by Joanna Koch *

Once upon a time, there was a little letter. It lived with a mom who was too busy to look after it properly. So the letter stayed small, and felt sad and neglected.

One day another mum offered to look after it. She took it into her home. She had more time and gave it many interesting things and the letter soon grew into two pages and was much happier. Then the mum learned to use her computer better and the letter grew into four pages. More people said they would like to read the letter, and some offered to feed it. They said they had all sorts of interesting things they thought the letter would like to have.

Over the months the letter grew and so did the new mum. She acquired even more skills with her computer. She experimented and made lots of improvements, giving the letter new features, like different-sized columns, wrap around text, and even clip art. She often stayed up half the night to get the letter looking just right. One day she told the letter it was nearly grown up and it was now time to change into something different. This was exciting, but rather worrying. What would happen? How would it all work out? The letter changed its size. Everyone loved the new look, and the letter now became a newsletter.

Soon even more people were keen to feed the newsletter or read it. People began to hear about it and asked for copies. They were even ready to pay for it!

Then came the day when the newsletter really grew up. It was given a new cover of colored paper. A small group of surrogate mums started to look after it. It was given its first policy and editorial guidelines. Finally it was no longer "it" but was given a name: Mothering Matters.

Nothing ever stays the same, and so the newsletter became sad when it heard that its first mother, Neta Steigrad, would be leaving Switzerland to return to her native Australia. Again, what would happen? Would it crumple up and become once again a small and neglected letter?

This would have been a pity, so Neta set about helping the first small team of mums, giving it many instructions and lots of good advice and encouragement. Like Neta and the first little letter, the team has also grown - in number, confidence and skills.

Mothering Matters was given a wonderful gift last year when an artist joined the team. She was so enthusiastic about the newsletter that she designed a beautiful new cover and inside page headers. I think she sought to portray the loving tendrils of the family, and at the same time to give Mothering Matters its own special identity. 

When Neta left Switzerland in 1997 she left behind a legacy which has continued to grow. We have witnessed the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. Hopefully, unlike the butterfly, Mothering Matters will not fade away at its summer's end, but will stay as bright as ever to go on bringing help and guidance to English-speaking parents in Switzerland.

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