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…to think that even during WWII and the time of evacuees, this whiffs of child abandonment?

35 replies

corygal · 29/03/2011 14:40

Thanks to a lively family row centred on calling my mother ?neurotic for minding after all these years?, your mumsnet sanity check would be deeply appreciated. Yes, her early life reads like an ITV period drama gone wrong ? no, I?m not making it up. Facts:

My gran eloped in 1936 from Norwich to Africa, well pleased with herself as she had met the love of her life at a party and was following him abroad, having sneaked a delicious Art Deco wedding dress onto the ship. She and grandfather, who worked out there, married in secret on a rubber plantation.

Her first daughter, my mum, was born in 1937; the couple?s son born ten months later. My grandfather, who probably had malaria and who definitely had a history of sanatorium-level depression, promptly committed suicide. Gran sailed back to Norfolk in early 1939 with the babies (aged 2 and 1) and left them with her own mother.

Then Gran nipped back over the water, instantly married again, and settled abroad with a new baby. She visited the two first kids after five years, kept them for a year (not sure where), then left again taking the child from her second marriage ? mum/uncle returned to their grandparents. Gran finally came back to the UK and took the two kids for good when they were about 10, sending them to boarding school at 11.

Now, even by the standards of those far-off times, do you think this treatment is a bit harsh?

And do you think it?s unreasonable to mind about this after 70 years?

OP posts:

GwendolineMaryLacey · 29/03/2011 14:47

What a sad story.

Are you saying that you said your mother was unreasonable for the fact that her upbringing still upsets her after 70 years? If that's the case then yes, you're being extremely unreasonable.



Chil1234 · 29/03/2011 14:47

I don't think it's at all unreasonable to 'mind' about the past provided it's not used as either an excuse for your own shortcomings or make you so resentful that you fail to make the most of the rest of your life. Refusing to acknowledge a bad start can be damaging in different ways, of course. But many people use early adversity as a positive springboard to making a better future - they're determined to not be a prisoner in the past. I think they probably have the best approach


Birdsgottafly · 29/03/2011 14:47

I don't think that you can look back on history and judged some of the actions by todays standards. You've also got to realise that the concept of childhood was 'invented' just as your nan was being born. Children were viewed as mini-adults, emotions were not considered. Your nan left England as times were becoming very hard and it was not uncommon to leave children with relatives for practical reasons. Parental duty consisted of feeding and clothing the child and that was considered enough, and thought that the child should be grateful for that. I don't think you can judge her tbh. It's also difficult to imagine life without a welfare state and to live in a time were a woman could be committed or her children removed just because she was a SP.


valiumredhead · 29/03/2011 14:48

Yes imo it is and no NU to mind about it. Who called your mum neurotic?! How unkind.


BelleDameSansMerci · 29/03/2011 14:48

Not being unreasonable to mind at all after 70 years...

Your poor mum.

I know it's not in the same league but whenever I see posts from people talking about one child getting x but the other getting y, I can just see years of simmering resentment ahead (probably because I still harbour some myself).


ashamedandconfused · 29/03/2011 14:49

how sad, nothing else to say really


AgentZigzag · 29/03/2011 14:49

Just on the surface of it I don't think your mum is neurotic for minding, however long it's been.

Some things cut deeply, far too deep to ever heal.

I also think her treatment was harsh, don't care about the 'well times were different', your mum must have felt abandonded and wonder why her mum didn't care for her as such.

Although it's easy to pass judgment as it doesn't involve me.

She's got every right to be pissed off at how she feels she was treated.

Who is it that's bothered about her being pissed off? And what is it to them?


Drizzela · 29/03/2011 14:50

Of course it's no U to mind... or even to talk about it. But if she uses it as an excuse for every event in her life since, then that is U.

No one likes a victim Grin


Dozer · 29/03/2011 14:51

Your poor mum!


AgentZigzag · 29/03/2011 14:52

Unfortunately drizzela some people are dealt a bum hand in life and are victims.


Birdsgottafly · 29/03/2011 14:53

I didn't mean that your mum should not have been affected or still be upset but understanding why something happened the way that they did can go towards recovering from a situation. It depends who said it aand under what circumstances, are they in denial about things as a way of coping?


CMOTdibbler · 29/03/2011 14:53

I think at the time it was v common for people overseas in hot climates to bring children back to the UK at 4 or so and leave them with relations for years at a time. It was thought to be bad for european children to grow up in the heat.

But your mum is nbu to still mind about it.


corygal · 29/03/2011 14:55

I don't think mum is being unreasonable! But her half-bros and sisters say she is, and act affronted that she could even think about it - they treat her minding as an attack on gran.

Gran was well off, so a lot of the restrictions in those times didn't apply.

OP posts:

Birdsgottafly · 29/03/2011 14:55

Has your mum always talked about this or has her feelings been set off again by another event such as a death?


Drizzela · 29/03/2011 14:57

Surely it's the way you deal with it agentzigzag ?


corygal · 29/03/2011 14:57

CMOT - mmm, I know about the 'heat' argument. Trouble is that Gran left her first babies in the UK - at 1 and 2 they were a bit young even in those times - then kept the next children with her from birth.

OP posts:

corygal · 29/03/2011 14:58

Mum has talked about it, but in a resentful, clipped way, not a way that suggests she is dealing with it.

OP posts:

suzikettles · 29/03/2011 15:01

I wonder if her new husband didn't want anything to do with another man's children? She wouldn't be the first to choose a man above her children.

That would stay with you for life imo. That you weren't "first" in your mother's heart.


Tanee58 · 29/03/2011 15:01

Corygal, your poor mother. What a tragic story for all concerned. Attitudes towards children were certainly different then amongst some members of the middle/upper classes, and her mother may have envisioned no other 'career' than marriage (and maybe her second husband didn't want her first children around - hence boarding school, which was the normal procedure for colonial children, anyway). But human nature doesn't change, and your mother will still have that child within, missing her mother and wondering why she wasn't wanted.

But why did this become a family row? Has it affected her behaviour towards her own children? Was she ever able to talk about this with her own mother? Probably not - people didn't talk about feelings so easily, then. Sad


girlfromdownsouth · 29/03/2011 15:02

Your poor Mum. No she is not being unreasonable - her half bros and sisters are. She has every right to feel the way she does IMHO.


GrendelsMum · 29/03/2011 15:02

I agree with CMOTDibbler.

In 1930 or so, it was widely thought that it was best for people overseas in hot climates to ask their relatives to look after their children in the UK. It was seen as much healthier and that the children would get a better education. (My mum's parents did the same thing when she was older than your mum.) They were 'settled' in the UK, they had relatives looking after them - it may very well have seemed the best thing for the kids, especially after their dad had died in such sad circumstances. I get the impresison that you and your mum are very angry with your gran.

She's NBU to be hurt by it at all, whether or not her mother wanted to do her best for her, but WBU if she doesn't do her best to move on and put the sad story behind her.


GrendelsMum · 29/03/2011 15:04

Your gran was probably very vulnerable after her first husband had killed himself, and might have been under a lot of pressure to take the children home and give them a 'proper life' in the UK. Then perhaps she kept the other children with her because she so deeply regretted letting the others stay with their grandparents - and also, no doubt, because their dad was still alive.


jammietart · 29/03/2011 15:06

Its awful and made worse by her half siblings being treated differently. She is not being unreasonable. Its not just about early experiences its how she lived her childhood which I think most people would agree has an affect on the rest of your life.


Tanee58 · 29/03/2011 15:07

I think the point here is not so much the original leaving with grandparents in England (shades of Rudyard Kipling) - as that her mother kept the children of her second marriage with her. They presumably, therefore, have a very different view and experience of their mother.


Chil1234 · 29/03/2011 15:08

I think her half-siblings are being very unfair, even if they are being loyal to their mother. My own mother's early life wouldn't look out of place in a misery-porn book and she has a half-sister who was much preferred to the other children.... not beaten up, locked in cellars, starved etc., etc. My mother has been, in turn, angry, bewildered and very lost at why she deserved such bad treatment when others were so favoured.

It may be quite late in the day, but would your mother consider counselling? It wasn't the done thing to dredge up the past when she was young and she might get a more sympathetic hearing from an impartial observer than her own family.

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