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 complexions, softly curled hair and pyjamas that 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 spent the previous night feeding a fussy baby and possibly – if the dryness of her throat is anything to go by – eating sand. She stumbles groggily from the bedroom: damp circles on the front of her T-shirt matching the dark circles under her eyes.
The Real Mother’s Day mum may well have a husband whose job requires him to be elsewhere than at her beck and call for the day. Or she may be a single mum with no one to remind the kids to put a raincheck on tantrums, whining and explosive poos for the day. Even for those with an attentive partner on hand, Mother’s Day has its challenges. Dividing the day equitably between mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers and step-mothers can leave little opportunity for her to enjoy an uninterrupted cup of tea, let alone breakfast in bed or a leisurely bath.
Today I was reminded that being a mum on Mother’s Day – 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 can test your self-control.
Here are a few of my Real Mother’s Day moments:
1. A Sleep-In
When Elijah woke squawking for attention at 6am, after a difficult night, I decided to try cuddles in bed rather than another feed. I watched his little body relax and his mouth gape with the purest joy as I laid him in the warm nest between us. He tossed his head back and forth for a few minutes, settling in, babbling happily about his new situation. And every time his eyes latched onto my face, I was offered that big gummy grin that miraculously smoothed away the frustration of hours of broken sleep.
2. Breakfast in Bed
“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.
3. A Shower of Gifts
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 dictated by my three-year-old which read: “Dear Mummy, I love mummies! I think you’re lovely beautiful. Happy Mother’s Day!” I was also presented with a whole box of baklava – my favourite sweet.
4. Time to Yourself
Despite my earnest efforts of noise and distraction, Elijah fell asleep in the five-minute car ride home from church. But then, as a special gift, he allowed himself to be 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 when I wanted”. Can’t argue with that).
5. A Gourmet Lunch
In my experience, work for a family lunch inevitably falls on the shoulders of the women. 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 and chips served on paper plates and eaten on picnic rugs on the lounge-room floor. Then while the boys cleaned up, Elijah slept in the pram and Lily hunted dinosaur-ants outside with her cousins, I sat and chatted with my sister-in-law. Lovely!
6. Dinner and a Movie
Sundays – with my husband back at work – are my I don’t care night when it comes to dinner. Our Mother’s Day feast 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.
7. A Bubble Bath
Oh, my children are the air that I breathe and I adore them. Nevertheless, there comes a time every evening when I find myself counting down the minutes until the air that I breathe can be tucked up in bed.
This evening was 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, 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. All at once, Lily and I were both hooting uncontrollably with laughter, while Elijah looked on, bemused. It was a good way to end the day.