Everybody has a mother. Some people have two mothers. Or three, or four, very special women in their lives who help lead, look after and wipe up after them. Others may have lost their mother while young, or she may have left and never returned, or they could have been born of a test tube and implanted in a new mammy. Regardless of how one comes into the world, everybody has 50% of their chromosomes belonging to a lady out there in the universe.
Personally I have been very lucky. I was the first born of a great mother, who very much wanted me, gave up work to care for me and was both kind and strict in the right measures that led to a solid and happy upbringing. We can talk about the not letting me out to discos until I had grey hair later.
When I was young my mother used to mention that there were people who did not have such a happy home life. This was usually after I turned my nose up at second day roast beef on a Monday. ‘There are people out there who would love to have a hot dinner handed to them,’ she would cry in exasperation. ‘Who Mammy?’ I would demand, keen to know this fact which certainly sounded like gossip. ‘Never you mind,’ she would answer. And then I would think about the kids in school who were always in trouble and fighting and had many children in their family and wondered was it them. It was.
It took some years to realise that not everybody lived in a happy family with Mammy and Daddy. Every picture story we read depicted Mammy Bear, Daddy Bear and Baby Bear. Disney tried to show us that some people did not have Mammys. Bambi. Pinocchio. Snow White and her evil Step Mother. But they all lived happily ever after. Their stories didn’t end in teenage pregnancy and drug abuse and poverty so bad that they lived on cereal for a week.
Since then of course I have encountered relationships through friends and acquaintances where a mother has been lost, or chose to leave or is not in a position to maintain a loving relationship with their child. And the scars run deep.
Hoarders, the modern day freak shows which grace our screens every night (thanks Channel 4) collect garbage and thrash and build their homes into cocoons of comforting stuff. The psychologists roll out and find a picture of Mum among the rubble and ask the hoarder about their relationship. And then the tears start. Turns out the hoarding is related to having lost their mother young. And the hoard is a womb.
In the novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver examines the difficult, strained and complex relationship between Eva and her son Kevin. Is Eva to blame for the child and adult that Kevin becomes? Can you change a personality once it is born? If you try very hard and fail, are you a bad mother or do you have a bad child?
Psycho babble aside, I can’t help but think today about all the people across the UK and Ireland (Mothering Sunday takes place at different times throughout the world) who don’t have a Mum to bring out to dinner today. Today must be the most bitter of days. And there is no getting away from it. I also think about those women who are trying desperately to become Mums, who are dealing with the fact that they have left it too late or their body is not capable or who have brought a child into the world only to lose them again.
It’s easy to dismiss today as a capitalist money grab, designed to feed the card and flower companies. And it partly is. But, it’s also a day to take time out and think about, appreciate and let your mother know that you love her. And for the love and good feeling it creates, I am happy to take part.
In just over four months, I will become a mother. I am half way to creating a new life. Up until now, it’s been easy to not think about things in detail. So many things can go wrong that you don’t quite believe there is a baby being formed in there. But the bump is growing. And we’ve started looking at buggies.
I am looking forward to Mother’s Day next year, when hopefully I can celebrate with my own little one. And then the real journey will start. Will I turn out like Eva with a child from hell, or will I be more like my own Mam; loving and caring with the driest sense of humour known to womankind? I know which one I”m hoping for.