Mum. What a word. It summons up images of warmth and love, the sound of it in our mouths. Visually, the actual symmetry of the word conjures up a sense of completeness. There is so much weight carried in that word, so much pressure.
And today we celebrate Mothers.
Except the day is loaded with emotion, and those emotions aren’t always good. Motherhood is often used as a way to turn us against each other, just another thing we’re bound to get wrong because the goalposts are constantly changing.
There are so many ways we can fuck this up, so many ways we can be divided into two groups and made to judge each other, right from conception.
Eating prawns? Risky. Working until your due date? Raised eyebrows and a sharp intake of breath. Half a glass of wine? Do you want your baby to have foetal alcohol syndrome?
We give birth wrong. Too much pain relief? That’s not natural, you’re more or less giving your baby ketamine before it’s even born. Having a home birth? How ‘brave’ of you, you reckless fool. And you had a cesarean?? Woah, you shouldn’t even be allowed to open a Mothers Day card unless you can show us your episiotomy scars on your battered perineum.
Then we feed them wrong. Breastfeeding? What are you? Some kind of hippy? Save your tits for the mens! Bottle Feeding? You might as well leave your baby propped up with a bottle of newcastle brown ale in one hand and a fag in the other, watching porn.
Wean them too soon and you’re damaging their intestines. Too late and they will never learn to swallow, you idiot.
You stay at home with your kids and you’re a brain dead moron who has nothing to talk about, you go to work and you’re a heartless bitch who’d rather have nice shoes and cars than spend time with her baby. (Incidentally, I have been both of these and been judged and criticised in both instances, go the sisterhood).
But this is all fine, because these are the women who chose to have children in the first place, at least those women are natural. There is a separate category of spite for the women who chose not to have children. The head on one side and the thinly veiled, patronising as hell comments about how you’ll change your mind one day, when you see the light.
But it goes on, women being made to feel inadequate by society and ads and other bloody women and to top it all we have the Mother’s Day police. Like a twisted version of a Line of Duty where they try to hunt down anyone corrupting the sacred idea of Motherhood.
It’s everywhere, cards in the shops, flowers in the supermarket, restaurants doing special Mother’s Day deals, dedications on the radio, there’s no escaping it. I know lots of people who avoid social media on days like today because actually, it can be really hard to deal with, that cheerful steamroller of celebration that will not be stopped.
But it’s not that simple, because there are so many reasons today can be shit for lots of people.
There are people who are missing their mums, who would love to be able to spend the day with their mum but can’t. There are people who are missing their children and who have constant reminders of how they have to rewrite their future without them, we don’t even have a word for those people in the English language.
There are people who desperately want to be a mum and feel alone, and people who really don’t want to be and feel alone. There are people who desperately wanted to be a mum, but then realised after they became one, that actually it’s really bloody hard and they’re not sure they like it. There are people who have found themselves having to be mum suddenly, without any warning and while grieving, and people who play the part of a mum but are not recognised as such.
There are people who never knew their mum, but have other people who took her place. And people who knew their mum but wish they didn’t. Because there are people whose relationship with their mum has never been what they want it to be, which is really hard to talk about. Because hey, how bad do you have to be to either not like your mum, or even more so, to not be liked by your mum? Especially when there are people out there who would desperately love to have their mum with them, so shut up and be grateful.
We need to stop glorifying Motherhood. ‘Is your mum awesome??’ I saw one flyer say. Why do we have to be awesome? Can’t we just be enough? Next year I want to see flyers saying ‘Did your mum manage to get through the day without muttering “for fucks sake”, under her breath at least 20 times?’ Hell yes, give that person a medal.
Mothers are just women, and women are just people and people get things wrong. Here’s a bombshell, we don’t know what we’re doing. There, I said it, I’m sorry other parents, I’ve let our secret out. But it’s about time people accepted that we’re just bumbling our way through it without a guidebook.
Do you know what parenting is like? It’s like getting home from Ikea and realising there isn’t an instruction manual in the box and your allen key is the wrong size, but you’ve got to build that bloody chest of drawers, like right now, with everyone watching, and then you’ve got to build it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, because there is nobody else to build it, it’s all down to you and not only do you have to build it, but you have to build it with mittens on and no sleep and everyone else gets to pass judgement on it, even though they’re all trying to build their own bit of furniture. And you have to make some huge, far-reaching decisions about that chest of drawers, and you can’t even stop for some meatballs or a hotdog, because the chest of drawers needs 24hr care and the rules keep changing, overnight sometimes, so the way you built it yesterday is wrong today.
OK, I may have got carried away with the Ikea analogy, but you get the drift.
So give everyone a break and accept that if they are reacting to this day in a way you don’t agree with, or understand, then there is probably a really good reason for that.
So let’s celebrate everyone who has played some kind of nurturing, supportive role today, whether you’ve pushed a person out of your vagina or not. And if you’re finding today hard, for whatever reason, lots of love to you. Just put your head down and deal with it in whichever way works for you, you’re doing great and there are bloody loads of us out here all bumbling through it with you x