JANET STREET-PORTER: It’s time to end the cult of Mum. It’s a hard truth, but Mother’s Day just fuels the myth that all mothers are perfect when most – like mine did – simply drive us nuts
Mother’s Day is the annual rip-off designed to make us feel guilty and spend money we don’t have on over-priced bouquets and boxes of chocolates. Money splashed out to make us, not our mothers, feel better for 24 hours.
I bet that most mums (over a certain age) would trade in the phoney messages of undying love, the TikTok cuddles and those wilting roses for an old-style face-to-face chat and a cup of tea.
Or, better still, a decent voucher for a meal out with pals of their own age, without a patronising son or daughter in sight.
Every year we collude with this myth that all mums are marvellous as we sign up to celebrate Mother’s Day. We buy soppy cards and cover them in kisses, order flowers and book the local pub for a slap-up meal to celebrating our wonderful mums. Some of us are even brave enough to cook them lunch at home, knowing that all mums probably think they could do the job better and why is our roast beef rare when she likes it well done.
Every Mother’s Day follows the same pattern: we express our thanks and love for our dear mums as best we can. For the other 364 days of the day, it’s situation normal – they regularly drive us nuts with their unwanted advice, their unstoppable nosiness, and their unerring ability to make us feel inadequate.
Mother’s Day is the annual rip-off designed to make us feel guilty and spend money we don’t have on over-priced bouquets and boxes of chocolates, writes JANET STREET-PORTER
Every other mum sentence starts ‘in my day’ as if your choice of kitchen gadget or use of ready-chopped onions is yet another sign you’ve failed the Wonderwoman test.
Mums constantly ring up and irritatingly ask if you got home ‘safely’ when you have just travelled round the corner. Treat you like a child even though you’re the wrong side of 40 or even 50. They nag us to remember the birthdays of people we haven’t seen since primary school.
They poke their noses into our diets and claim that (as mine did) that ‘every slice of cake is another inch on your waist’ and come out with comments like ‘has that dress shrunk at the cleaners?’ having just baked a sponge cake and made me eat a huge slice.
They visit our homes and walk around each room with one finger poking out, trailing it along all surfaces to check for dust, which then results in a sharp intake of breath.
They are guaranteed to arrive for any overnight visit having ‘forgotten’ their slippers/cardigan/spare sweater, so you immediately schedule a visit to the nearest Marks and Spencer to replenish the missing essentials. I call that trick ‘the absent daughter tax’.
Some mums will undoubtedly be saints, but not all are marvellous, and few of us will be brave enough to say that, especially at this holy time of year – the run-up to the most sacred 24 hours in any mum’s calendar – Mother’s Day.
Why isn’t there a Daughter’s Day (or even a Son’s Day), for all the women like me who had to endure a mum who drove them nuts? Who criticised everything I did, everything I wore, all my husbands – except the rather mature one who was nearer to her age than mine and with whom she shamelessly flirted.
Daughters have a worse time than sons because there’s the tricky subject of breeding. When my mother banged on about the lack of a grandchild, I told her to get a dog.
I realise that my mum was unusually demanding (I wrote a memoir called Baggage about our troubled relationship), but every year I am amazed that more women don’t come and out and shout out the unsayable – some women just aren’t cut out to be mums, and take their dissatisfaction with their lives out on their daughters.
The myth that all mums are perfect persists, when all the evidence indicates otherwise.
Tragically, some mother are in thrall to abusive partners, unable to defend their children.
Some mums will undoubtedly be saints, but not all are marvellous, and few of us will be brave enough to say that, especially at this holy time of year, writes JANET STREET-PORTER
Day after day the stories of child neglect never seem to diminish, Remember Baby Peter, dead at 17 months after shocking abuse by his mother Tracey and her sadistic partner? Shannon Matthews, kidnapped at 9 years old so her mum Karen could claim a ransom? Or Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, tortured to death aged 6, by his mother Emma and her partner, who made audio recordings of his suffering.
In spite of social services constantly issuing apologies and saying these deaths will never happen again, they do, with depressingly regularity. Handwringing doesn’t end the horrific abuse of children by their mothers.
This week, Leila Borrington was sentenced to 15 years in jail for manslaughter. Her son Harvey had been subjected to several attacks in the previous four months before his tragic death which left him with a broken arm and marks on his little face. In the end, Leila killed her son by slapping him around the head multiple times, and then filmed him as he lay dying.
And still we sign up to the myth that all mothers are marvellous, when it’s obvious that nurturing a child is challenging and not everyone is good at. Events like Mother’s Day place mothers on a pedestal, giving overworked and stressed mums more to fail at.
The cult of ‘mum’ and the advice they dish out from the moment a child is born has been highlighted in a survey carried out by the Post Office this week. It asked people whether they grew up following the advice all mothers try and pass on to their children.
The survey found that a third of us wished we’d listened to our mums, with one in five saying they realise now mum did know best. That surely means the majority of us disagree- that mums sometimes talk a load of complete rubbish.
My social life and career don’t seem to have suffered as a result of ignoring most of the unnecessary rules mum dished out when I was growing up. ‘Everything in moderation’ was one saying I refused to pay any attention to. Reading my teenage diaries recently, it’s obvious I spent at least two or three nights a week in nightclubs, returning home after 11 for yet another row. My skirts were super-short, my alcohol intake prodigious. And yet I survived and thrived.
What about the old chestnut ‘know when to say sorry’? I have never said sorry to any of the blokes I married, as sorry indicates accepting blame.
As for ‘A tidy house is a tidy mind’, tidiness is a sign of an empty mind, one that would rather spend time cleaning and dusting instead of reading a book and getting inspired.
‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’- clearly I have never bothered to follow that little rule. And neither did my mum, who never stopped short of giving me her opinion about everything I did or wore or any man I married.
I’ll drink a toast to my dear departed mum this Sunday – thanks for showing me how NOT to be.
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