Today is my first Mother’s Day as a mother. So what did I expect from it? Flowers? A card? A day off? In truth I got a lovely card with a sticky breakfast handprint on it from Penny (and Fraggle, one of my cats, had also chewed the corner of it in recognition of his love for his human mummy). I sacrificed the flowers when, in a moment of weakness, husband dearest said I could have the new toy I wanted (a Kindle Fire). The day off? Well what do you think? There was still a dinner to be prepared, washing to be done and a baby to be looked after. Plus all the extra things that we just don’t have the time or the energy to get done during the week, like reminding the carpet what a hoover is, mowing the lawn before it turns into a jungle, or that ever present, ever growing DIY list.
Yesterday I felt thoroughly miserable. I often seem to be on Saturdays and I’ve done a lot of thinking about why that may be. Monday to Friday my day is entirely focused around Penny. Feeding, napping, playing, reading stories, comforting… The list goes on. I often go out to baby activities and to meet other mums. There’s nothing like sharing tales of lack of sleep and teething troubles to keep things in perspective and maintain my sanity. But every week I find I am counting down the days until the weekend. Not just because I actually get to spend some time with my husband and not just for that wonderful feeling of going to bed on Saturday night knowing that he will be doing the many night get-ups that night and I won’t be the one watching CBeebies through bleary eyes at 6am. Somehow I expect weekends to be different. We will be sharing the parenting duties, so surely that means I can have some time off – a little bit of ‘me time’?
But as Saturday commences, reality hits. As I run through the standard morning rituals in my pyjamas, not wanting to disturb my husband from his one lie-in of the week, I know that once he is up and we’re both dressed and ready to face the world there will be a list a mile long of things I want to catch up with and he wants to get done. Selfishly, part of me wants him to put all his things on hold and take the parenting lead. I have, after all, been doing it all week. But he’s been at work all week and has things he needs to do. Ultimately it’s the down-time that gets pushed to one side as the to-do list goes on and on. By late afternoon yesterday I had reached breaking point. One mention by my husband about the house being a tip (which, to be honest, it pretty much was) launched me into a tirade about how hard it is looking after a baby all day – every day, followed by twenty minutes of hysterical sobbing.
There was a positive outcome to this drama, however. Hysterics out of my system and baby in bed, we agreed that we needed to make changes. We sat down and wrote a list of what we wanted and needed to get done today, then prioritised it and set out a schedule for the day including down-time for each of us. So today I didn’t mind the solo parenting whilst at the same time sorting the washing, making up the next batch of milk bottles and preparing a roast dinner. I didn’t mind the frantic running around with the hoover. I didn’t even mind letting the lovely Sunday Roast start to get cold while I fed Penny the milk she so timely decided she wanted. Because I knew that this afternoon I had scheduled two uninterrupted hours of me-time. Time to browse the internet, to read, to write this, to enter endless competitions (one of my guilty pleasures). Whatever I want. And this isn’t just for today. We plan to do this every weekend from now on. We will take a bit of time on Friday evening to prioritise and schedule what needs to be done that weekend, and central to every weekend will be that non-negotiable, oh so important down-time for each of us. Knowing this has made me happier and more relaxed. That is the best Mother’s Day present I could ask for.
So my message for all this Mother’s Day is this. Mother’s Day is not just about flowers, or chocolates, or breakfast in bed. It’s not even about giving mum the day off. Mother’s Day should have two essential aspects. Firstly, it is about recognising that being a mum is a 24/7 job, 365 days a year. If you’re not with your children you’re thinking about them or preparing things for them. Being a mum comes before absolutely anything else and that means you are never off duty. It is not an easy job. As well as being the most rewarding job in the world it is tiring and stressful. A recent column in the Telegraph highlighted research by Kiddicare which states nine out of ten mums exaggerate about how well they are coping. So if a mum seems to be handling everything well and claims they are doing just fine it doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses. If they say they are struggling take it seriously and do not think they are making a fuss. Secondly, it is about thinking what you can do to support mums of whatever age in your life. Not just on the one day, but all through the year. For me, it is about having that guaranteed chunk of me-time every weekend. For some, it may me some practical help around the house, or a few hours of babysitting here and there. Maybe just a regular visit or phone-call.
As a mother, Mother’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning to me and given me a lot to think about. As a daughter, I now need to think about how I can take my own advice. I love my mum and appreciate everything she has done for me, and continues to do for me, even more so since I became a mum myself. I sent her the customary flowers and card, and will shortly be making the Mother’s Day phone-call. But I should now reflect on how I can support my mum all through the year.