Mother’s Day in the UK is nearly here and that means adverts everywhere for cards, wine, chocolates…. the list goes on. For some the pressure to give the perfect gift becomes too much. Depending on the ritual followed by each family there can be the added pressure of cooking the perfect meal, being the perfect hostess/mum/daughter/sister – no wonder it can become a chore rather than quality time with the family! Add into the mix complicated feelings of grief if you have lost your mum or a child… Mother’s Day can be quite a melting pot of challenging feelings.
Someone (who I’ll call Emily) was telling me a story recently about last Mother’s Day. Every year since she was little she had bought her mum freesias as her Mother’s Day gift. She had always been told these were her mum’s favourite and it was a safe, tried and tested tradition. However last year she was talking to her dad two days before Mother’s Day when he informed her that her mum now preferred astroemeria. This irritated Emily as firstly she had never heard of these new preferred flowers and secondly it felt like a rejection of her routine with her mum. Emily wanted to please her mum so she duly went out and searched garden centres and supermarkets to find these new flowers. This may sound like a straightforward exercise however Emily’s mum could be picky – the flowers had to be the right colour, just coming out of bud so they had plenty of life left and good quality. She eventually found some and took them (and a bunch of freesias since she couldn’t bear to give up that tradition completely) with her when she went to visit.
Her mum seemed pleased with both sets of flowers and Emily let out a deep breath that she hadn’t realised she had been holding. Feeling like she needed to get everything perfect for her mum so as not to disappoint her wasn’t a new feeling for Emily. This was a pressure she put on herself with anything to do with her mum and therefore she expected it on days such as these. However whilst Emily went away feeling relieved that she had managed not to disappoint her mum she was aware of also feeling sad that she couldn’t just relax and enjoy their time together.
As I sit here I’m reflecting on what Mother’s Day is all about. Mother’s Day has certainly become very commercialised and this piles on pressure to spend money and bring (perfect) gifts. However the origin of Mothering Sunday was actually a religious one – held exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday it was originally a day to honour and give thanks to the Virgin Mary, also known as Mother Mary. This required people to visit their “mother” church – the main church or cathedral in the family’s area. Children who worked as servants or apprentices were given the day off to return home and see their mother. An opportunity to reconnect, catch up and spend time together.
So what can we learn from that in today’s busy, pressurised world? That spending quality time together as a family is priceless. Think about what you would ideally like to get out of the day and time together. Praise for buying the “right” flowers? Or the feeling of intimacy, of closeness and enjoying time with someone you love? You don’t need the perfect gift to let someone know you love them.
Emily realised this year that whilst her mum undoubtably enjoyed the flowers she valued time with Emily more. Emily came to understand that for many years they had both been going through the motions of respecting family rituals whilst really what they both wanted was to be able to relax in each other’s company and enjoy time together.
Whilst they had both been striving to be perfect for each other (the perfect mum/the perfect daughter) they had missed out on really knowing each other and being able to tell each other how they felt.
So if you are anxiously trying to be perfect this weekend – please don’t. Let it go. Be yourself and know that you are enough. Rather than searching for the perfect gift tell the person how you feel.
(This also goes for mums who are desperately trying to create the perfect Mother’s Day…. none of us need to be perfect. We just need to be good enough).
And please spare a thought for those who are feeling the loss of those who can’t be here this Mother’s Day. If you have lost your mum, grandparent or a child this day can intensify the feelings of grief. If you are pregnant there can be many emotions floating around. If these or similar issues are affecting you please be kind to yourself. Ask for support if you need it and give yourself the time and space you need.
Image: Cameron Stow