How to define the role of your mother? She’s a teacher, nurse, PA, cleaner, chef, taxi driver and counsellor. She works 18 hour days, seven days a week. She has had no training for this unpaid, exhausting job; she works purely on instinct and intuition. She is an expert in negotiation and a queen of multi-tasking, yet she feels her failures keenly.
There’s a lovely quote from Maya Angelou…’To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.’ Whether or not this is true of your own mother, there’s no denying that she is the eye of the storm. Mother’s Day gives us all an opportunity to create some space for that extraordinary woman and honour her in all her flawed glory.
As children, we take our duties seriously on Mother’s Day - it’s all there in the wonky breakfast tray and the undrinkable tea proudly presented with a home made card, sticky with glitter and finger prints. As adults, too often it’s a corner shop card sent last minute with a bunch of flowers but how can we bring back the soul to Mother’s Day?
Mothering Sunday began as a purely religious occasion in the 16th Century. The word ‘mothering' referred to the ‘mother church’, the main church of the region, and had nothing to do with honouring the person who brought you into the world. It became a tradition that, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to their mother church for a special service. This became something of a holiday event, with servants given the day off to visit their own families as well as going to church. The story has it that children used to pick wild flowers on their way to see their families and this gradually developed in to our current tradition of giving mothers gifts.
Just a quick trawl through the internet now offers up a wealth of gift ideas for mothers - there’s the ubiquitous spa break, afternoon tea at a luxury hotel, theatre tickets, cookery retreats, hot air balloon flights - all accompanied by copious glasses of free prosecco. Whilst no-one is denying that it is indeed very lovely to be spoiled rotten, how are these treats celebrating the relationship that you have with your mother, bound up as it is with all the complexities that this lifelong connection brings?
The relationship we have with our mother is always changing, ever-shifting. From those early childhood years of reliance and dependence come the tentative beginnings of our connection as adults. Friendship and mutual respect become important facets of that relationship as we grow older and treat each other as peers. It’s not always easy to get right. We are conditioned to expect certain things from our mothers and consequently become lazy - it’s easy to fall into the roles that we grew up with.
But how well do you know your mother as an adult? What was her relationship like with her mother at your age? Did motherhood come naturally to her? Maybe this year, instead of ticking off Mother’s Day as a bouquet sent or a pampering afternoon booked, take time to reacquaint yourself with your mother as an adult. Go for a long walk and ask her about her life. Talk about her. Remember how much she loved that lentil necklace oozing glue that you made for her in reception? This is the grown up equivalent - taking time out to appreciate her and peel back some of the layers that she has created around herself. Looking through photos of family and friends and hearing the stories behind them is also a good way of getting a more thoughtful conversation started.
With a bit of imagination and a certain flair, there are plenty of ways of treating your mother to a glorious day without resorting to flashing the cash. If she loves clothes, the charity shop challenge is a far more entertaining way of acquiring a new outfit without tramping the high street. You never know when you might find a hidden gem lurking amongst the nylon. Mix her a cocktail when you get home - call it something racy - and cook her lunch. Whether you are stuffing home-made ravioli or burning cheese on toast, the tables are turned and you are the one treating your mum. If the sun is shining, take it al fresco and put together a spoiling picnic for you to share. If the sun stops shining, turn up the heating, lay down a rug and eat it off the floor of the sitting room; the perfect spot for a little lie down in front of a film with a cup of tea to round it all off.
We all know that time is precious and none more so than mothers. Let’s slow it down just for one day with her - after all, without her, who would we be?