Not long after I had my second child, I was arranging a meeting with a colleague. I had to say no to one of her suggested dates, ‘as that day is my Mummy-day’. ‘Oh, how lovely!’, she said. ‘Are they going to treat you to something nice?’. I laughed, and explained that a ‘mummy-day’ was my regular weekday for taking care of the children, not a day on which they pampered their mum. If only…
Mother’s Day, on the other hand, is genuinely intended to be a day on which children put their mums in the limelight and show their appreciation. It’s one of the compulsory events on family calendars. Before our daughters could even walk, the nursery school leaders laboured hard to create artistic gifts, to which the girls unwittingly lent a hand – or sometimes a foot. After starting school, they would return home to announce, importantly, that they had been working on something very secret which mum was not allowed to know about, put on a big production about retrieving an object from their bag in a mysterious manner and concealing it in a safe place until the big day – then, half an hour later, relate to me in detail how they had made it. I now have quite a collection of hand-prints, foot-prints, homemade soaps, jewellery made from pasta, etc. Each year a new gift arrives, often in handmade paper, sometimes accompanied by a poem. I have kept them all and treasure them – though I have to confess to having come up with excuses not to wear the jewellery.
Usually, however, that’s as far as the concept of indulging mum on Mother’s Day has got. Like their parents’ birthdays, our daughters are under the impression that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a general day of celebration – i.e. they will get to do and eat whatever they want, not the parent in question. The moment of disillusionment is always hard, sometimes provoking tears, sometimes tantrums.
I’m quite used to the egotism of young children by now. Yet on occasions like Mother’s Day, I find it particularly hard to handle. One part of me says that it is indeed Mother’s Day, and that I deserve to be spoiled, and to get to choose what I want, for once. Another part of me, however, is so trained to put my children’s pleasure first, that I feel bad for insisting on having my own way. Particularly as my idea of a good time – Indian food and a nice walk somewhere – is diametrically opposed to the child’s ideal – chips and Monkeytown! These conflicting emotions mean I tend to be tense and irritable on Mother’s Day, which isn’t exactly conducive to a fun day, for anyone.
It is ironic that the driving force behind both sides of my Mother’s Day split personality is actually the same – social expectations. Society demands that parents put their children first, subjugating their own desires to the whims of their offspring. But society also propagates the sugary, commercially lucrative ideal of children behaving like little angels in honour of Mother’s Day. In both cases, the expectations are unrealistic, and put families under too much pressure.
Mother’s Day this year was the best yet. Mainly because, as my daughters grow up, we simply have much more in common. But how much better would Mother’s Day be, perhaps, if both parents and children stopped trying to perform the roles expected of them?
How much better would the other 364 days of the year be, too?