If you were lucky, you had a second mother. It could have been an aunt or a neighbour or a family friend from church. Your real mother was the one at home who gave birth to you and/or raised you. With her, you had an appropriately formal relationship. She checked your homework and your pulse when you claimed your fever would be bad for other children at the school. The mother-at-home gave you chores and put clothes on your back. First mothers do their duty; they raise you.

The second mother is different. This is the person you confide in about things you dare not talk to your real mother about. She is the one you consult about a teenage girlfriend or your niggling questions about God. The other mother drops everything and sits down with you, listening earnestly, smiling all the time. She makes a small problem sound serious enough to give you her time and attention. To this mother you are not just another child, and to you she is a confidante.

What is nice about the second mother is that she will not judge your teenage self. She is unlikely to say: “Oh no! Don’t tell me you’re pregnant” or “You failed again?” Nope, the second mother listens intently, hugs you and then says something sensible: “Now let’s figure out how we can get you through this.” By the time you’ve shared a problem with your other mother, you just feel so much better...

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