It struck me today that there is Catalogue Mother’s Day and there is Real Mother’s Day. The mums in Catalogue Mother’s Day have slept eight-plus hours and woken with flawless makeup, softly curled hair and pyjamas that manage to speak maternal care and feminine desirability all at once. They smile with quiet serenity as angelic, doe-eyed children press brightly wrapped parcels into their hands, and hunky husbands whisper words of gratitude and promises of waffles and bubble baths.
Catalogue Mother’s Day is not to be confused with Real Mother’s Day. The Real Mother’s Day mum has been woken three-hourly throughout the previous night, and the dryness of her throat suggests those few hours of sleep may have been spent eating sand. She stumbles groggily from the bedroom: damp circles on the front of her shabby T-shirt, dark circles under her eyes and a head that feels like it is full of wool. Or maybe thick soup.
The Real Mother’s Day mum may well have a husband who is a pastor (and required to attend three church services, plus finish writing a sermon to preach in the evening) or perhaps in hospitality or another occupation that requires him to be elsewhere than at her beck and call for the day. Or she may be a single mum with no one on hand to remind the kids to put a raincheck on all tantrums, whining and explosive poos for the day.
Even for those with a loving partner on hand, Mother’s Day is not without its challenges. Dividing the day equitably between mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers and step-mothers can leave little opportunity for the Real Mother’s Day mum to enjoy an uninterrupted cup of tea, let alone breakfast in bed or a leisurely bath.
Mother’s Day is about celebrating what it means to be a mum. Today I was reminded that being a mum on 12th May – as on any other day – is about living out a long string of moments: bright, gorgeous moments that fill your heart, mundane moments that are quickly forgotten, challenging moments that seriously test your self-control.
Here are a few of my Real Mother’s Day moments for 2013:
Elijah had a cold, so I felt unprepared to deny him extra breastfeeds through the night. However when he woke squawking for attention at 6am, a mere two hours since the last feed, I decided in desperation to try cuddles in bed rather than another feed. I watched his little body relax as I laid him in the warm nest between us. His eyes latched onto my face and his mouth gaped with the purest joy. He tossed his head back and forth for a few minutes, settling in, babbling happily about his new situation. And every time he turned to me, I was offered that big gummy grin that miraculously smoothed away the frustration of hours of broken sleep.
“Here’s your breakfast in bed, Mummy!” Lily announced, setting a pink slipper on the coffee table with a flourish. Inside were two plastic sausages, a plastic tomato and something that came from the inside of a tap (“your candle”). Ok, so strictly speaking it was the afternoon, and I was reclining on the couch rather than the bed. But who’s going to split hairs? Besides, I really hate crumbs in bed, and there were definitely none this time.
Even when you’re pretty sure daddy and daughter were making the card while you were making your coffee, a homemade card is impossible for any mummy to resist. Mine was replete with sparkly stickers, coloured texta and a message that read, Dear Mummy, I love mummies! I think you’re lovely beautiful. Happy Mother’s Day! Love from Lily and Elijah! I was also presented with a whole box of baklava – my favourite sweet – from a Mediterranean patisserie that’s recently opened just around the corner. We’re talking eight flaky, honeyed morsels of goodness. Mmmm!
After an hour spent fighting sleep at church, and despite my earnest efforts of noise and distraction, Elijah fell asleep in the five-minute car ride home. But then, as a special Mother’s Day gift, he actually allowed himself to be successfully transferred to his cot where he slept soundly for a further hour and a half. And while Lily busied herself feeding Bunny and Pink Bear a soup made from toast crusts, water and stickers, I ignored the piles of laundry waiting to be folded and sat in semi-peace with the newspaper, a second coffee and said sweet treat (As Lily declared recently, “I wish I was the Mummy of you, cause then I could have lots of food as I wanted”. Can’t argue with that).
This year, Jeremy’s sister and her family are over from Papua New Guinea, and we have been enjoying regular family Sunday lunches. Of course, all the planning, shopping, cooking and washing up inevitably falls on the shoulders of the women in the family. However, for Mother’s Day, my sister-in-law had the inspired idea that the dads should organise lunch. So we ended up with chicken, hot chips and salad served on paper plates and eaten on picnic rugs on the lounge-room floor. This was followed up with homemade cookies and Mexican hot chocolate in the backyard. Then while the boys cleaned up, Elijah slept in the pram and Lily hunted dinosaur-ants with her girl cousins, I sat and chatted with Jeremy’s sister. Lovely. For once, Sunday lunch was actually a relaxed experience for the women of the family.
I know I’m biased, but I love Lily’s songs. I love it when she stands tall and straight against the wall and proudly busts out a tune she’s just made up. I’ll admit that today’s song, about five of her soft toys that were jammed on the couch, was not the most inspired: “There’s no more space, there’s no more space, there’s no more space!” But when I worked in a line about “kissing your face,” Lily rewarded me with a gleeful laugh and an encouraging, “I love your songs, Mum!” It was a nice mummy/ daughter duet.
Sundays are my I don’t care night when it comes to dinner. They are always busy, Jeremy is at church for the evening and often (as was the case on Mother’s Day) the afternoon too. Our Mother’s Day dinner was “Easy Mac” from a box watching Brambly Hedge. Not great, but I was exhausted, Elijah overtired and fussy, and we all needed the comfort of quick carbs and cute mice.
On this, my third Mother’s Day, it was good to ponder how much I cherish my two children: my funny, imaginative, sometimes exasperating little girl and my chubby-cheeked, sunny baby boy. There are moments when I look at them and am caught off guard with a flood of wonder and amazement that I get to be their mum. They are a blessing and I thank God for the gift of them in my life.
Nevertheless, when bath-time comes, I am always grateful that they are well on the way to being tucked up in bed! This evening seemed to be a particularly fraught battle to get them into the bath, with Elijah wanting to be held and Lily wanting to do everything in “three-year-old-time”. Then, once in the bath, Lily started having an emotional melt-down because the bubbles were popping too fast (ever heard of First World problems, kiddo?), and I could feel myself gearing up to deliver a sharp reprimand. But just as I was about to speak, I looked down and saw that Elijah still had his socks on in the bath! The next moment, Lily and I were both hooting uncontrollably with laughter, while Elijah looked on, bemused. It was a good way to end the day.
So there you have it: my Real Mother’s Day in a nutshell. It’s pretty far from the glossy catalogue version, but given the choice, I know which one I’d pick every time.
What were your Real Mother’s Day moments?