It was Mother’s Day last Sunday, in case you didn’t notice, and I was going to write a blog about mothers then, but didn’t find the time. But recently I’ve confirmed a few insights which I’d like to explore here.
Where to begin?
I suppose I should lay my cards on the table and tell you I was brought up in a single parent family, by my grandmother, and it is that experience that informs my own attitudes towards parenthood. The first promise I made to myself was that when I had children, they would know me, and I would know them, and that if nothing else they would know that I love them.
Growing up without a mother or father is in many ways both a curse and a blessing. There is an intense awareness that you are not like the other kids. When they talk of ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ it’s difficult to connect with those concepts. The flip side of that is that I’ve not been bogged down with the ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ stereotypes.
I think you know the ones I’m talking about.
In a single parent family, the single parent does everything and as that’s what I saw growing up, that’s how I feel I should be as a parent, willing, and able, to do everything for my child.
Fast forward 30-odd (ahem) years, and as a father, it’s honestly disappointing to know that there are fathers – and my gut tells me its probably a sizeable majority – out there who probably have no idea what it takes to raise a kid.
There. I said it. There are dads who think they know what’s involved in raising a child, they even think they are good at it. But the reality is markedly different.
And if there are any fathers out there already reaching for the traditional defence of “… but I go to work and earn money to support the family” (a most demeaning defence if ever there was one), I’d ask you first to think your argument through.
Looking after children is not easy. It’s hard work. Mentally. Physically. Spiritually. And the fact that the vast majority of mothers sacrifice a large portion of their own career – if not their entire career – and future prospects to raise children should weigh heavily on the minds of all fathers before making the asinine assumption that going to work and fiddling with spreadsheets, building stuff or knocking it down, selling stuff, driving a car or a train, or managing a budget or staff in the millions comes anywhere close to the responsibility, or the rewards, of raising a child.
A while ago I noted to my wife how many men were walking around with kids and prams, and she replied that all these dads we were seeing were clearly walking around in a daze as to what to do with the kids. Mums had probably asked them to look after the kids for a few hours for part of one day at the weekend and it was written on their faces that the strain of it all was getting too much.
I’m disappointed to say I think she was right.
For the vast majority of kids, every day is Mother’s Day. Mum is the person they get up with and who makes them breakfast, and also the one who feeds them an evening meal and puts them to bed. I contend that there are few dads out there that can manage those tasks alone independently, never mind the demanding hours of childcare in-between.
So here’s to Mother’s Days. And Mothers. Each and every one of them.