LEADER: Should mothers climb mountains?

Share
Related Topics
After the shock comes the anger. Now that it is certain that Alison Hargreaves is dead, many people are angry with her for leaving two very young children grieving for their mother. They feel that it would have been better for Tom and Katie had their mother been prepared to confine herself to a life of quiet domesticity rather than risk death on a mountain top.

This is not just chauvinism. The same thing could be said about the fathers who also died last week on K2. It seems impossible, at the same time, to be both relatively careless of your own fate and yet careful of the well-being of those you brought into the world and who depend upon you. Though adults may comfort themselves with notions of the resilience of children, the reality is that kids have little option but to survive what their parents dish out to them.

It may seem to follow from this that mountaineers, racing-car drivers and soldiers ought to give up their professions before having children. They should choose between the all-consuming ambition, and the desire for kids of their own. Isn't that what a good parent would do?

But this is too narrow a view of what being a father or mother is about. Good parenting could be defined as being when parents put their child's interests and needs on the same level as their own. But this should not mean enduring intolerable unhappiness, or abandoning the most fundamental ambitions "for the sake of the children". If this were the case, only the most easily satisfied or lucky people would become parents. But it does mean taking seriously the notion that children are profoundly affected by what we as parents do.

This lesson is not for those who want to conquer mountains. This is also about the man who boasts of his 90-hour working week, and never sees his children awake. It is about the woman who stays at home all day, but doesn't find the time to play with the children, talk to them or answer their questions. It is about the divorced couple whose egotistical bitterness makes their children casualties in an emotional war. A journey by train, or lunch at a resort hotel, will remind anybody of the extraordinary neglect that often passes for parenting in Britain.

So let's not examine the mote in Alison Hargreaves's eye. After all, her children are in the care of a loving and honest father, who in turn can call upon a supportive family. Of course they will, now or later, be profoundly sad. But their memories of their mother will be of her strength and happiness, not of sourness and lack of fulfilment. That is a lot more than many children can say.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Pentagon has suggested that, since the campaign started, some 10,000 Isis fighters in Iraq and Syria have been killed  

War with Isis: If the US wants to destroy the group, it will need to train Syrians and Iraqis

David Usborne
David Cameron gives a speech at a Tory party dinner  

In a time of austerity, should Tories be bidding £210,000 for a signed photo of the new Cabinet?

Simon Kelner
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life