We need to take a different approach to celebrating Mother’s Day

Andrea Mara says we have moved on from the stereotype of the downtrodden mum chained to the kitchen sink.

EVERY year in the run up to Mother’s Day, I read articles decrying its commercialisation, and asking why mums only get one day off.

And I get it — there’s no denying it’s commercialised, and of course there shouldn’t be just one day when mothers are treated well. But I’m on board. 

From the glitter-covered cards to the last piece of half-eaten toast, I absolutely love Mother’s Day in all its homemade glory.

What’s not to love about breakfast in bed (hint, hint, kids if you’re reading) and homemade cards and going out for lunch? Incidentally, I know we’re going out for lunch because I picked the restaurant a few weeks ago and gave my husband the nod to book it. 

Sitting back waiting for wonderful things to happen can occasionally end in disappointment, so I’m a big believer in speaking up and making plans.

I won’t get a day off from the stuff that needs to be done in the house and neither will my husband on Father’s Day — as parents of small kids, there’s never really a day off, is there? 

But I think we’ve moved on from the notion of the poor downtrodden mother who’s chained to the kitchen sink, martyring herself for the rest of the family, day in, day out.

In my home, and I’m sure in most homes, everyone pitches in. 

It’s not always harmonious — four out of five people in my house don’t know the right way to stack the dishwasher — but nobody sits down to read the paper until everything is done either.

Andrea Mara with her children, Matthew, aged 4, Nia, aged 7 and Elissa, aged 9.

TV has moved on from the overworked mother stereotype, too — today our screens are filled with kickass moms like Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans), Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife), and Carrie Mathison (Homeland); women who can defeat FBI agents, win court cases, or save the world, all while looking after their children — and not a kitchen sink in sight. 

The 2016 movie Bad Moms shows mothers eschewing the traditional homemaking-baking- PTA role so often assigned to them in film — instead, they’re depicted as real human beings with flaws and vices — just like real-life mothers. 

(Except of course, with extraordinarily glossy hair.) 

And for most of us who are mothers today, things have moved on too.

I’m not saving the world Carrie Mathison style, but I don’t spend every day cleaning the house either — I don’t have time. 

My husband and I blitz it at the weekend, and we’re training up the small people to do their bit too. 

The notion that Mother’s Day is a one-off break and should be replicated more often just doesn’t wash with me — at least until the kids figure out how to work the steam mop, allowing their dad and me to take a breather.

Of course, Mother’s Day is undeniably commercialised — just like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter are too. 

There are ads everywhere for cards and flowers and Sunday lunch specials, and last year there was even a film called Mother’s Day, starring Jennifer Aniston, in case that’s how you wanted to celebrate (although of course it wasn’t released here until after Mother’s Day because in the US, it falls in May).

Irish people certainly don’t hold back when it comes to spending money on Mother’s Day; One4All carried out a survey last year which found that 81% of respondents treat their mums to a Mother’s Day gift every year without fail, with almost a third spending a not insignificant €30 to €60. 

But really, is the commercialisation so unexpected or terrible? Ultimately, we all have free choice — we can choose to buy presents, or go for lunch, or just do something lovely for someone who needs a break.

So bring on the handmade presents and the homemade cards, the downstairs giggles and the breakfast in bed. 

The lukewarm tea, the half-eaten toast, the promise of lunch, and the extra hugs. 

It’s not about taking a once-a-year break from the kitchen sink — it’s a bonus day — a chance to do something lovely with your mother or with your children. 

I for one won’t argue with that.

Take control

How to get the most out of Mother’s Day

* If you’ve felt disappointed in the past by a lack of Mother’s Day pomp and ceremony, don’t wait for surprises. Very strong hints for breakfast in bed or lunch somewhere lovely are far more effective than silently hoping they’ll ‘just know’.

* Breakfast in bed may be more about the kids than you, and most kids eat the toast while you’re still oohing and aahing over their efforts — do plan to have a second, proper breakfast afterwards.

* Whether you have a partner or not, chances are, taking an entire day off housework isn’t possible. But getting out of the house is the best way to avoid getting caught up in Sunday tidying. Go for a walk, go for coffee, or let the kids take you out for ice-cream. I suspect they’ll be delighted to do that.

* Restaurants get booked up quickly — as we found when we ended up in Starbucks on my first ever Mother’s Day as a parent — so do book before heading out en famille. Because sitting in a coffee shop holding the baby while your husband reads the paper is not the best way to mark the occasion. Just saying...

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