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Mother’s Day Reality

* This ‘letter’ was inspired by a conversation with a family member, a ‘Young Mum’ of two small children.
I began writing three years ago on Mother’s Day night, never completed and it has sat in drafts all this time. Polishing and publishing now as I feel my reflections are still relevant.

Dear ‘Young Mum’,
I’ve been thinking about your phone call tonight, when you rang to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day” you shared your disappointment of how your secret hopes for the day with your two little ones hadn’t eventuated, that you didn’t have the day of mothering dreams. You then kindly inquired of me “How was your Mother’s Day?” and I responded “Great.” Reflecting afterwards I realised my response wasn’t helpful, nor supportive, whilst I choose to focus on the positive when I answered, by not divulging the full picture I possibly added to your disheartened feeling. I may have given a false impression that my children, husband and life must all be ‘perfect.’ The truth is my day wasn’t entirely “great,” it was made up of great and not so great moments and emotions, a kaleidoscope, a reflection of my life.

 Mother’s Day 2012

The full picture? My day started at 4am with a child who wet his bed, which then necessitated a shower. Whilst he was enjoying his steamy shower and warming up I was freezing and shivering in thin pajamas and bare feet, tired and keen to get my feet off the tiles I sat on the toilet seat lid and …. cracked it!! When I finally managed to stagger back to bed and fall asleep again, I nurtured a hope I might be able to manage a sleep in, a forlorn hope. Yet my heart couldn’t help but melt when the same child, our three year old sat up in my bed at 6am, yes of course he went back to sleep in our bed, and excitedly wished me, “Happy Birthday Mother’s Day Mummy. ”  I then discovered there were actually now four children in bed with us, coming in sometime between 4.30am and 6am and I hadn’t even been aware of most ‘arrivals.’ 
*These days we no longer wake to several children in our bed and oddly enough some mornings we miss those moments

We’d attended Mass together the night before, which I tell our children is the greatest gift they can give me, not that we often go separately but one day they will be grown, so for now I treasure these years. Though we were missing one for the first time, with our girl far away, however we still I had a pew full.
*Sadly as the children have left home our ‘ranks’ are indeed thinner and our pew isn’t quite as full.

This year (2012) was our first celebration of Mother’s Day without our oldest daughter as she had left home for College. Her presence was keenly missed on many levels. However I viewed it as an opportunity for the younger children to ‘step up,’ as it eventuated it was also an ‘opportunity’ for my blood pressure to rise several times. Mother’s Day morning the children were to set the table with the ‘special food’ whilst I headed for the shower and some ‘time to myself’ which I was looking forward to. A ‘not so great’ moment erupted right outside the bathroom door and teenage son’s room, when two small boys had a screaming fight. With them wailing and teen snapping because they had rudely awoken him, and it is rare for him to lose it, I abandoned shower plans, marched said children up to their father, who was still abed, grrr, snapped at him and marched back to showers where I regathered my equilibrium. Because by golly this was going to be a happy day.
*Said teen has now left home and I’d be happy to have him back home snapping any day

Mother’s Day 2012

Breakfast was eventually organised, though some missed the point on a few areas a little, like waiting for the guest of honor, did I mention I missed my oldest girl? Still I had to give points for trying and this was going to be a happy day. The day progressed, I spent a happy hour on the phone with my daughter, from whom the most beautiful gift arrived a day later, so thoughtful it made me cry:)
*As time has passed the children who didn’t wait are now the children who organised my mother’s day this year and made me ‘Queen for the Day’

At 12pm I snapped, obviously my children didn’t see the state of the house, it never occurred to them to magically clean it as a gift for me, did I mention I missed our girl?  Mother Drill Sargent ‘arrived’, I rallied the troops and set them to cleaning, whilst there were grumbles they mostly set to with a will. The lack of initiative is soo frustrating at times, though they are excellent at working once the task is set.
*Today initiative makes an appearance far oftener, ah maturity how I love thee

Traditionally in our home I enjoy a picnic for mother’s day.  Now there’s a whole food mystique surrounding mother’s day, a lot of expectations and rituals centered on food. Many mothers long for a ‘day off’ from meal preparation, realistically, if we are lucky we may not have to prepare the meals but the majority of mothers will still have to plan and shop for their mother’s day groceries.  Your man and your children are not mind readers, if you have something special in mind for your day and want it to happen, best plan is to pre-shop for it yourself, it took me a few years of motherhood to realise this. Our loved ones are happy to do their best on the day but prior shopping will make the world of difference between success and disappointment. As I’d previously shopped for a simple picnic lunch it was only a matter of the children packing the bag.  Blood pressure control was needed again as the children took an inordinate time to pack, obviously missing big sister’s organisation skills, however younger sister (10) did a good job of ‘stepping up’ and a big brother helped. Another teen was asked to clean the van, whilst he wasn’t happy to do the job he said not a word (ah maturity ‘how I love thee’:) frustratingly another child annoyed me by readying himself but didn’t help nor think of others and then gave me attitude. However I sorted it all out and settled back to my happy frame of mood.
*The child who didn’t think of others is today my ‘right hand man’, he truly is impressive

Mother’s Day 2012

We headed down to our local tennis courts and enjoyed a few games of tennis in the sunshine, an activity which we enjoy yet don’t do often. As we lingered over our picnic lunch together I realised how lovely it was to ‘step out of our rut’ and take the time to enjoy one another’s company.
*Three years later the picnic at the tennis courts and Anna Maria’s phone call and gift is the only part of the day I would have remembered, if it wasn’t for my draft notes

When we came home I made dinner, with help. Most years the children take on this responsibility yet they didn’t this year but I didn’t mind as I’d had a lovely day.

All these years later I can’t remember how the day ended (obviously I didn’t jot that down in drafts) but I assume a mixture of great and not so great moments. ‘Young Mum’ I hope that by fully divulging my “great” you take heart, you are not alone, the reality is motherhood is a kaleidoscope, and truly it is “great.”

*Years have passed and Mother’s Day this year was celebrated without three of our children; one is ‘across the seas’, currently in London, two sons live in Sydney. Holding onto these years, they are moving fast.

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  • Marijke

    Although this year was quite good for us too, it sounds very familiar!
    Dirty nappies up to their shoulder blades, throwing up over the carpet, blender with a wobbly lid, all after a very broken night.
    It’s not that these things won’t happen because its Mothers Day…

    • Erin

      Not surprised you could relate with your little ones, life is crazy sometimes but rich.
      Yes sometimes we're sort of surprised 'life' keeps happening on special days

  • Mary

    I love your honesty. And it's the little things added up, is t it? I love seeing the torch handed to the younger siblings. They will do it differently, but still special.
    My kids asked many times if it was still Mother's Day in the late afternoon, as if the strain of making it a "perfect day" was too much. I don't ask for a perfect anything, but I'm happy they want to try to make it special.

    • Erin

      thanks Mary:) Yes it is the little things. 'The torch' is a good way to explain it and it happens in many areas.
      Children trying to make the day special is most helpful in encouraging them to put others first

  • Cassie Williams

    Much enjoyed reading! I'm not a fan of Mother's Day. If my children or husband wants to treat me special I would prefer they did that on their own and not because it's Mother's Day. It feels forced and unnatural. Mother's should be treated nicely every moment of every day. I haven't been able to get anyone to see my view point and people think I'm weird (and really have been unpleasant towards my feelings over the matter). So, Mother's Day is usually a very upsetting day for me.

    • Erin

      i do understand what you are saying, we tend to look at Valentine's day similarly. But then again MD can be a good reminder to consciously remind all to be grateful and take the time to be self-giving, though I agree it should and can be like that all the time. Sad to hear it's an upsetting day for you xx

  • Ingi Mc

    Oh how I love this post! The realities of motherhood are the good and the not-so-good. These special occasion days are so often fraught with disappointment. What I really loved was the perspective that things change, the kids get older, they mature, they improve with age, but they go, off to live their lives because you were their mother. But it is nice to be looked after for a change instead of doing the looking after 🙂

    • Erin

      Ingi, thank you! Yes motherhood is a mix isn't it. We can indeed build them up to more than they can be. Oh thank you:) Yes perspective, maturity both highly appreciated!

  • Sarah @ Tomfo

    I love this, what a great way to remind yourself of what really matters, I love your recap, I'm being thankful for all the wonderful things my little guy does (good and bad, it's all part of growing up and knowing the difference), he will be all grown up before I know it, this year he bought me cereal in bed, I just loved it. x

    • Erin

      Polishing the piece from drafts, it was actually a fascinating process to write with the recaps for myself. He will indeed grow 'in the blink of an eye'. Just priceless him bringing you cereal in bed:) xx

    • Erin

      The day became far happier when I adjusted my expectations (and realised help was needed for planning and executing). Just giggling over your lad unwrapping your gifts!:)

  • jen mackintosh

    Erin, I read this and found myself nodding my head, smiling knowingly, and understanding more and more the reality that our kids won't always be here. It's treasured…and bittersweet, these days, aren't they? I love your analogy of "kaleidoscope" because in stepping back, it IS beautiful, but you never know quite how all the colorful pieces of a given day are going to fall into place until the day starts to turn! Your letter is brilliant, real and encouraging and I'm glad you pulled it out of drafts to post!

    • Erin

      Jen, yes more and more we're realising these days won't always be here, bittersweet indeed. Why thank you for your lovely words:) xx

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