The onslaught of pink advertising banners and sales on kitchen gadgets and preparation for stalls is in full swing which means only one thing – Mother’s Day is around the corner. That one day of the year that’s supposed to be about you but often ends up being about compromise, guilt and shattered expectations. Ugh.
OK, so maybe that’s slightly dire, but hear me out.
The hardest work I’ve ever done as a mum was our first Mother’s Day. The little dude had come into our lives in the previous August and was three years old. He’d lived in three houses, with four different mother figures two of whom were no longer in his life. It was always going to be an uphill battle getting him excited about a day that honour mothers.
Aside from that though, he was three. If the gifts weren’t coming his way, he wasn’t interested. (And even when they were he wasn’t much fussed.) On the approach to May, we were getting excited and despite the fact we’d somewhat neglected our own mothers due to distance/IVF/being bad daughters, we were full of hope and couldn’t wait to be part of that club.
We took the little dude out and bought gifts and told him he couldn’t tell the other what it was. We involved him in wrapping them, which he was utterly bored by, and told him it would be an awesome surprise for Mummy on Sunday morning.
But what I’d never fully appreciated before becoming a parent, was that these celebratory parent days usually hinge entirely on the other parent. It’s their job to corral the children and wrap the gifts and try to provide a relaxing, fuss free morning for their spouse. But what if you don’t have a spouse? Or if, like us, you’re a same-sex couple and you’re both up?
That trusty source of all truthful information – television – had taught me throughout my childhood that Mother’s Day would be me in a fluffy robe with fluffy slippers (probably pink) and children walking through my immaculate home, gifts in hand, and hubby, with perfectly cooked pancakes and a steaming cup of tea atop a breakfast tray. Aah, how little I knew.
The reality of our Mother’s Day was hilarious and exhausting. The whole morning felt almost like one-upmanship in a bid to keep the appreciation equal. “Mummy taught you how to ride your bike.”
“Mama reads to you every night.”
We both cooked together in the kitchen presenting it in a way that made it seem like he’d contributed as a way to say thanks, not as an example of something he should be thankful for, then I washed the dishes while Naomi cleared the potty of his post-breakfast poop. By lunchtime, our 3 year old was done with Mother’s Day and it was business as usual.
So we’ve taken a new approach to the day.
We give the little dude money for the stalls at school. Well, we will this year. Last year we forgot and his kindy teacher stumped up the cash until we could get it back to her. That afternoon he shoved a scrunched up plastic bag into Naomi’s hand and said “here” before running off to play. This year, he proudly proclaimed that he bought himself something. “Well you had one, and Mummy had one and I didn’t have enough to buy four things so I got myself something to be equal.” Hmm…
But the more I look around at Mum’s the more stressed out they are by a day that’s meant to be about them. Some are organising the Mother’s Day breakfasts and lunches amongst themselves, their mothers and mothers-in-law. Some are showing up to places they don’t want to go, getting excited about gifts they didn’t need and working hard at showing their appreciation for being appreciated. Or those whose mum’s have sadly passed and they’re stuck trying to be festive on a day that reminds them what they’ve lost.
Mother’s Day shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be so stressful that by mid-afternoon you’re popping Nurofen wondering why you ever really wanted kids anyway, searching one bedroom apartments on Domain thinking how much easier it would all be if you had your own place to escape to. (Those thoughts should be reserved for the other 364 days of the year.)
When he’s older, hopefully the little man will want to do something nice for Mother’s Day and be a brilliant cook who can whip us up waffles for breakfast. But for now we keep it low key and stress-free. We get him involved in the other little things we do for each other. Buying each other flowers, going out in crappy weather to buy their favourite milkshake, impromptu gifts, letting Naomi use my stationary (trust me – it’s a big deal for me!). As long as we can keep him a well-mannered, considerate and respectful young man who keeps showing appreciation in his own beautiful little ways, I’ll happily let Mother’s Day slide.