OMG that photograph of me with my firstborn in Hong Kong looks like it’s circa 1860. Giving him a bath in the sink! I remember that day like it was yesterday. Being a mother has been and remains the most important, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, heart-wrenching, infuriating, incredible, extraordinary addition to my life.
It defines who I am and who I have become more than anything else that has happened in my life.
It has been the hardest job in the world, especially after divorcing and having to do it on my own, but I wouldn’t change any of it for all the Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand (well, that might be pushing it, but don’t make me choose when it starts running out).
I have learnt so much from them and made many friends through them and although my children are quite old now and I only have one left living at home (although only for a minute – I’m expecting another to move back home quite soon) my job is for life and will never be over. Life without them would be inconceivable, even given the amount of piss-taking I have to put up with these days – it’s the way they seem to find their joint sense of humour – making fun of me. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but hey, at least it keeps me grounded….and them amused.
I have just been sent a press release about the top 10 things women hate about being a mother and I suddenly feel like one of those old ladies who comes up to you in the supermarket when your child is having a major tantrum and you want to kill them, or bite them hard at the very least and they say “aaah, do they need a sleep/a poo/food/a cuddle? I remember those days…you should try and enjoy every minute because the time will just fly by and then they will be gone…then you’ll be sorry”…and you then have two people in close proximity you want to kill or bite.
But then again, they have a point. I have no regrets about being a stay at home mother with my kids when they were young because I got to spend time with them and now that time has gone. They have grown up so fast and are now their own people and I am so proud of who they have become and happy that my job of assisting in moulding the human beings that can function on their own in the big wide world is mostly done. That is not to say that I don’t expect other problems to arise that will give me yet another near heart attack, but nevertheless, I now play a very different role to the one I used to when they needed me for everything. I can even go to the loo on my own and not be disturbed! Woohoo.
It was only a few years ago that they were all still living at home and I spent much time gnashing my teeth and shouted profusely about drinking directly from the milk bottle, about dirty clothes on the floor, about having to make their lunch, about having to sew on name tags, about picking up towels and toys and STUFF. About trying to get them out of bed and having to drive them to school. All those things can seem like the most massive chore when you’re in the midst of it. But you know what? I miss that stuff now. The house is a lot tidier, but a lot quieter and a lot less full of life.
So if I had to give advice to mothers with younger children trying to juggle everything? Enjoy the little things in life because some day soon they will grow up and you will realise they were the big things.
“Life is not about waiting for the rain to stop, it’s about dancing in the rain”.
So try to enjoy the drive or walk to school – it is quality time to talk to your kids. You can get a lot of good stuff out of them when they can’t escape. Don’t bother picking up the toys. They will only be there again tomorrow so kick them to the side or into a big box. Washing? Can’t help with that one I still hate it. Shopping? Ditto. But at least you can get it delivered these days. Sewing on labels? Life is too short. You can buy pens that write on clothing now. Don’t feel like cooking? Go and share a pizza with a friend and her kids. Get a takeaway. Take them out for dinner.
The main thing is to not beat yourself up over things you don’t feel you are doing right. If you don’t enjoy imaginary play don’t do it. Find things you do enjoy doing with them. They won’t notice in the long run. They will blame us for everything anyway – but not the things you expect them to blame you for…so don’t try too hard and don’t forget to escape once in a while to spend quality time with your partner or yourself.
This photo was taken a few years ago now. I like the way it looks a bit messy and ethereal through the glass – but you can see that I’m still clinging on tight and they don’t seem to mind:-
The thing is, that this year I feel differently about Mother’s Day. Admittedly I have had many handmade cards and dodgy breakfast moments over the years and these have meant the world to me – especially since becoming a single parent when they have had to make pancakes or heart shaped toast unaided. But stuff has happened recently to make me reconsider all that it means. When the children were young all I wanted on Mother’s Day was a day to myself to recover. To go to the spa. To hang out at the pub. To do things that made me feel like myself again. Now I can hang out at the pub with my children in tow because that’s what we like doing together. Now I don’t feel like I need or indeed deserve a day of acknowledgement. Now I just feel sad for the women who are desperate to have children, but for whatever reason, can’t have them, or for the children that have lost their mothers, or for all the women in the world who can’t be with their children, or whose children have died, or are ill or malnourished or WHATEVER.
Here is what they look like now, I am the smallest, the oldest and the ugliest of the bunch – no wonder I need wine to get through it!
It is a massive privilege to be a mother and I don’t (any longer) feel the need for a day to recognise this. I would rather pass the day on to someone else far more worthy of the acknowledgment. “Friend’s Day” or “Brother’s Day” or “Best Person On The Planet Day” or even “Mother’s Who Need Help Day” – this should really be more about a collective group of women with the loudest voices on the planet doing something useful – standing behind the Nigerian mothers who are still waiting for their girls to be found a year later, or supporting mothers around the world for whatever reason.
My own mother doesn’t like the day either so I can’t even refocus and go and spoil her instead. She thinks it’s all got far too out of hand. She is in agreement with the Wikipedia account of the day:
“Mother’s Day is a modern celebration originating in North America, honoring one’s own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Father’s Day and Siblings Day.
The modern American holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her beloved mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Anna’s mission was to honor her own mother by continuing work she had started and to set aside a day to honor mothers, “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.
Due to the campaign efforts of Anna Jarvis, several states officially recognized Mother’s Day, the first in 1910 being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day she soon became resentful of the commercialisation and was angry that companies would profit from the holiday. By the early 1920’s, Hallmark and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis became so embittered by what she saw as misinterpretation and exploitation that she protested and even tried to rescind Mother’s Day. The holiday that she had worked so hard for was supposed to be about sentiment, not about profit. The original intention was to appreciate and honor mothers by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude; it wasn’t to buy gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis organised boycotts and threatened lawsuits to try to stop the commercialisation. She crashed a candymakers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923. Two years later she protested at a confab of the American War Mothers, which raised money by selling carnations, the flower associated with Mother’s Day, and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Jarvis died hating the modern shape of the holiday.
Jarvis’ holiday was adopted by other countries and it is now celebrated all over the world.