All I really want for Mother’s Day is a few minutes to myself
What do mums want on Mother’s Day? More than flowers, chocolates or any other go-to treats, one in two says their top treat would be to spend more time with their children, according to new research by “experience” gifts company Red Letter Days.
This shows how warped the occasion is, and how it messes with our minds. We might think we want this – but do we really? Don’t we spend quite enough time picking up their Lego and having them reject what we’ve cooked? Perhaps the women surveyed actually meant “more time alone” – but couldn’t admit this for fear of sounding weird. When my three kids were little all I wanted on Mother’s Day was 1) To feel appreciated and 2) Peace. Shamefully, that wasn’t world peace – but five minutes to myself.
Easy, you might think. Make her a cuppa, let her go off to the bathroom and don’t bang on the door, asking how long she’s going to be. Yet it’s not quite so simple as that. “Many experience Mother’s Day disappointment year after year as the reality doesn’t live up to expectations,” says chartered psychologist Catherine Hallissey. “A mother may feel that this is the one day where her family will show appreciation for all she does. In reality, it’s often forgotten, not celebrated or celebrated in a tokenistic way – leaving her feeling even more unappreciated.”
So the occasion backfires. A mother of two, who asked not to be named, says: “My husband would never take the kids out to buy something for me. I might get a last-minute card from Moonpig, and he might show them some stuff on Amazon – on my account – that I’ll pay for to have sent to me.” As Hallissey puts it: “The reality often bears little in common with the image presented in ads or on social media.”
It seems that even well-intentioned presents often miss the mark. In the Red Letter Days survey, 42 per cent of mums admitted that they have thrown away, regifted or never used a Mother’s Day gift. As an added complication, chances are that Dad played a part in this. After all, a small child can’t take themselves to Jo Malone or Hotel Chocolat and make an informed choice. When my kids were small, I enjoyed their wonky homemade gifts (a picture made from pasta and glitter, or a digestive biscuit slathered in jam) far more than a rubbishy card snatched in haste from the corner shop.
One year the occasion appeared to have been forgotten entirely. I stumbled out of our house with the dog and walked him for miles with tears streaming down my face. I felt ridiculous, blubbing like a baby over a commercialised event. Yet I believed strongly that I deserved recognition, after all the years of mass catering and homework supervision, and having my Chanel powder compact ruined by being held underneath a running tap.
I trooped home to be met with a bunch of panic-bought carnations.
Learning from mistakes
It took days for me to simmer down from the injustice of it all. Next year had to be better, I warned my family. So my husband booked a family dinner at a lacklustre Italian restaurant in Glasgow city centre. We emerged to find the street taped off as a crime scene and splattered in blood. It wasn’t my husband’s fault that the pizzas had the texture of roof tiles and nearly broken our teeth. Nor was he responsible for the Rangers vs Celtic fixture that afternoon, and the violence that had followed it. However, for me it summed up the rubbishness of Mother’s Day, and we’ve never celebrated it in a restaurant again.
The trouble is that the business of parenting doesn’t come with performance reviews or much in the way of positive feedback. So we look upon Mother’s Day to fill that gap – which it cannot possibly do. “It can also bring up mixed feelings about mothering,” adds Catherine Hallissey. “Maybe you’re grieving the loss of your mother, or the relationship with her you never had. There can be many reasons why Mother’s Day is complicated.”
She recommends “filling your emotional cup in the week leading up to it so you feel more grounded. Do things that make you feel good to celebrate your motherhood.”
These days, as my kids have grown up, I don’t expect anything more than a call to show they’re thinking of me. Just as well, as my sons – who live 400 miles away – regard navigating the post office as “a logistical nightmare”.
In fact, the focus has switched from expecting presents and fuss to checking in with my fellow “mum friends”. We wish each other a happy Mother’s Day and tell each other how brilliant we all are. It’s a lot more boosting than chrysanthemums grabbed from a supermarket bucket, as Rachel Peru, a model from Halifax, would agree.
Her podcast, Out of the Bubble, celebrates women in midlife – so it’s no surprise that she has Mother’s Day all wrapped up. “Three friends and I have kids who were all at school together,” she says. “Every Mother’s Day since they were little, we’ve gone away on a girls’ weekend to London together. They’re all in their twenties now and we still go – there’s no better Mother’s Day gift than some time for ourselves.”
Fiona Gibson’s new novel, ‘The Man I Met on Holiday’, is published by Avon