You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to not enjoy it very much. You are allowed to leave the washing in the machine going smelly for days. You just have to keep doing it and that is enough.
That has to be enough, and as mothers enough is all we are aiming for. But on those days when we sob silently into our shortbread, when we feel under-appreciated, unloved, unvalued, not just by our kids (because we can handle that) but by the whole sodding rest of the world, perhaps we should reflect on why that might be the case. Might there be a reason why we are getting such a rum deal? It might be, you know, Psychological.
Now I am no expert on psychology. I dabble, but I'm no expert. But the whole Penis Envy thing has always struck me as a bit weak. I mean, I am as partial to the penis as the next girl. Quite possibly more partial, depending who the next girl is. And I would certainly be interested in test driving a penis for say, an afternoon or a long bus journey. But envy? Really?
So, in a quiet corner of the library, I was delighted to find an alternative suggestion as to what might make us tick. In 1937 "The Origins of Love and Hate" was published, written by the Scottish Psychiatrist Ian Suttie. Tragically for him, and quite possibly for all of us, he had died a few days before. So we maybe didn't get to hear quite as much about him as we should have, because, well, he said some very good stuff.
What he suggests is that there is something called Zeus Envy (named after him from mythology who swallowed his pregnant wife), which consists of a 'violent jealousy' of female monopoly of child-bearing and child-rearing, so males have a 'drive' to usurp maternal functions and claw back a little evolutionary unfairness. He says there is also something called Cain Jealousy (named after him from the Bible who hated his younger sibling) which means that children can't handle being weaned and can end up hating their mothers. (I précis, but you get the gist.) He says that this is good news, because in the painful bit where you get weaned and hate your mother you learn to play with your mates and invent stuff and write plays and design bridges and that's how we get Culture, innit. But it also means if this isn't managed well, or it's interfered with, we get something called Tenderness Taboo. That means everything that should be to do with love and nurture and kindness is repressed and can cause anger, resentment and even revulsion.
So, what would a world shaped by Zeus Envy and Cain Jealousy look like? There would be constant intervention into childbirth. Breasts would be commandeered for the gratification of men rather than the feeding of children. Women's reproductvity would be controlled, women would be penalised for producing offspring, there may also be hideous dystopian scenarios where their fertility became the property of businesses and corporations. Food production, seeds, and wisdom about farming methods, would be dominated and controlled by men. Sex would be about power and gratification rather than intimacy and affection. The process of caring for children would be disregarded, it would be outsourced to other parties or unpaid. We would have a history of creating institutions which raise boys to be independent of their mothers, where everything associated with maternal warmth was dimissed as 'wet' and weak. These men would grow up to form gangs and clubs and make sure that nurture is always undervalued, teachers and care workers underpaid, the vulnerable never looked upon with compassion. Oh, hang on...
You might be on to something here Dr Suttie. It seems it really has come to pass that we live in what you call an "underlying bias of anti-emotionalism", that we are all suffering because "it is what we
have renounced through fear, repressed, but still long for and envy in others, that arouses our greatest reprobation of indulgence and apparently evokes genuine loathing and indignation." But what is there to be done about it? We must keep doing what we do best, loving, even when we don't feel like it. Not just mothers, but all of us who love should wear with pride the wounds that leaves us with this Mother's Day. In the face of anti-emotionalism, our love becomes political, powerful, courageous, especially if we understand what Suttie tells us, that "all are alike in the quest for love. They differ in regard to the precise obstacles to love which they set themselves to overcome." We shall love them on the beaches. We shall love them on the landing grounds. We shall love in the fields and in the streets. We shall love them in the hills.