I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have a great mum. Some of my friends have lost theirs. More have lost babies. So Mother’s Day can be bittersweet and I always think of these friends and hope they are doing OK. But for me, there is nothing but sweetness about it. And a reminder to be thankful.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be a mummy. Maybe most girls do. And I knew that I wanted to be just like my mum. She gave up her job as a teacher to look after us all day, every day, whilst my dad worked incredibly hard to build his career.
I wasn’t their first child. They lost little Elizabeth when she was just 18 months old, before I was born. But she’s always been a big part of our family, and always will be. Such a heartbreaking loss could have made them bitter. The grief could have eaten them up. But instead, with a great deal of love and support from friends and family, and a never-wavering faith, they have used their experience to help others. My sister, Debbie, is a writer and if you’d like to know more, you can read about her short story Good Condolences. It’s a fictionalised account, but has roots in reality.
We moved to a small village, near my dad’s work when I was eight months old. By all accounts, the house was a complete wreck when we moved in, (kitchen cupboards held up by eight inch nails, no heating, etc.) but my parents worked tirelessly to make it into a cosy, welcoming home. We three, and then my sister Debbie and brother Pete all lived there very happily until I was about 17.
Mum (and my dad, of course) made so many sacrifices for us, and it must have been so hard for her, living in a new area with no family close by. It’s only now, as a mummy myself, that I can fully appreciate how hard it was for her. I rely on her, and the rest of my family so much, I can’t even imagine how I would cope without them.
When I get stressed about how long it takes to get the girls out of the house just to go to the park, she tells me how once it took her so long to get me, my little sister and then baby brother ready, it was dark by the time we got out for a walk!
I often think how we mums now have it relatively easy, in many ways. It’s virtually unthinkable for me to get through a whole day at home without having CBeebies or a Disney film on. (Judging by my fixed stare in the picture above, mum did have the odd TV moment though.) But without TV on demand and 12 hours of CBeebies, how on earth did she keep us all busy when she needed to make dinner? Or wash and dry those huge, thick terry towelling nappies? That must have taken FOREVER! Sterilising bottles? A few hours soaking in Milton, there were no fancy electronic sterilisers in the 80s. I think the dishwasher arrived when my brother was a baby, after my mum had a meltdown over the washing up. I’m not even sure they had baby wipes back then. The horror! And as for instant information about anything and everything to do with baby health – forget it. Though… maybe that’s not always such a bad thing, as anyone who has Googled ‘baby rash’ will understand!
But even with all our shortcuts and iPads and everything else, it’s still blooming hard work being a mum. Until they invent an (affordable) robot to load, set and unload the dishwasher and washing machine, then sort and redistribute the clean washing, we will still be fighting an un-winnable battle against the washing mountain. But it’s not just the relentless chores. It’s the never ending orders from small tyrants (in our case though the night as well) I want a dink, I want mousey, I want a baby bel, I want Peter Raddit, I want an ‘oghurt, where dummy gone? And repeat.
But (unlike me, unfortunately) my lovely, patient mum never let us see how hard it must have been. I only remember her getting angry once. And that was when I tipped a cup of milk all over the book shelf. For the second time. The first time she was totally cool (although probably screaming inside her head!) so totally fair enough to be cross when I did the same thing again.
Normally when we did things like that, she had the presence of mind to dig out the camera. Like when my brother managed to get into the jam cupboard (yes, we actually had a cupboard full of home made jam. She managed that on top of looking after three kids!) and steadily ate his way though the majority of the contents, smearing the rest over himself and the surrounding area, or when my sister got into the paints and left hand prints up the stairs.
Mum just really loved hanging out with us (and still does) and that definitely rubbed off on us. We did a lot of making, when we were little. So I’m pretty sure that’s why my sister is a dab hand with a sewing machine, my brother is a very talented model maker (for the likes of Dr Who don’tcha know!) and I have a cupboard full of half finished projects. We often used to make gingerbread men at the kitchen table, and our love of baking definitely came from our mum. Ava, Thea and their cousin Bonnie all love cooking with her too, and she’s infinitely patient with them.
I try to emulate this as much as I can but I struggle with the mess. And although the girls’ funny mis-shapen cakes make me laugh, they kind of stress me out on another, ridiculous, level too.
1. An almost paralysing fear of having empty food cupboards and freezer.
2. Knock knees.
3. An obsession with Christmas. We both have home-made Christmas pictures. Mine is a paper cut and hers is cross stitch, but it amounts to the same thing.
4. The odd grey hair. OK a few more than that.
5. A love of reading.
6. The ability to spend all my time and money in a craft shop, if allowed to.
7. Hoarding. OK this is from my dad as well. We are all doomed.
8. The value of a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a sit down. Especially at a National Trust tea room.
9. Being unable to resist a new project. And rarely finishing the last ones.
10. The knowledge that a family who eats together, stays together.
Here are some that I am already passing down to my girls:
1. A love of baking and eating cake.
2. A magpie eye for jewellery and shoes.
3. The love of making artworks of any description.
4. A love of reading (well, being read to, in their case).
5. Love of TV and Disney.
I think I may need to start concentrating on some more outdoorsey activities, really.
The biggest thing I learned from my mum is telling the girls that I love them. About a hundred times a day. And giving them hugs whenever I possibly can. Knowing they are loved is the biggest gift I can give to them, too. Hopefully I will be as good a mummy to Ava and Thea as our mum is to us.
So when I joke about turning into my mother, it’s only because if I were to turn into anybody, my mum would be top of the list. Okay maybe second. After Kylie Minogue. Her knees don’t turn in.