This Sunday in Australia, mum's the word! That's right, it's when we celebrate Mothers Day. My mum's one of my faithful readers – Happy Mothers Day Mum! I think mums are great, and becoming one was high on my bucket list from a young age. Family's a crticical connection place and mothers are a key part of that.
But I'm conscious not everyone shares my view. I have plenty of friends who find this day difficult – or at least awkward. Their mums were either not present, failed to keep them safe or were simply a misconnect of interests, styles or values. In other words, they were a disappointment.
I suspect we hold very high expectations of mothers. I mean, they're almost always the first person you meet, and they hold the key to much of our growth – emotional and social, as well as physical. We expect them to be beautiful, caring of us, career focused, role-modelling social equalisers as well as generally interesting women. Mostly on no time and energy for themselves!
I think the secret when your mother has not quite met your idea of perfection is to see what you can appreciate that was/is good about her, and focus there. Mum's the word on the less than perfect bits. (This is true of all relationships, by the way).
For instance, there's a lot of things you could mark my mum down on. She hated housework and cooked food til it was dead three times over (sorry Mum but it's true!). She didn't seem to care about her appearance, and I can still remember my sister and I giving her makeup lessons in our twenties! Growing up, there were hardly any 'D and M' talks between us – she was too busy chasing my siblings around. And when I got into uni she asked me why I was wasting my time, since "All that happens is you get married and have kids!"
On the other hand, she started work (in an area she'd had no experience in) when I was in my teens because the family needed money, then studied and began a career after that. Every major heartbreak from a boyfriend brought her from interstate to be with me. The year my sister had twins she spent more time in our city than her own! And over the years she's extended herself to do a range of things that don't suit her personality, because she was committed either to a cause or the person pushing it. Plus, she's an ace grandma.
There are several reasons I reckon we should take this 'let's be generous' approach towards our mums:
Mums rate high on the 'take for granted' list
As a group, mothers are hard pressed to be beaten on going the extra mile and putting their family's needs ahead of their own. They do it so well we almost expect it. We shouldn't. Especially once we're older, their ongoing interest in us is a real gift.
We're much softer on ourselves than others
I've noticed that I'm slower to convict myself on behaviours I'd hang other people for. Most of us tend to have an inbuilt bias towards ourselves. And, perhaps because we have higher expectations of those we're closest to, we tend to judge those people the harshest of all. Mums are on that target list a lot.
We judge past performances on today's standards
When our mothers were raising us nobody had heard of Postive Psychology – it actually wasn't invented. You lived til you were 70, drove in cars without seatbelts or air conditioning, and took 25 years to pay off your first house. Some of our mothers were the first to use contraception or get a job outside the home (though I noticed most of them involved cooking, cleaning or caring for someone else…) Somewhere between our mothers and ourselves a massive change has occured not just in how we do parenting but measure life. It's unfair to expect our mums to have necessarily moved with us – they simply haven't had our opportunities or experiences. When my mum made that uni comment she was simply reflecting her own reality.
Many of us are mums and one day the position will be reversed
It's also worth remembering that one day we'll be the oldies and our kids will be judging us. Although we'd like to delusionally believe we've done an amazing job, the reality is that we haven't been perfect. If we model the right principles now, appreciating the efforts and context of our mothers, maybe our own children will still be appreciating us when that times comes. Which we'll be hoping for, I imagine.
So, Mum's the word for Sunday. And every day. May you – and your mothers – and your children – be able to appreciate the contributions made to our lives by our families, and mums in particular.