This year will be my first Mothering Sunday as a mum myself.
Becoming a mother has brought me closer to many of the other mums in my life. I have always had a wonderful relationship with my own mum, as well as with my sister, who is herself an inspirational mother of three wonderful boys, but since having Florence I feel like these bonds are stronger than ever. Likewise, my relationship with my mother- and sister-in-law has flourished since having our baby girl.
I have also developed strong relationships with the girls from my NCT course, sharing the highs and lows as we have weathered the storms of new motherhood together.
I know I can turn to all of these incredible women for advice and guidance on raising my daughter and I look to them as examples of mums who are nailing mumhood everyday.
To mark this Mother’s Day, I have asked some of the other mums in my life what advice their mums have passed on the them and what they hope to pass on to their baby.
In asking the question I have also became acutely aware of those mums who have lost a baby (as I have done) but who are, in their hearts, bodies and minds still mothers. My wonderful friend Alex shared this link with me to the Thortful campaign of cards for ‘Forgotten Mothers’, those mothers who have lost a child.
Hannah Pontillo, who lost her first baby, Dexy, and who has written the captions for the cards for Throtful noted:
I am a mum. Like all mums, I went through pregnancy. I got an aching back and swollen feet. I gave birth. I have a son – you just can’t see him. I know that it is hard for people because the whole topic of baby loss is still taboo, but 11 babies will be stillborn or die shortly after birth every day. 1 in 4 people will experience baby loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or child death.
There are also those women who are childless but not by choice, and for whom Mother’s Day is also an incredibly difficult day. My amazing friend Ceri sent this link through to Walk in Our Shoes, a site dedicated to stories of involuntary childlessness.
And there are those people who no longer have their own mums to turn to. Given how much strength and love I draw from my own mum in all areas of my life I can’t begin to imagine how it would be to lose her.
So while for many of us, Mother’s Day is a lovely Sunday of daffodils, cups of tea and breakfast in bed, I know that this is not the case for everyone and I wanted to balance the celebration of motherhood below, with my heartfelt thoughts to all of those for whom this is a difficult day.
My mum is not a natural advice-giver, much to my annoyance and in contrast to me. I think it means she is a good listener and rarely jumps to judgement. But it seems having a baby is such a major life event that even she couldn’t avoid passing on a few pearls of wisdom.
The first was that I should make sure I gave my son a middle name, she had no preference about what it should be but having gone through life without one she was adamant, revealing that she had been embarrassed of not having one her whole life. So far, pretty easy to implement.
Second up was not to sweat the small stuff and to try to reserve your energy for things that really matter. This is definitely something I am trying to do, in life generally as much as in parenting. But I still find myself getting annoyed if I miss a train, even if the next one is due in eight minutes. So I’m trying to embrace maternity leave life of not having too many set plans and going with the (constant) mess that is weaning.
And the advice I would pass on? Not to worry about what you ‘should’ be doing or what others think of you. No one else cares whether you got a promotion or what you look like in a swimsuit on the beach. Hopefully he will learn to be quietly confident, to believe in himself and to follow his own path. I guess I have the next 17.5 years to work on it!
The best piece of advice my mum gave me is to never go to sleep on an argument. Making the effort to find a compromise, apologise, forgive or let it go before you can sleep really helps to keep a relationship strong.
I’d like to pass this advice on to my son Harry. I’ve learned that having a baby is wonderful, but also so much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I will tell him that having a strong relationship built on love, trust, empathy and understanding is important to help get you both through the ups and downs of life with a newborn.
Advice from my mum? Always let children be creative, it doesn’t matter if they make a mess or even draw on the walls (which I did!). I will definitely be passing that one on to Wren and also making sure to build her confidence whenever I can as I think confidence is one of the most important things to have.
My mum has always said when it comes to things in life I just need to try my best and whatever happens, whether I succeed or not, it doesn’t matter as long as I know I’ve tried my best.
One of the best pieces of life advice I ever got from my mom is ‘don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good’. As a kid it was easy for me to get wrapped up in something being not right, or having to do it just so, that things would never be finished. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, far from it! But it was a handy procrastination crutch I would often turn to as an excuse for either leaving things half done or constantly reworking it to try and get to perfect. This would leave everyone frustrated, annoyed and overwhelmed. By focusing on the good version I could more often get to a high enough standard in a reasonable amount of time with less stress.
As an adult, and especially as a new mum myself, it’s still a good one to remember. I’ll rarely if ever be perfect, but that’s not going to stop me from being good. Perfect is generally an unattainable and unrealistic goal anyway. I can aim for a good morning, a good meal, a good outing or a good play time and we will all enjoy ourselves just as much if not more than if I was stressing about getting to the perfect version. I’m sure that Layla will have her own similar experiences, hopefully this piece of advice will help her as it has often helped me.
Most of mum’s advice is largely drawn from the works of Victoria Wood so any one liners are mainly wood-esque.
As for wisdom, I was the third and final child; having the bonus of a big brother and sister to guide me (ahem!) and look out for me, alongside my dear old dum and mad.
My mum and dad weren’t exactly one for ‘routines’ bit one habit which they instilled in us are things which I hadn’t actually noticed we’d also adopted, but which we put at the centre of ‘how our family works’:
The sheer luxury of lying in bed with your kids, putting the world to rights sets you up for the day (or as this morning, talking about about trombones; Shirley’s wind; Half Man Half Biscuit; favourite footballers; sneezes and whatever else). No matter how much of a rush we might be in to get to school, work, rugby etc. we always make time for it.
I have strong memories of pottering in to mum and dad’s room every morning, long after I was ‘too cool’ for such things! We might have swapped Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America on radio 4 for Chris Hawkins on radio 6 but otherwise the circle of life continues.
As I’ve gotten older, and particularly since I’ve become a mum, I am proud to say that I can seen more and more of my mum’s personality traits and mannerisms in myself!
As a woman working in science, my mum has taught me not to be intimidated in a male dominated sphere, to work hard and to be confident in my own ability.
She has always given me the space to pursue my passions and to grow into my own person, while also providing the support and guidance that I have needed to reach my goals. I hope that I can pass on to Florence this feeling of unconditional support and love, free from any agenda or bias. I also hope that I can pass on my enthusiasm, energy and determination so that she has the tools to pursue her own path and succeed in fulfilling her potential in whatever it is she loves to do.
I hope you all have lovely Mothering Sunday’s and can give a little love to the mums in your life.