After my mother-in-law passed away this week, a bittersweeet Mother's Day
PUBLISHED: 09:46 01 April 2019
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A bittersweet Mother’s Day less than a week after my husband’s mother passed away and a thank you from one mother to another.
I write this after Mother’s Day, when my children – birthed and by marriage – treated me like the Queen I have always aspired to be.
For years I thought that Mother’s Day worked on the principle that you can treat your dear old Mum like a domestic drudge for 364 days of the year and then wipe the slate clean for the cost of a card and a bunch of flowers from the garage which have been Mother’s Day-ed up with a sticker that says I Heart Mum.
It’s a bit like your employer spending an entire day being really nice to you – letting you come into work a little bit later, buying you a pot plant for your desk, making you a nice cup of tea and telling you how much they appreciate you – and then not bothering to pay you for the rest of the year.
Every year the Brits spend around £100 million on Mother’s Day, which coincidentally falls on the same date as Retailers’ Money Spinning Day and Florists’ Mark Up the Price Day.
A hundred million pounds is a lot of money. It makes me wonder who got the rest of my share, taking into account the fact that one year I got a homemade card with a teabag taped to it and an I Love Mum mug from the 99p shop. Which of course, if my children are reading, I adored (I am still scarred by the pasta necklace which I was pressured into wearing on a day out which, when it rained, turned into a murky brown semolina which spread across my chest – to be fair, this did remind me the days when my kids wore nappies).
The market has even worked out how to squeeze a few quid out of people who rather boringly only have one Mum to buy stuff for: these days, a press release I received said that on Mother’s Day we should also have taken the time to think about our grandmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers, aunts and friends who are Mums, or who would like to be Mums or who had “fractious relationships with their own Mum” – it was incredibly confusing.
Fast forward a few years and we’ll be sending cards to every single female we know, including our pets and all those women who don’t have kids because they selfishly want careers, lives of their own, cash of their own, more than three hours sleep and white sofas without Wagon Wheels welded to the arms (“Happy Respecting Your Right Not to be Mothers Day!).
The answer to all this rampant consumerism is, of course, for us all to rise up as one and declare that we will shun future Mother’s Days and simply be nice to our Mums all year round without prompting from card shops or florists.
But back in the real world, where people genuinely do appear to need reminding that the maid in the kitchen actually gave birth to them, it seems unlikely that we can do away with Mother’s Day entirely: for a start, being nice all year might cost considerably more than a fiver and secondly if Mother’s Day was outlawed, the retailers would only come up with something even more all-encompassing, which would involve us buying cards and presents for everyone we know, regardless of whether we like them or not.
Oh hang on, they already did: Christmas.
However: when your children are older, Mother’s Day improves dramatically. Not one of the kids made me a teabag card this year, one of them even made me an actual cup of tea. And moaning aside, this year Mother’s Day felt bittersweet: my husband’s lovely Mum passed away on Wednesday morning, a matter of days before her 85th birthday and after a life well lived.
While I spent Mother’s Day seeing my own Mum and being spoilt by my kids, for him it was the first Mother’s Day without a Mother – the first Mother’s Day when saying thank you meant remembering rather than sending a card.
So, thank you, Alma, for all that you did and for everything you meant to the people who loved you and who will miss you so much – and from one mother to another, thank you for your son: a good job, well done. Time to have a rest, now.