Elma Family Kitty Pause for Thought Photography Pip

The Mother’s Day Conundrum

03/03/2016

Space for the Butterflies - the Mother's Day Conundrum

I only realised that it was Mother’s Day this week when Kitty came home from school absolutely bursting to tell me big secret that she wasn’t allowed to tell.  I suspect that if H had been canny about it he could possibly have got away without us marking the day at all, at least where I’m concerned, although the Brownies at church proffering the traditional three daffodils might have given the game away.

But it’s made me think perhaps a little bit more than usual about Mother’s Day, and its origins, and why we’re celebrating.

The roots of Mother’s Day seem to be buried in Ancient Greek and Roman festivals to celebrate goddesses of motherhood, and their focus was clearly fertility and the miracle of birth – always a great idea but we’re a few millennia further down the line from that and I don’t think that motherhood is or should be quite so tightly bound to actually giving birth; while giving birth will make you a mother, not all mothers have given birth. It’s like a lovely little venn diagram where one circle sits neatly inside the other.  So what does the modern incarnation (circa the last hundred or so years) celebrate? If you believed the hype and the greetings card industry it’s an opportunity to thank your mother for all the hard work she does in bringing you up; all the washing and cooking and cleaning and shopping, baking cakes for the school fete, looking after you when you’re sick, all the times she is simply there when you need her.  The cynic in me would say that it’s one lovely giant pink, purple and pale blue stereotype bound up in chocolate and overpriced flowers, but commercialisation aside, that’s a lovely thing to celebrate; to say thank you for the tasks that never stay done and that go unnoticed in the everyday ordinary chaos of life.

Space for the Butterflies - the Mother's Day Conundrum

Except … in our family, the person doing most of those tasks isn’t actually me any more.  I’m not saying I do nothing; I cook and clean and play silly games, and look after cross and poorly children, and hug and kiss and tuck little girls into bed and cuddle and nurse a little boy each night until he falls asleep, but the primary childcare in our house is done by H.  It’s H who does most of the cleaning, H who shops and who cooks every week night supper, H who does school runs and playgroup and gym class and tries to track down missing library books and encourages Kitty in her reading homework. So should it be H who we spoil, H who gets the praise and gratitude for the things that he does to keep this family sailing through calm waters?

I am a mother, and becoming Mama to these three completed a part of me that I didn’t know was missing.  I truly don’t believe that I am any less of their Mama or any less of a mother because I work, and because a lot of the stereotype is picked up by H and not by me.  Nor do we feel particularly odd or out of place; I’m not the only woman in my office with a stay at home husband, and while the parenting groups H takes the littlest two to are mostly mothers, he’s not unique or even considered a novelty. It’s interesting though that in all of the “thanks Mum for doing my stinky laundry” cards around, there isn’t a “thanks Mum for bringing home the bacon” or a “thanks for being a feminist role model” (I’m feeling a business opportunity coming along here).

It got me wondering though, if we’ve already swapped all of the traditional roles in our family, should we be swapping this one too?  Should we be buying H flowers and a smelly candle and sending him off to have a bath on Sunday for some “me time”? (he says yes please!) And then in June do I get slippers and a tie clip and sent out for a round of golf?

But most importantly, and I think this is the crux of the matter, who gets the lie in on Sunday – H or me?*

Answers, and fully reasoned arguments as to why the answer is me, in the comments please!

*Note: I should point out that this question is purely rhetorical because (a) I’m a morning person and H isn’t and (b) if Kitty has to wait one moment past dawn on Sunday to spring her surprise I think she might just burst.

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  • Mandycharlie 03/03/2016 at 7:57 am

    You know there is Father’s Day in June? My sons tell me it’s just a Hallmark holiday (yet look for Easter Eggs and are atheists) and try their utmost to do nothing, which means I normally get upset every year. Enjoy your day, Kitty sounds like she’s got it covered.

    • Carie 07/03/2016 at 10:29 pm

      She did good – she drew me a card and gave me some sweeties which she and Elma promptly ate – it was perfect!

  • sustainablemum 03/03/2016 at 8:19 am

    Hmmm. Not sure on that one. My mother never believed in it and neither do I really. I would always hope that my family appreciate me all the time rather than just on one day of the year, whatever contribution I make to family life. As a child I was always led to believe it was one of the few days in the year when those in service got to spend time with their own mothers and would be given the day off……….

    • Carie 07/03/2016 at 10:29 pm

      I remember hearing that explanation as a child too – That must have made it a very special day 🙂

  • Kim 03/03/2016 at 1:16 pm

    This was a fun post 🙂 And I say, do what feels right to you and your family. Enjoy your day!

    • Carie 07/03/2016 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you, we had family over so it was a special day for all of us 🙂

  • Winwick Mum 03/03/2016 at 2:43 pm

    I was listening to a vicar talking about Mothering Sunday this morning and her belief was that the day was originally one for people to return to their “mother” church which later turned into a family day, particularly for those children who were sent out to work in service from as young as 10 years old. It doesn’t really matter to me what the origins are, but the sentiment is still a good one, and family days in particular should be precious time. In my view, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a time to take a moment to reflect and thank our parents, and two separate days means that we get to think about it twice. I don’t think you appreciate it quite so much until the day that your parents aren’t there any more, but any day that celebrates the family and reminds the members that we are all here by choice and love, not by compulsion, has to be a good one. Enjoy your lie in – however you look after your family means that you deserve it xx

    • Carie 07/03/2016 at 10:26 pm

      Thank you, we both had a lovely day – and Kitty made me a fabulous card!

  • Preeta Samarasan 03/03/2016 at 4:25 pm

    Haven’t got an answer to your question, but the bit about whether your husband should get flowers and a smelly candle and some “me” time reminded me of this most excellent Twitter account:

    https://twitter.com/manwhohasitall

    • Carie 07/03/2016 at 10:26 pm

      Oh that was one wonderful rabbit hole I just fell down – too funny for words, thank you 🙂

  • Sally 31/03/2016 at 9:12 pm

    Well I hope you had a wonderful day anyway, it sounds like Kitty knew what kind of day it should be, and that is the best kind of Mothers’ Day I think. As for your dilemma now you’re back at work, forget all the commercialism and stereotyped messages out there, we’re surrounded by that for just about everything in life anyway – Mothers’ Day is for celebrating you, everything you put into the family and your lives together, a day for your family to try and make you feel special, and ditto for Fathers’ Day for H.