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Her Village

June 11, 2014

Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 3 – ‘The Eclectic Others’

This post was written by Ellie Stoneley especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. In this final week of the carnival our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Eclectic Others’ (the third, and final, chapter in Cathy’s new poetry collection).

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.


I was delighted to be included in the ‘Look at All the Women’ carnival at Mother’s Milk Books. Here is my submission …

Her Village … how many people does it take to raise a child?

I was 47 when my daughter was born, blue, grunting and defying all the odds. She was whisked away from me before I even realised the baby was a girl, and I only had a few minutes to hold and attempt to nurse her before she was taken to the SCBU and I was sedated to help my heart beat go back to its normal rhythm. To be honest even then, that first night of her born life, I didn’t believe it was real, that I had a daughter, that I had become a mother. I lay there feeling it was all some sort of very odd dream and wondering how on earth I could possibly manage to raise a child let alone have given birth to one.

Two and a half years later there are times when I’m overwhelmed with the reality, the blessing, the utter marvellous privilege of watching her run with her absurdly distinctive gait, eat with dextrous relish or sleep with utter absorption.

I’m now 50, and constantly asked by people how it feels to be an older mother, and by journalists, “How do you feel knowing that you’ll miss so much of her life being as you are so much older?” My answer to the former is that I’m a mother and that it feels incredible, and to the latter is a sigh and a fairly pat response along the lines of, “none of us know what’s round the corner”.

I’m not sure if the journalist question offers the real reason she has 8 Godparents, or maybe it’s just the fact that I knew I’d never have another child and wanted to ensure that close friends were always going to be a part of her world. Or perhaps I’m just indecisive … I don’t know!

I think the real reason is that I want her to grow up with a wide range of positive influences, sharing experiences with people from so many walks of life. After all, it takes a village, as the old, apparently African, adage states, to raise a child.

She has four Godfathers; the hard working happy family man, younger, joyful, exuberant and charismatic, the corporate married man, moral, calm and courageous, the adventurer and diplomat who thinks nothing of diving out of planes, boats or down ice runs on a tin tray and the thoughtful, dynamic rock star and song writer who composed a song for her christening.

She also has two ‘unGodparents’, non Christian, but almost more Christian in their daily lives (apart from the God bit) than anyone else I know who left the UK to champion a ground breaking life changing charity which they’d established in Africa. They send her Zambian clothes, reality checks on how fortunate we are and inspire me.

They’re all wonderful and I love them all dearly, but it’s her four Godmothers who keep me going when I feel wobbily, who light her face up when she sees them and who provide day to day or maybe week to week very present love to the two of us. They are so different, each of them, my north, south, east and west.

The highflying, deeply loving, mischievous one who spends hours with my mother when she comes to stay, who will teach my daughter about life, grace, fun, financial management and fashion. They have a special, you’re not included in our moment mother, way about them when they’re together.

The steady, gentle, kind one who nurtures and loves us, who talks face to face, nose to nose with my girl and will teach her good manners, baking, calm, and all the essential life skills and completely grounds me.

The funny, modest, loving mother I’ve travelled the world with over the years who will teach her about me, about literature, gentleness, learning, compassion and adventure. They too have that leave us alone we’re busy look when they’re reading together.

My oldest friend, the one whose grandparents knew my grandparents, whose mother was a friend of my mother and whose daughters think of mine as a sister. She’ll teach my daughter about family values, about her heritage, about the practicalities of life, about planning and about opportunity, she also has a great trampoline and three dogs which are almost as much of an attraction as she is herself.

They will support her, encourage her, tell her off, make her laugh, inspire her … her women.

My mother, my nearly 90-year-old mother is my daughter’s best friend, her gang leader … she’s taught her about fossils, about slugs, about the stamen and petals of flowers, how to make jam tarts, how to show patience when she’s trying to tie her shoe laces, how to sing with confidence, how to focus and love.

I consider so many people to be a part of the mothering of my daughter, members of the village raising her. They’re primarily women; a single mother whose absolute generosity and practicality has supported me through many difficult times over recent years and takes my girl through the front door as if she were her own and laughs with me we watch as she runs to play with her daughter. An elegant poised mother of two, one of whom is my daughter’s first boyfriend, who has given me endless confidence and makes every playdate an adventure and will be such an incredible role model. The remarkable woman who runs the nearly new clothing barn who sees straight through me and has guided me ever since I first met her as a bemused disbelieving totally unprepared fairly crazy pregnant person.The brilliant but gloriously off the wall left wing nurse with a daughter 10 minutes younger but 10 cm taller than mine who I am looking forward to getting to know better and better. The insightful guidance from three volunteers at the local La Leche League transformed our ability to nurse. They still encourage me and offer advice, they perhaps more than most have had a direct influence on her life so far. There are the many new friends I’ve made since she was born, women finding their way through motherhood and the random collection of people I’ve known for years; notably the submarine inventor and the beautiful, feisty backpacking friend of my twenties who has become the mother I aspire to be, both of whom should also have been godparents.

I mustn’t forget her music teacher, her playgroup leaders, her two unbelievably wonderful childminders, the Vicar and the congregation at church, a gentle loving couple she calls Granny and Grandpa even though they’re not, my Mother’s friends, the midwives that bought her into the world, her GP and the lady who sells us bread in the Italian deli … God forbid I ever win an Oscar … my speech would go on for ever and bore everyone rigid!

An eclectic mix; some who will travel along the way with her, others who will fall behind or turn off down their own paths. All these people, along with her father, her grandmother, her uncles, aunts and cousins make up her village and I reckon it’s a pretty good place to live.

Motherhood has given me not just a village, but a world of other women (and a few blokes too) and they have taught me so much.

Whatever happens to her geriatric older mother along the way, I know my daughter be surrounded by love, by life, by mischief, by creativity, by practicality, imagination, common sense and adventure.

Thanks to Teika at Mother’s Milk Books for her encouragement with this post.


Book cover for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from:

The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) – we can ship books around the world!

and as a paperback from

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

If you’d like to know more about Mother’s Milk Books — submission guidelines, who we are and what we do — please find more details here:

Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women:

‘Heroines and Inspirations’— Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her own powerful, inspiring poems, and the stories behind them.

‘Sensitivity’Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person.

Georgie St Clair shares her creative female heroines in her post ‘Creative Others: Mothers Who Have It All’

‘The Eclectic Others – Or What Would I Have Been Without You?’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word a thank you to the women of literature and history who have been in her life, shaped her life, saved her life and gave her a future.

‘Barbie speaks out’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines shares a platform with feminist icon, Barbie.

‘Her Village’ — An older (much older than most) first time mother, Ellie Stoneley from Mush Brained Ramblings firmly believes in the old African adage that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end she has surrounded her daughter with the love, mischief and inspiration of an extremely eclectic bunch of villagers.

Survivor writes about the inspiring life of La Malinche and her place in Mexican history at Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters.

Sophelia writes about the importance of her community as a family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharon Kucukhaci permalink
    June 11, 2014 12:37 pm

    What a beautiful beautiful post, I have tears pouring down my face. You and your daughter are so lucky to have such wonderful people in your village. You are an inspiration to me on my own journey to motherhood, I love reading your blog! In fact quite amazingly the timings are almost identical 3 years apart. I have a scan tomorrow and praying so hard that we will hear a heartbeat. Thank you for your inspiration.

    • June 11, 2014 10:53 pm

      Oh Sharon you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers … it is a terrifying exciting roller coaster time x

  2. June 11, 2014 3:29 pm

    I love this Ellie! What a wonderful village full of ‘eclectic others’ your daughter has. But she is also blessed to have you as her mother, and fortunate to have all those other loving people around her to provide her with guidance and nurturing. And I love too that La Leche League has had such a direct influence on your daughter’s life. I’m very thankful for La Leche League’s influence on my family’s life too. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I think each family needs its own ‘village’ like yours!

    • June 11, 2014 10:54 pm

      Thank you Marija … and yes LLL have dramatically impacted both of our lives, we’re so blessed for that, and in ‘our’ village

  3. ana salote permalink
    June 11, 2014 3:37 pm

    Your daughter is very lucky to be surrounded by so many wise and loving women and the extended family of your community. This is how life should be.

  4. June 11, 2014 4:27 pm

    It is so true that it takes a village to raise a child. No one can do it alone! How blessed your daughter is to have such a village to grow in!

    • June 11, 2014 10:56 pm

      Thank you … I think as families become ever more widely spread apart the ‘village’ approach to raising a child is ever more relevant

  5. Neill Murray permalink
    June 11, 2014 8:09 pm

    It doesn’t matter how long you have with your daughter in later years; it’s the early years that will make the difference to any person growing up. That’s when one learns the values and codes that will shape the rest of your life; Hope will have that, and you will always be that important core of her life, so forget the age thing and enjoy it all for what it brings, as you so obviously do. Look forward to meeting you both again soon.

    • June 11, 2014 10:56 pm

      I so hope we see you both soon, it’s been too long x

  6. June 12, 2014 1:03 am

    It really is so important to have that network of support, isn’t it? There’s a specific word in Japanese for the friends mothers make who are also mothers: ママ友 (mamatomo).

    • June 12, 2014 1:08 am

      yes it is … and I LOVED your blog post … thank you .. and the word mamatomo makes me smile …


  1. Women in Mexican History–La Malinche | Surviving Mexico
  2. Sensitivity « Marija Smits

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