Happy Mother's Day to all you Modern Mummies out there. On your special day, I salute you all. In this week's Times Higher Education supplement there is a fantastically insightful and moving article by anthropologist Eric Michael Johnson on the critical importance of mothers in the long term wellbeing of children. I advise everyone to read it, parent or not. I'm not ashamed to say I read it over lunch today and it made me cry.
In these days where the Daily Mail blames 'broken Britain', bad parenting and single mothers blames for the ills of society, Johnson's article is a powerful read. He suggests that effective motherhood, where emotional bonds are made early and encouraged by society is likely to lead to happier and better functioning humans. His point is clear. Mummy is the key.
It is just over four years since I first became a mum and I had to wait quite a while for that moment so when it came, my goodness I felt fantastic. I finally felt after years of wanting to join, I was a member of the club. The been-there-given-birth-thrown-away-the-tshirt-club. What I didn't know at that time was the fantastic diversity of the other members of the club. So here, for Mother's Day weekend, and is general celebrations of mums, is my affectionate spotters guide to Modern Mummies:
1. The earth mummy.
Easily identified by having one or more children attached bodily to them with long lengths of cloth, the earth mummy provided an organic and fair trade upbringing for their brood. Fresh air and fruit are in plentiful supply and the washable nappy and wipe is never far away. I have fantastic admiration for those who diligently bring their babies to nursery in bike trailers when just piling my brood into the car in the morning leaves me exhausted.
2. The my-life-won't-change mummy.
I've been asked a few times about what is the hardest thing about being a mum. Those who haven't had the privilege yet think I'll say childbirth or breastfeeding. But no. The hardest thing is how absolutely everything in your life changes, from your relationship with your partner to going to the loo. The my-life-won't-change mummy resits this with every fibre of their being. They still go on work trips away, they stubbornly diet until they can get back in their pre-baby jeans and they can still enjoy a good night out. These mummies have my admiration for their sheer determination to retain their own identity in the face of the all-consuming role of motherhood.
3. The plate spinning mummy.
These are the mummies that try to make sure that everything still looks like it is working ok. The kids are well wiped and neatly dressed. She checks her hair for carrot puree and her shoulder for baby dribble before attending a 9am meeting, just to be sure. The shopping is done and the house is tidy as long as you don't look too closely under the sofa. These mummies are great at maintaining the appearance of order in the face of the chaos small children can bring.
4. The reality mummy.
These mummies tell it like it is, if you ask them how they are, they'll say 'completely exhausted'. They have a sensible attitude to child cleanliness and the laundry mountain that means that the children only wear one outfit per day, even if it is covered in strawberry yogurt by 8am. They allow digging in the flower beds and the emptying of kitchen cupboards because the kids are enjoying it and it won't take too long to clear up. I admire the relaxed attitude of these mummies and their ability to smile in the face of mud on the kitchen floor.
I'm not going to tell you what sort of mummy I think I am but I know I'm in there. If you're a mummy yourself you might see yourself in one or more of the descriptions. Certainly there are many social constructions of motherhood in the modern world, some helpful and some unhelpful. Most mums I know feel pressured to live up to a variety of expectations from their children, their families, their work and society in general. What it might mean to be good at being a mum has changed very much over time, as Johnson's article describes, but what is pretty clear is that mummies, of whatever description are of supreme importance. Happy Mother's Day!
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