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Mother’s Day

March 10, 2013

My mother was very much in the traditional middle class mould of the late 50s early sixties. Despite graduating from Cambridge and working as a teacher she gave it all up when she got married. That is what one did.  She finished the school year and got married on July 30th and didn’t go back to teaching for another eight years. She did do some book reviewing for a national newspaper in the intervening period, but also gave that up when Dad moved jobs.

When I was young I used to berate her for wasting her education and not making a career for herself. I did not value the choices she had made as assumed they weren’t really choices, but were social conventions that she had stuck to. I felt feminisim had passed her by and looked down on her as a stay at home Mum.  How stupid I was.  I did not appreciate that having her look after us full time gave us the immeasurable benefit of her intelligence, love, warmth and security.

Well, when I say full time, we did also have Dot who came every day. Mostly for cleaning, but she also minded us and did babysitting. Which gave Mum some capacity here and there to go off shopping. Not drudgery dull stuff, but the Susan Small, Jaeger, Viyella and Windsmoor twin sets, boucle suits, black polo necks and sophisticated tailoring at more affordable prices than couture. She was always very smart in the 1960s – sadly the fashions of the later decades were not as chic.

But I always enjoyed seeing her dressed up in her finery to go out in the evening. Long dresses, lurex dresses, jewellery and cigarettes.  Or  hosting parties at home. So exciting. A wonderful world of laughter and noise would permeate upstairs.

But her main role in life was to mother us. To feed and clothe us and keep us safe. Teach us to read and write, be polite and well behaved. She succeeded more with some of those than others. She was always there, but unlike so many of today’s parents, was not a helicopter mother. Yes, she went to Parent’s evenings but had no contact with our teachers in between. Well, not in relation to us. She did found the PTAs and do an OU course to be a School Governor. She wanted the best education for all the children, not just her own. She came to watch me in school productions, but never once when I was playing sports. To be honest, very few parents did in those days so although I occasionally wished one of them had been there for a big match, I wasn’t really bothered.

She ensured that I went to University rather than stop at 16 like so many of my peers, and it was her expectations of achievement and behaviour that were her hallmark. The shame I felt when I had let her down or disappointed her was acute. But a learning too.

Washing up was a chore we all had to do as there was no dishwasher. And if you didn’t volunteer or you made a bit of a teenage sulk or fuss she would say “Don’t bother. No, really, I’d rather do it muyself Just forget it.” And she wouldn’t let you help. If you couldn’t do it with good grace, that you couldn’t see that she had shopped and prepared and  cooked the meal so the least you could do was wash up , then you are too unpleasant a character to have around. You didn’t feel like you’d ‘got away with it’, or ‘hoorayI don’t have to do the washing up.’  You felt mean and selfish and horrible. And of all the qualities my mother had, she didn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She always put us first.

I have already listed the Top Ten Things my Mother taught me but there was so much more I could have written. Thinking of you with love and thanks xx

Mum and my sister

Mum and my sister

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6 Responses to “Mother’s Day”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Although you two lovely daughters were already “grown and flown” when I met Jose–her natural skills at Mothering were still obvious to us all–even those of us who were of the same era . She Mothered US when we were poorly or in trouble–she was always the first one I would fly to with a problem –or a joy–and I count myself blessed that she saw the same love and support in me.

  2. Cecilie Says:

    I knew it! Another one of your lovely, loveful tribute that you master so well, and give us a loop back in the good old gone times. Such fond memories, and so elegantly wrapped! Yuippie.
    Cecilie

  3. Natalie Says:

    Brilliant mother to you and taught you how to be as great a mum to us!! Love the both of you lots xxx


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