Thursday, March 19, 2009

Maternal instincts

This Sunday, mothers up and down the country will sit back while someone else washes up the dishes - a popular way to give mum a rest on Mother's Day.

I'm counting on a card or two (plantable
ecohip ones, if they've been listening to my hints).

If only because a few years ago, my husband 'forgot' and the fallout meant that he now has the date hardwired into his brain.

But I've also been thinking about what the concept can stand for.

In many ways, it's easy to dismiss Mothering Sunday as yet another marketing ploy, an opportunity for shops to set up big displays of presents, from chocolates to bubble bath.

I used to be pretty cynical about it, and even more about the American invention of Father's Day.

But is it really such a bad thing?

What is wrong with celebrating the role of nurturing and bringing up a family - in both women and men?

In Europe, Mothering Sunday dates back to Roman times, when the mother goddess Cybele was celebrated in mid-March. The day later became incorporated into the Christian calendar to honour the Virgin Mary and the 'mother church'.

In the 16th century it was a chance for people to return home to see family (it was called 'to go a-mothering') or attend their 'mother' church. In later times it was a rare day off for domestic servants.

Today, many people are more likely to head for a pub lunch than a church pew. But if we hold on to the original impulse rather than give in to rampant consumerism, it's still as valuable as ever.

The impulse to nurture and care is more important than ever, and ties up with being 'green' and aware of our environment.

Just as mothering/parenting isn't easy (and often a million miles away from the idealised image we start out with), caring about the planet gets more complicated the longer you do it and the more you know.

But when it comes to how we to bring up our children and choose to live our lives, thinking things through, sometimes making difficult choices, is what counts.

As any parent who has spent today with a toddler or a teenager knows, life isn't like the movies. And just as mothering can't be summed up by a box of chocolates, caring for the wider world extends beyond re-using the odd carrier bag.

But as long as we keep trying to do the right thing, and learning along the way, that's got to be a good thing - right?


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

No comments: