OPINION: Mothers' Day

"But, you're not a mother".

If only I had a dollar every time I heard this.  

It seems a common comeback sometimes when a parent comes to you with their child issues. And as an adult looking in, you might kindly offer some advice.

So does looking from the outside put you on the outer? Does not having children make you biologically "unqualified" to give advice or show you are able to care for children?

I have dealt with people for more than 40 years of my life, from all walks of life, but because I didn't carry a child for nine months, or didn't go through childbirth, does this mean I don't have the right to comment on handling small human beings?

I have been in the workforce for about 35 years. I have done about 10 first aid courses and dealt with a number of medical emergencies. I've dealt with birth, death, serious illness and everything in between. I've cared for my nieces, nephews, other people's children and my stepdaughters.

Children have vomited on me, urinated on me, and thrown things at me. I've dealt with children with gastroenteritis and changed other people's babies runny nappies. Even though my stepdaughters aren't technically mine, I feed them, help them with homework, listen to their school stories, give them advice, drive them places, give financial support, take them on holidays and outings. I will always protect them, care for them and love them.

But do I need a "qualification" to be a parent?

I can cook, but I'm not a chef, I have changed a tap but I'm not a plumber and I can maintain my car but I'm not a mechanic. I have photographed many newborn babies and children, some which were extremely difficult.

I had breast cancer in 2010 and on some days, very depressed. I had people saying "chin up" and "you're a strong" person. While these were all very caring comments, what if I had said to them: "But, you have never had cancer so you don't know what it's like". 

The sad reality is, a number of biological mothers have failed at being a parent - some being mentally ill or addictions, or just being selfish and not caring about their child's welfare.

At the end of the day, I may not be a mother, but I am still a person.

  • Isabella Lettini is a photographer with Fairfax Media in north-west Sydney.