The unexpected joy of being a godmother
Forget spiritual guidance – godmother-of-nine Elizabeth Day explores what it takes to be a thoroughly modern godparent
idon’t want anyone searching my internet browsing history. I harbour a deep, dark secret and I’m worried about it coming to light. For several years now, I’ve developed an addiction to a certain website. I’ll visit it at the same times each year, and my usage gets particularly heavy around Christmas. I’ll get a short-lived buzz every time I go online and afterwards, I’ll worry if I’ve done the wrong thing.
No, it’s not porn. It’s a gifting website for children (wickeduncle.co.uk), with fun, offbeat toys, categorised by age. This website not only sends you birthday reminders, but also wraps and writes cards for the child in question, dispatching your present in a timely fashion. And the reason I have such an obsession with it is because I’m a godmother of nine.
That means nine different birthdays to remember, nine separate gifts to dispatch at Christmas, and nine little lives looking to me for some form of spiritual guidance. And if not exactly spiritual guidance, then at least the odd ticket to a musical and day trips to visit me in London where they can eat as much chocolate as they want.
I love being a godmother. Really, truly, uncomplicatedly love it. Every time I’ve been asked, it’s been a gesture of such kindness on the part of the parent that I well up and say yes before they’ve finished the question. I like knowing that my friend – and his or her family – will hopefully be in my life forever because they trust me to forge a lifelong connection with their child.
Of course, I’m not stupid. I realise that the fact I don’t have children of my own, but have a disposable income and a job that is good for work experience, means I’m an attractive godmotherly prospect. It’s not just to do with the fact that my friends think I’m a paragon of human virtue (although that comes into it… right guys?).
But I don’t really mind why I’m asked, because the joy that comes with saying yes to being a godparent is unmatched by any other area of my life. The closest I can get to it is being an aunt – and my eldest niece is also my goddaughter, so I have a double-whammy of loveliness – but being a godmother is in some ways even better because it’s something you’ve chosen to do.
Getting to know my nine godchildren has been incredibly fun. They each have distinct and brilliant personalities and range in age from nine to seven months: Thomas is the kindest boy you’ll ever meet; Elsa is a strong-minded four-year-old whose extensive vocabulary includes the word ‘spillages’; Uma plays the violin and wants a bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows; Walt is sweet and gentle; Billy is hilarious, open-natured and looks great in a leather jacket; Imogen is a whirlwind of creative energy who once showed me her secret hiding place and made me promise not to tell her mother (I still haven’t); Tessa is wise and funny and can do dance routines to Michael Jackson; Eliza is a butterball of loveliness, and Alex is the smiliest baby ever.
Who wouldn’t want to be around this eclectic bunch of people, who have so much to offer? And the joy of it is I exist in the liminal space between relative and friend. I get to be the fun adult who doesn’t care if you watch back-to-back episodes of Peppa Pig and who lets you jump on the bed – but I can also be the one to turn to when my godchildren have a problem that they don’t want to talk to their parents about. As they grow older, I’m looking forward to being a refuge for them, to my home being a comfortable place they can stay and (fingers crossed) to my being a source of useful life advice.
Being a godmother means that I have the privilege of seeing what wonderful parents my friends have become. My best friend, Emma, for instance, whom I first met in the college bar at freshers’ week sporting a tight T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘One For The Rogue’, has turned into a brilliant mother, simultaneously loving and firm, understanding and compassionate. Meanwhile, over the summer, I found myself on holiday in the South of France with two of my closest female friends and three godchildren, and it felt very special being an extended member of their families, knowing that I was part of their memories.
Fertility issues, miscarriage and divorce in my mid-30s have meant that I’ve never had my own baby. So being a godmother has given me magical access into that world – while knowing I can always hand a screaming toddler back to their parents.
For me, the religious aspect of it – standing up in church and renouncing the devil – is symbolic. It’s about saying you’ll be there for your godchildren when they need you most and that you will love them throughout their lives. For some, that might mean putting aside money or bottles of wine or engraving christening spoons. I haven’t done any of that, but I can promise to be fun, reliable, unquestioningly adoring – and to offer them work experience!