Happy, Crappy Mother’s Day


How did you spend Mother’s Day? Bathed in prosecco, sunlight, love and expensive smellies given to you by your thoughtful children, or by your thoughtful partner on their behalf? Did you give your own mum a hug/card/bouquet? Do you feel #spoiledrotten and #soblessed?

Or did you spend it crying, because your child or your mum is no longer with you? Fed up, because your partner fell short of some elusive benchmark that makes his/her efforts worth hashtagging- or because you don’t have a partner and had to make your own Mother’s Day breakfast? Or painful because your own mum is not someone you feel you can celebrate. Or because you never got the chance to be a mum. I know at least one woman to whom each of the above things applies.

And maybe that’s why- as much as I enjoy the customary lie in (that we didn’t bloody GET today, thanks a LOT, bloody clocks going back) and handmade card and family outing- Mother’s Day makes me feel kind of weird.

I just can’t get fully on board with any special day that has the potential to make as many people feel crappy as it makes happy. See also: Valentine’s Day. And I definitely can’t get on board with every company from banks to bakeries urging us to “tell them what makes mum special” on Facebook so they can harvest our data and pummel us with advertisements.

But there’s something else that doesn’t quite sit right with me, too. You see, there’s a middle ground between finding the day excruciating, and skipping through a field of wildflowers with your non-whining children, while your dashing partner cooks a roast for a multi-generational celebration of motherhood. And that middle ground doesn’t fit in the idealised, Insta-version of Mother’s Day that we see all around us.

I mean, the fact that it’s Mother’s Day, instead of Mother’s Morning, or Mother’s Hour, is a bit of a big ask. We’re supposed to be happy and pampered and relaxed, and our partners are supposed to be grateful and worshipful, and our children well behaved and adoring, for a whole day?

 The truth about this day, and every day, is that while one minute, your kids are kissing your eyelids and declaring their love, the next minute they will not put their trousers on, and you will curse your partner for daring to have a shower, while YOU deal with the CHILDREN, oh my God. You may go on a lovely trip out, but someone will still put their entire leg into smelly mud and then wipe it on your trousers.

You might even (this would never happen to me, ahem), have a sort of mad, half-asleep midnight rant at your other half before Mother’s Day has even begun, because you feel that they might not have applied themselves to the project fully. Even though you really don’t care, and you really are happy with some snipped-up post-its glued to a piece of A4. Such is the power of marketing.

And if you don’t get to hiss resentfully: ‘and on Mother’s Day, too’ at your kids/partner at least once during the day, it’s just not proper.

The truth about this day, and every day, is that it is happy and crappy and messy and joyous and annoying, all at the same time. The happiest days have crappy moments, and the crappiest of times bring happiness too. That’s motherhood. Expecting it to be 100% glorious, for 24 hours of the year, is a bit of a nonsense.

If you did have a glorious day, I am genuinely really chuffed for you. But you might be reading this having had a  bit of a shit Mother’s Day- not for any deeply personal reason, but just because nobody was their best self, or everyone had diarrhoea and vomiting or nits, or you had an accidental hangover and felt guilty about it all day. If you had one of these days, I say don’t sweat it.

For me, motherhood is not about fireworks, but about collecting those sparks that glimmer through the days, all year round: seeing your kid concentrating on a jigsaw puzzle with the sunlight on the baby frizz on their hair; making them pronounce ‘cucumber’ as ‘puke-umber’ over and again; exchanging a proud smile with your partner when your child carries their used plate to the sink, even if it is after a fraught mealtime. Sometimes, it’s about the glory of grabbing your handbag, containing no breadsticks and no wipes, and heading out without your family. It isn’t, I don’t think, about a day.

“What a misery guts!” I hear you cry. But I’m not, really. I had a lovely Mother’s Day. I didn’t skip through wildflowers, but I did climb on rocks with my babies. I ate bacon and sausages and a picnic and a third of a chocolate éclair. My four year old boomed “GO BACK TO SLEEP MUMMY WE WILL MAKE YOU A CUP OF TEA” directly into my ear at 6am (or was it 4am or 7am, I don’t know, bloody clocks). It was magic, at times, and it exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations.

It didn’t look like something from the centre pages of a Boden catalogue. But then again, nothing about motherhood- or the motherhood I experience, anyway- ever did. And that’s fine with me.


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