Today is the 36th year I have been a Mother on Mothers Day, and the 37th year I have not had a Mum myself to spoil on the day. Becoming a Mum within six months of losing a Mum was a difficult thing to deal with. A first baby is as terrifying as it is amazing and to not have the one person who has shown you what a Mum can be beside you is a challenge. Those first months of the ‘happy/sad’ moments, anniversaries without Mum, and firsts with darling son, all are jumbled and mixed in my memory. I got through it, made up as much of the Mothering I could, and eventually managed to raise four wonderful children into functioning and thoughtful adults. This alone amazes me. Today, on Mothers day we will be together apart, messages and phone calls will suffice.
One year my daughter sent me a card which read, ‘sometimes I need a Mum and sometimes I need a friend, thanks for always knowing which one I need you to be!’ This made me think about the value of a Mum who can also be a friend, and how this can be so.
When I became a Mum I was always clear that I did not want to own my children, that I did not want to control them, beyond the necessary controls to keep them safe and well. I was influenced by The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran, who says, ‘your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself, they come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you,.. you are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
This has always made sense to me, the thought that I can influence and inform, can care and comfort but the belief that I must let them be their own person. This has proved challenging over the years. Maybe I should have been firmer, I could, perhaps, have stopped them making some mistakes, but then they would also have missed the learning that surely follows each wrong choice. I have been there to mop up tears, to celebrate success and in truth I wouldn’t change a thing.
My Mum’s mothering was very different to mine, and I understand totally her need to keeping us safe and instructing us in the ways of the world. She did a great job. Every time I am faced with a difficulty, which has been often over the years, I can hear Mum’s voice telling me to keep trying and to never give up. When I have been challenged beyond my imagination, I have felt her beside me, calmly and patiently helping me through. Memories of childhood are all about Mum and Nina, Mum’s mum who lived with us. They had a tempestuous relationship, but between them they ensured that my sister and I had a real sense of how women can achieve and how we can be the people we want to be in the world. For this I thank you Mum, you gave me a great gift.
So this is being a Mother. Sometimes you are a Mum, and sometimes you are a friend, Always you will be the one who loves unconditionally, who forgives and forgets, who supports and celebrates success. You are also the one who spends hours thinking about your children, who pointlessly worries about each of them, for in thirty odd years I have learned that me worrying does not alter anything at all.
You are also the one who can stand in your kitchen surrounded by adults, all taller than you, and listen to the discussions, the laughter the friendship between those people who are your children, and you can feel the love in the room.
Happy Mothers Day to all the amazing Mothers out there. It is a tough gig, being a Mum, but one that pays more than all the treasure in the world.