Imperfect Mothers Are Actually The Most Perfect Mums Of All!
"Imperfect Mothers Are Actually The Most Perfect Mums Of All!"
Judging by the prevailing ethos of Makeover and How-to-do shows as well as drama on TV my late mother was not the perfect homemaker and mum. However I beg to differ with these because some of my most powerful memories are only possible due to the “imperfect” household she ran.
Far too much emphasis is put on perfecting your life and home nowadays. We have the perfect housewife in Anthea Turner who thinks that immaculately folded towels make a home. We have the desperate housewives of Wisteria Lane who care more for maintaining their perfect figures and wearing perfectly turned out fashions then what their children are up to. The lives of the children of Bree and crew look positively shallow when I think of my childhood. It’s worrying to think that such drama either influences us or reflects us in this case. And as for the Life Laundry and How Clean Is Your Home, deary me, I’m not sure where they would’ve started with my mother’s cupboards!
When I was growing up I was always vaguely aware of the fact that my home was less tidy and organised than the houses of my best friends. But who was it my friends turned to for advice and a plate of warm biscuits when we all crashed into the difficulties of the teenage years? It was my mother as their mothers were busy doing other things. The difference was the atmosphere around ours. Ours was a home be it a little untidy and slightly chaotic, but theirs were mere houses.
Every night was story night in our home. While my two much older brothers were busy with their own projects, my third brother and I would leap on to the sofa, our mum in-between us. Both of us were more than happy to get one of her arms each. She couldn't reach the book with her arms wrapped tightly around us so we took turns turning pages as we cuddled up.
How vividly I can recall her soft, warm tones while reading anything from Alice in Wonderland to Charlotte's Web, from The Five Children and It, to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The authors were varied and the themes a motley collection but she could make any of them leap to life by keeping pace with the twists and turns of each tale.
After 20 minutes or so of these blissful moments she'd say, "It’s bedtime children." But we knew her soft spot, her heart lay in reading to us, so we’d beg for a few more pages. She’d lovingly squeeze us, readily agreeing that there was greater pleasure in continuing the story then to tidy up the dinner things. Oh, the pots were eventually scrubbed and the dishwasher filled but the ironing and tidying was often left.
Weekends were full of all sorts of excitement. My mother and father would bundle us up for an adventure to the seaside, a wildlife park, or for some exotic treat like a visit to the first Chinese restaurant that opened in our area. At the end of a long day out my mum was happy to collapse with us and relax rather than putting everything from the outing away. Sometimes a full week would go by before picnic blankets and baskets were put away, the horror of it in Aggie and Kim’s eyes!
The only How-to-do shows that would suit my "imperfect" mother’s character would be the Jamie Oliver School of throwing in handfuls of lovely ingredients to come up with her gooey chocolate biscuits and creamy cheese cakes. No time to carefully measure things when she had much more interesting things to do with us.
My heart sinks when I read surveys that many women still feel enslaved to the cleaning, tidying and ironing, often on top of a full day's work. It's no wonder that 30% of recently divorced women complained of the time they’d spent on chores in the marriage. Another survey found 80% of women would give up work to relax more with their families. And one in four women generally experience depression at some time in their adult life. Trying to meet the demands of family, career, and then to ensure their house is perfect to boot would drive anyone to despair.
So the Anthea’s of this world can keep their perfectly folded towels and starched sheets. And the women of Wisteria Lane can have their manicured gardens and nails. But why not elevate reading a story, giving a cuddle, or playing a game over the stuff of ironing in your home? It comes down to that important phrase which is apt for all mothers, "you can’t do it all!"
I must say I'd feel bereft if my childhood memories consisted of perfect stacks of ironing rather than the security of my precious mother's arms and excitement of disappearing down the rabbit hole with Alice!
Published in The Express Newspaper