Being a mother may not be the first thought about Sinead O'Connor. Indeed, many may go further and say maybe more a mother-something than a mother, such is her ability to annoy and antagonise so many groups in society, whether the catholic church or the estate of one Prince Rogers Nelson. But she strikes me a someone who deserves some recognition of this aspect of her life, most of her 4 children having songs in overt dedication to them in her discography. Let's also not forget her own turbulent childhood, with her mother taking most of the blame for myriad accusations made of abuse toward her, and possibly thus, I wonder, the catalyst to her maverick talent. Motherhood seems to hold very mixed emotion for her, struggling to avoid her experience of her own mother colouring the experience her children have of her, through all of this gaining some sort of skewed acceptance of what seems to have been a fractured childhood. This piece is not to stare goggle-mouthed at her sideshow, but to accept and to celebrate her songs about this no small part of her life and her muse.
Universal mother was her 4th album, it's title playing on a matriarchal deity and her own motherhood, several of the songs being near lullabys to her eldest child, John, including this one, below, 'John, I Love You,'
and 'My Darling Child.' (Here let me advocate breaking a rule of mine and actually reading the Youtube comments made under the clips, being nearly all words of praise and amazement for these simple hymns, with seldom a troll in sight.)
In 1997, 3 years after 'Universal Mother' came the EP, 'Gospel Oak', from which the title song of this piece comes. Here the lyric is more ambiguous, uncertain whether addressed to a child or a lover. Or even to her own mother, killed in a car crash some 10 years earlier? It sounds a song of a bitter forgiveness to me.
Flash forward several years, to 2012, and there comes this further confessional, 'I Had a Baby', the lyric marveling the outcome of the relationship that led to that child, now appreciating a greater insight as to how the child has to deal with the manner of their procreation, and creators. I can't think of any other artist laying open their life so honestly in song.
I have no way of knowing how "good" a mother is Sinead, or even, frankly, quite what that means. It isn't my concern, either. What I do know, however, is that, as a parent, most of us muddle through and do our best, and I am sure she is no different. But, should her 4 ever doubt their mothers love, these songs surely give a greater power and demonstration than many of us get to ever keep. Keep well, Sinead, keep strong.
Buy I Want to Mother You, noting, with irony, that the hard copy starts at a cent and runs to near $90. So how do you define the worth of motherhood?