This Hallmark tradition/big business sounds all very good on paper… everyone has a mother… oh no, wait, some mothers are no longer with us… Then there are those who are desperate to be a mother, but cannot. For them Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday as it is called in the UK, is worse than Christmas and way worse than a invitation to a baby shower – it is hell on wheels. On the same day one is obliged to wish one’s own mother, endure the well wishing that “someday it will be your turn” or, in the event of secrecy of fertility treatment, endure the endless question: “When are you going to have children and make me a grandmother?” Let us not forget the children who are in the grip of difficult divorces and the confusing, cringey practice of giving Daddy’s new twenty-year old girlfriend a Mother’s day card lest she feels left out….
Can we call time out on this stupid holiday? After all, mothers everywhere are not only biological mothers, and not only females. ALL those who mother (yes, it is a verb, yes, men can, and do), should be honoured every day of the year, not just on one pressurised, loaded weekend with inescapable opportunities to hurt and insult, albeit unintentionally.
I am a biological mother, a somewhat hands-off mother. I am not your sweet, cupcake-baking, warm lap of endless affirmation kind of mother, but I managed to raise two adult daughters who, to date, have never been to prison, have not harmed animals, nor laundered money for dodgy political parties (I think?) and who could be described as upstanding members of their community. This never fails to surprise me, and frankly, when they deliver the obligatory Mother’s day wishes and cards and requests for quality time, I am embarrassed, and want to run and hide. I feel unworthy of the pink cards and flowers and it highlights and reminds me of all the things I never did for them. You know like..nice school lunches with loving little notes, remembering events at school and pitching up for them, fetching them on time (if at all) , telling them every day that they are special little angels etc – the list is endless. So is the guilt and shame. And to be fair to my children, they think I was great, they have re-visioned their childhood to match the cards they give, and they are unscathed, it would seem. But I am not, and neither are a lot of people on Mothering Sunday.
These card companies impress on mothers and husbands and children just what kind of MOTHER one should be, and those Instagram pictures had better fit that narrative or you will lose followers for sure.
I am equally certain that there are those mothers who love the thanks and the appreciation spelled out in those Moonpig cards. They live from year to year, sharing their children’s gestures of love with pride and I am all for that, I have no problem with needing to be appreciated, but I resent the limitations of the cultural gestures available to us on that day. Where are the cards for those children with two Mothers? Where are the cards for those who have two Dads, who probably mother way better and more efficiently than most females… Where are the cards for those mothers who work? Or who are absent because of work, or who are in the armed forces?
Let’s try to find a way to celebrate the PEOPLE who sacrifice on a daily basis to feed and clothe their children. Let’s celebrate what it is to finally achieve adulthood and understand that no one is born knowing how to parent, you have to learn it the hard way and there is no right nor perfect way. I want to honour and celebrate those who mother in war torn places and whose love for their children gives them the kind of courage we can only read about in books. It would be nice if we imperfect mothers could just be grateful every evening that our children are well fed and OK, just OK and that we can try to let go of the need to say “I am so sorry I was not the mother I should have been” when presented with a pink card and toast in bed this weekend.