anyone the right to kill, or help to kill, someone. We call that murder. And it is a crime.

Any change to murder laws, and you and I ought to be on high alert. We ought to be looking very carefully at what is changing, and why.

We ought to be looking at what has happened overseas, we ought to especially be looking at the risks involved, but most of all we ought to be looking at who loses out with such laws. After all, for every social change we make there are people who benefit and people who are harmed.

In this case, harm means murder. And that is very serious because once we are dead, we cannot come back.

So if euthanasia laws do result in some people being harmed, saying that we personally feel a bit unsure but we’re happy to let others do what they please is a little like saying we’re not sure about slavery laws, but we’re happy to let others do as they please.

It is unethical, because our silence creates victims.

On the other hand, if your reading makes you certain such laws are what is best for our society, why would you want to stay silent? Surely, we should all speak up for what is good, right and best for all of us.

It is no secret I believe that euthanasia laws absolutely will create victims. That is to say, based on the evidence from overseas, safeguards like consent, age restrictions and illness restrictions will gradually be eroded. And of course, a law without safeguards is by definition not safe.

That matters to me because I have a vested interest in the future. I have a little boy whom these laws will affect in one way or another. And that is the point. We are all connected, and our actions do impact other people, as much as we like to imagine that they don’t.

So we can all keep pretending ethics are personal opinion, but the fact remains that the victims of bad laws are real.

That alone should be enough to convince us that the sidelines are not an option in a debate about death.

This article was first published on





The real heros

May 20, 2017

I don’t know how farmers do it.

Survive, I mean. They have 500 cows and 120 hectares to keep an eye on, but I can’t even keep one child and a few square metres of house safe.

In fact, with Worksafe’s ever-elongating fingers on the search for some new crime, I’m not sure how mothering is an allowed activity under New Zealand law anymore, let alone farming.

This hit me as I was dashing from my toddler’s bedroom – where I had just changed a nappy full of yellow “waste product” – to the kitchen, where I was in the tormented throes of attempting my first Feijoa chutney.

I was too late for the chutney. The time it had taken to dispose of the waste product meant the food product was mildly burned. As I was stirring it and wondering how I could convince my future guests it was intentional, I remembered that I hadn’t cleaned my hands.

At that point little man squawked, and I saw that he had climbed up my step ladder and was listing perilously to one side in an admirable, but fearless, attempt to reach the light switch. He got it, and the kitchen went dark, but not too dark for me to see him look sideways at me and grin. “No,” he said sternly, telling himself off before I could get the chance.

I put him over near the actual toys, not the light switch toys, but he insisted on coming back into the kitchen and clinging desperately to my legs while the chutney boiled and bubbled inches from his innocent blonde head.

I remembered, again, that I hadn’t washed my hands and plonked little man on the counter next to me while I finally scrubbed them.

But, of course, by this stage I was acutely aware that the imaginary Worksafe officer in my mind was shaking his head disapprovingly, and had been for quite a while.

“Hands washed after dealing with faecal matter? No. Hands cleaned before dealing with food product? No. All reasonable precautions taken to prevent injury when dealing with heights? No. All reasonable precautions taken to prevent injuries around mercilessly hot, lava-like substances? No.”

I sighed, as my imaginary Worksafe officer told me that he would have to remove the toddler from my care and close down my mothering business because, quite simply, I was breaking too many laws.

Little man, thankfully, was still on the bench when I emerged from my conversation with the officer inside my head.

Just to soothe my fears, I decided to look up mothering on Worksafe’s website when little man went to sleep. I knew there were guidelines for farmers, but surely not for mothering, I thought.

I was wrong. So I perused the offending document, and discovered that faecal matter was indeed a risk for pregnant or new mothers. Not only that, my own child was a risk because he exposed me to it.

My guilt, I confess, was beginning to turn to confusion as I tried to work out who the real victim in our household was. Little man, or me?

That was when I began to wonder who the real victims were on our farms. Cows, or farmers? And how does a farmers toilet train 500 “ladies” while extracting a food product at the same time?

Come to think of it, how does he survive the endless distractions that must be caused when 500 little calves get added into the mix? That’s not even mentioning the electric fences and moving machinery.

And the red tape! If I couldn’t follow all the guidelines for my one child, how could a farmer follow all the guidelines for 500 cows, which would no doubt be 500 times worse?

Truly, I thought, farmers are the real heroes.

This article was first published on

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 14, 2017

Being a mum is hard work. Not all hard work, I should say. There are the smiles and the giggles and the little cuddles while you are dancing to jazz on a weekday morning.

But in between those moments there are the bits of porridge to scrape off the walls and out of your bathrobe, the meltdowns over nicely cooked family meals you had been planning all day, the buckets of soaking clothes stained with carrot plucked early from the garden and the sleepless nights managing a fever.

That’s why, commercialised though it may be, I love Mother’s Day. It is not just the chance for breakfast in bed. It’s not just the card with lovely words, or the lunch we might get taken out to. It’s the time the celebration gives us to step back and remember that what we do more than just wash clothes, clean faces and deal with poo-splosions.

We are shaping lives. And in the day-to-day grind it is difficult to remember that we are doing something so important.

Nevertheless, amidst all the ordinary daily tasks a mum does, something quite extraordinary is happening, according to psychologists. In fact, they reckon that just by saying “nearly there, just wait” to a screeching child impatient for their dinner, us mums are changing the future.

We know that because the latest research on the mum-bub bond takes us further into the universe of human relationships than we have ever gone before.

For instance, Washington University School of Medicine researchers found that attentive, caring mums were linked to physical changes in a child’s brain, (a larger hippocampus for those wanting a bit more detail), specifically, the area of the brain associated with learning, memory and dealing with stress.

Epigenetics, the study of how environment might impact on the expression of our genes, has now found that healthy, happy mother-child relationships play a role in the prevention of disease. Childhood trauma, however, is linked to an increased risk of autoimmune disease.

Behaviourally, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that mums who meet their babies needs and gave them plenty of love were more likely to have kids with healthy adult relationships.

All of this builds on the foundation first laid in 1960s when attachment theory became a thing, and psychologists started started realising the child-parent relationship mattered rather a lot.

Fortunately, when the researchers talk about healthy relationships between mum and bubs, they don’t mean anything particularly special. They simply mean mums who notice their children are cold and put on an extra layer, smell the nappy and change it, keep little tummies full and who give cuddles to a crying child.

We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to provide endless developmental games and we don’t have even have to be full of energy. We just have to love in that ordinary, every-day way that most mums love.

And somehow, out of that ordinary, imperfect, exhausted love comes something powerful enough to shape little lives far into the future.

So to all of us; the solo mums and the foster mums, the adoptive mums and the traditional mums, yes it is hard work.

Yes, there are a lot of angry moments, scary moments, and exhausted moments and financially tight moments.

Yes, it feels like there’s always something we’re not doing well enough.

But the truth of the matter is what all the books say. In the end your kisses, your cuddles and your love matter most.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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