Our Thoughts on Mother’s Day

One Family board members, staff, volunteers and lone parents working with us on policy issues respond to the question, “What does Mother’s Day mean to you this year?”

When I was small I would steal daffodils for my mother from the neighbour’s garden. I would fill my hands with the stems until I could hold no more and run all the way home, heart full, longing to please the most important woman in my life. Mother’s Day reminds me of that longing. It reminds me of spring, of fresh starts and of daffodils.

– Katriona, Board Member

This year, Mother’s Day for me is bittersweet. I am 37 weeks pregnant so I’m missing it by 3 weeks, but because I am so excited to become a first time mum I most certainly will celebrate. My plan is to visit my mum’s grave and bring fresh flowers – to have a little chat with her at her graveside, to sit, think, and relish the memories I have of when she was here and we celebrated Mother’s Day with her.

When she passed away, I took legal guardianship of my brothers and sister. You could say I have been like a step-mum in some ways. I would not say ‘Mother’ as I could never take her place. She was, and always will be, very special to me. My brothers and sister have grown up now, so I am really excited to start my own little family. Scared and excited all at the same time …

What gives me hope and makes me smile, is knowing that my mum will always be watching down on us – myself, my brothers, sister, my beautiful nephew and, of course, my new little Bundle of Joy.

– Nicola, Receptionist

What does Mother’s Day mean this year? In 2014? This is the year my son will turn 10. And I turn 40. Oh. My. God. Life begins this year, I am told.

My “life”, as a mother, began in 2004. That June, I was working fulltime in Dublin, had savings, my independence. By July, I had a newborn. In 2015, I will lose the allowance the Government gives us to live on. I wish I could afford childcare so I can work part-time. But it is not affordable.

Nevertheless, I am up-skilling again, like when I sold my car to fund childcare in 2009, but this year I’ll study online at night. I am a caring, hard-working and intelligent mother. I am resourceful. But I am afraid.

So this Mother’s Day, I will be cutting corners, spending as little as possible and hoping that 2015 will not mean abject poverty.

– Deirdre, Budget Panel 

1960. I am nine years old and my brother is 8. We’ve been saving for weeks because Mother’s Day is coming. There is a tiny shop on Dún Laoghaire main street called Graces. It is filled with treasure including a selection of real diamond jewellery. We know they are real diamonds because they glitter so beautifully and look just like the necklaces and tiaras we have seen the queen wear, or Elizabeth Taylor, in magazine pictures.

We can choose from bracelets, tiaras, necklaces and earrings. We visit the shop many times over the weeks, staring at the window display, and finally pick a dazzling necklace, a magnificent cascade of glittering diamonds. The amused assistant puts it in a velvet box and wraps it for us. We are thrilled with ourselves. We’ve got it and Mum doesn’t know!

My Mum worked two jobs to keep us fed, clothed and a roof over our heads. She probably hadn’t been out for the evening in years. But she wore that outrageous piece of costume jewellery, with her cardi and a big grin, all Mother’s Day. What a hero! Mother’s Day is for my Mum.

– Sherie, Director of Counselling

My first thought about Mother’s day is my daughter’s tiny black haired head appearing for the first time. Enthralled, I whispered unheeded encouragements into her mother’s ear.

Since then, Mother’s Day is a time to appreciate her mother’s love, sacrifice and constant caring for the child we parent. That experience has made me more appreciate my own mother and what she forwent to rear my siblings and me.

Each and every child is like a pebble dropped into a still pond. The ripples travel far and wide affecting all in their path. Mothers have been, are and always will be a potential force for good in a troubled world.

My daughter’s mother birthed a child who has been my redemption.

– Declan, previous Board Member

My children are still small enough to be excited about holidays. They don’t distinguish between them – Pancake Tuesday is as important as Mother’s Day. Both are joyous events. They are delighted to spend time making me a card. It’s a privilege to be woken by them and receive kisses – one impulsively shared, the other requested and more self-consciously given – and wished a Happy Mother’s Day.

I’ll ring my own mum and wish her the same. Does she wish, I wonder, that she and I were still at that stage; when you are the most important person in your child’s life? How will I feel when my children move past me into themselves and their own lives?

– Linda, Administration Supervisor

My daughters and I like to play a game we call “guess how much I love you”. All the way out to the far reaches of the universe and back again is only a trillionth of how much I love you – these are measures we use.

But I know they don’t yet understand the gift of love they have given me by agreeing to be my children.  They each have only one mother to love, but I have four children, my two daughters and my stepson and stepdaughter.

As I sometimes say to them my love is not a cake that gets divided in to child shaped sizes and then eaten up by a certain date – it is infinite.   At its simplest it is a kiss good night and a welcoming smile to a tousle head in the morning.  But at the other end of the scale it is the quantum complexity that states that no matter where they are, how old they get, or whether they are mischievous or charming, or even just being, their four hearts beat a symphony of love that nourishes my body and sustains my soul.

The secret of motherhood is that love multiplies exponentially, not divides.  This is the gift given to me by children.  This is what I celebrate today.

– Iseult, Board Member

Mothering Sunday means little to me. I’m mothering alone everyday for over 10 years with little external support or recognition for my efforts. But the rewards come in the form of regular laughter, hugs, health and happiness and the ‘Wow’ moments that occur with physical growth spurts and developments in mental maturity. That’s when I am proud of my mothering of another human being and realise that my contribution to the human race is growing into a decent person who will go on touch the lives of many in a positive, compassionate way.

– Noreen, Budget Panel

Anna Jarvis, founder of Mothers’ Day, later tried to have the holiday destroyed: she soured on the commercial interests associated with the day. She wanted Mother’s Day “to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” Beginning around 1920, she urged people to stop buying flowers and other gifts for their mothers. She referred to the florists, greeting card manufacturers and the confectionery industry as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.” She attempted to stop the floral industry by threatening to file lawsuits and by applying to trademark the carnation together with the words “Mother’s Day” though she was denied the trademark.

Jarvis’s ideal observance of Mother’s Day would be a visit home or writing a long letter to your mother. She couldn’t stand those who sold and used greeting cards. “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card,” she said.

In 2014, I support her. It’s too commercial. It’s outdated and it doesn’t reflect the diversity of families we have to-day. Instead we should celebrate parenting and nurturing and call for the abolition of Mother’s and Father’s Days combining into Family Day: a day to celebrate our individual dynamic family heritage.

– Stuart, Director of Policy & Programmes

After I had my son Mother’s Day began to mean a lot to me.  I was alone, my husband had left us, my child was premature and sick and every day I struggled to cope. So for me, each Mother’s Day represented that I’d won the battle and gotten through another year. No matter what I always felt happy on this day. Strong; like I was a survivor, not a victim. Though usually negative, my self-talk turned positive and predominately strong on this day. I’d tell myself I’d done a really good job and reflect on the ups and downs of the year. I’d bring my son with me to treat myself to a nice lunch on this day and some wine. Now that he’s older at seven, and a strong little man himself, I don’t struggle to cope so much anymore. Although it’s still there sometimes, there’s no longer a daily battle with depression, isolation, frustration and loneliness. Things are so much brighter for us now.

I see Mother’s Day as a symbol  of hope that no matter what happens I can cope, that things will continue to get better, as a tribute to all women who are mothers, and as mothers united bestowing respect upon one another. Especially the ‘bad ass’ ones who are doing it alone.

– Ellen, One Family Budget Panel

I was born on my mother’s 33rd birthday and to recognise this I was named after my mother. I grew up in a house with eleven people including six siblings, parents and grandparents, so it was hard to get attention. Still, I always felt that I was special because I had been born on the same day as my mother and we had the same name – as a child it felt like we had a special bond. Now I call my Mum on our birthday and I say “Happy Birthday Valerie” and she returns the sentiment. “Happy Birthday Valerie.” It is the only time of the year that I call my mother by her first name. I guess it has become our little tradition.

My own daughter was due on my birthday and I was hoping to continue the family tradition and name her after my mother and I but she arrived a little late, as children tend to do, so it was not meant to be. Since becoming a mother myself, I appreciate so much more everything that my mother has done for me. I realise now all the little things a mother does every day for her children. Not just the obvious things but other more subtle things that you don’t notice as a child. My grandmother and great-grandmother also had seven children each. I feel proud to have come from such a long line of strong, independent, loving women who have dedicated their lives to nurturing the next generation.

– Valerie, Research & Policy Analyst

I am the daughter of the original Yummy Mummy. Even after having her six children that she was so proud of, my mum – with her tousled curls, mini skirts, tan tights and high-heeled sandals – ran the house with huge energy and music and dancing. She had a kind of distracted, whimsical approach to housework while, encouraged by her own mother, making us all laugh came naturally and ‘got done’ much more often. My father remained madly in love with her until death did them part. She misses her gorgeous husband so much!

– Paula, Director of Professional Development

Before becoming a Mum, it was a day to tell my Mother how much she meant to me. Even though that remains important, being a Mum myself for the past 21 years makes Mother’s Day very special for me. I plan well in advance how to spend the day in the best way possible with my three children. My oldest daughter will be working but she will have a small gift for me, rarely a card, but I know she cares and acknowledges that I do my best for her and have done since she was born – all 8Ib 12ozs. The smallies are where my energies really go and this will be my first Mother’s Day with my son, so it is very special, and I will talk with my little daughter a week or so in advance. I’ll let her be part of the planning so she can feel she is special to me every day. We hope to have a family fun day out in the zoo.

I will go to bed exhausted after our big day out, I know, but delighted to have had a quality day with my children. Even though I try to have lots of quality time with them, it can be hard when you’re a working Mum. I feel we really add to our relationship and bond on this special day. Not everyone gets to feel this very special pride. I feel Mother’s Day is about celebrating what an honour it is to be a Mum.

– Geraldine, Director of Children and Parenting Services

Every year, I love my mother more. And I see more clearly how alike we are, and my daughter too. We are all carers, we love to give to others and make them happy. I wasn’t always comfortable with this trait but I see now that it is a wonderful way to be. Thanks Mum, for passing this on.

– Sinéad, Board Member

My thoughts as I reflected on this question have been with the mothers I have worked with during my time as a counsellor in One Family.  I have met many brave, courageous and wonderful women mothering in that time.

Mothering Sunday can be a very emotive day for our clients.  There are high expectations that go with that day for both mother and child. This day celebrates the unconditional love between mothers and their children.  A day of surprises and treats, gifts, and maybe breakfast in bed.   I am thinking of many mothers of young children and babies who do not have a family member or partner to make sure there is a card or present for that mother on mother’s day.  That mother lives in isolation, perhaps in a hostel or housing estate, with few friends or family for support.

I have also thought in the last weeks of the mothers I have worked with in One Family who have found mothering difficult.  Who either did not bond or found it very difficult to love their babies.  These women find it very difficult to find a safe place to voice this experience.  This is to speak the unspeakable – that a mother might find it difficult or may indeed not love her baby. If they tell their GP or any professional service, they will most lightly be offered anti-depressants or told they have post natal depression.   A number of women have told me that during pregnancy when they expressed fears about motherhood, they were told ‘when the baby’s born, it will be different’ or ‘you will fall in love when you see the baby’.  This is not always the case.

In the recent debates on abortion I am always struck by how the consequences of a woman going ahead with a pregnancy she does not want is never discussed or mentioned.  The long-term emotional distress, both for her and the child …  This often manifests itself in lack of confidence, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, for both mother and child.

I will think of those brave women on Mother’s Day.

– Marguerite, Counsellor

Mother, the noun: a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. Mother, the verb: bring up (a child) with care and affection. I experienced both the noun and the verb in a variety of guises throughout my childhood. I learned that ‘mother’, in its essence, is fluid – a term of great complexity, confusion and change. It can represent the cruelest heartbreak and the purest kindness.

Two of my mothers are gone now. Both are in my thoughts every day and will be on Mother’s Day. For the one who is still here, I’ll ensure she knows that she is a much loved ‘verb’.

– Shirley , Director of Communications

This Mother’s Day let’s think of the children who don’t have a Mum in their lives and make sure they feel included and cherished. Let’s be aware of the Dads who are raising children on their own and let’s make sure they feel appreciated for being a special type of Mum. Let’s remember the women who are Mums in their hearts but not in reality because their dream to be a parent has not yet come true or may never come true.

Let’s remember the women who relinquished children to be adopted for whatever reason and who may have that shadowy experience of having been a Mother but not a parent. Let’s remember the Mothers who dream of, raise, support and love children day in and day out but who are not able to be legal parents. Let’s remember the foster-Mums who are caring for, loving and raising our vulnerable children year in and year out but who are not able to adopt them. Let’s remember the Mums who feel like failures, who have let down their children and who are mercilessly judged for not being ‘Irish Mammies’ – we can all only do our best even though sometimes our best is not good enough for others.

Let’s remember the Mums who are living in Ireland working in our hospitals, cleaning our houses and caring for our children and whose own children may be far away in another country, Mums who are not able to afford to have their children with them. Let’s remember the Mums who go without food, who make heroic sacrifices to give their children enough even though they have barely enough to live on.

On behalf of One Family, on this special day, let’s remember all the Mums who are doing it on their own. Let’s remember the brave founders of Cherish who back in the early 1970s said they were not giving up their children; let’s be aware of the fact that 65% of the poorest children in Ireland live in one-parent families; let’s know that for most Mums parenting alone is probably not the way they wanted it to turn out. Let’s say well done to all those Mums as they battle negative attitudes, juggle parenting with work and education, pay for everything from one salary, are good cop and bad cop, and put their children first and last, always.

Well done, keep up the good work raising the next generation – you are appreciated.

– Karen, CEO


* A version of this article has appeared in today.