Ways in which perhaps we should be turning into our mothers

There are clearly ways in which I should be turning into my mother, but for some reason I am not. So following my previous post, for fairness and completeness, I wanted to acknowledge the ways in which I should be more like her. I know this list doesn’t apply to lots of my peers, who are much less domestically hopeless than I am.

Here are a handful of them (although I am sure the list is non-exhaustive – just in case you’re reading, Mum):

  1. By running a tight ship

Thrifty housekeeping, by which I mean housewifely tricks such as meal planning, budgeting and making leftover food into tasty meals for the following day. How many times do I keep cold mashed potato in the fridge intending to make bubble and squeak but never get round to it? (In fact I don’t think I know how to make bubble and squeak.) Or a chicken carcass which could be turned into stock or a healthy broth? My mother grew up in 50’s Yorkshire when “ee by gum, times were tough,” as we used to say to annoy her. But now I’m older and a little wiser, I know that life was much more about the hard graft than I will ever know and I admire her for not abandoning her economising principles in a throw-away society.

  1. By knowing how to ‘make do and mend’

When my mother was younger, socks were darned, leather patches were sewn on jumper elbows , cardigans were knitted by hand and embroidery was a common pastime of a woman in her prime. Most of my clothes as a child were made from Clothkits patterns. Most of my daughter’s clothes are from H&M, Next and Boden. The haberdashery department at John Lewis is a fascinating new world: a treasure trove of thimbles, bobbins, press studs, satin ribbons and coloured threads.  Am I part of a lost generation of terrible-at-textiles women, or is it just me? I know it’s not just me because some of my friends’ mothers mend the holes in their sons-in-law’s trousers and knit their grandchildren cozy hooded jumpers, while their daughters are doing the online weekly shop and buying birthday presents from Amazon. I’m not advocating a return to the 1950’s England of village fetes, jam-making and the WI (although that pre-EU dystopia may soon be repeating on us like Great Auntie Mabel’s homemade elderflower wine), it’d just be useful to know how to sew on a button with dexterity.

  1. By being more house-proud

My ‘down-time’ – i.e. when the baby is having his morning nap – tends to consist of doing what I term ‘essential iPad admin’ (including the shopping referred to in 2 above, as well as emailing with a bit of social networking thrown in). I have already been reprimanded by my mother for this. By midday she would have already washed 20 terry cloth nappies in the twin-tub, peeled 11 spuds, polished the brass, plumped the cushions, mopped the floor and lined the shoes up for cleaning. My daughter’s school shoes are lucky to get the once over with a baby-wipe twice a term and a good friend who bought us a silver salt-shaker for a wedding present complained that it looked like pewter a few months later.

  1. By attempting my own Bake-Off

When I bought my first flat, I used to keep empty butter packets in the fridge like my mother did when we were growing up, but I didn’t really know what they were for (something to do with making cakes?). I gave up after a while, since I had to throw them away unused every month or so. Plenty of my peers can bake really well, so this isn’t necessarily a generational thing. My baking tins sit pristine at the back of the cupboard and when I attempted to make chocolate crispy cakes for my daughter to take to school for her birthday, I put cold syrup into warm melted chocolate and the mixture turned irreparably solid. Fortunately my mum was there to make a new batch.

   5.   By being green-fingered

My mother was gardening the day before she gave birth to me. I imagine her having her first twinge while kneeling by a flowerbed with a trowel in her hand. I didn’t have a garden that I was responsible for until I was in my mid-thirties and it took me a while to realise how utterly time-consuming it is to tend a garden so that it looks passably good and you don’t have to apologise to guests if they trip over a molehill on the unmowed lawn. Strimming, trimming, planting, plucking, pruning, deadheading, digging, raking, hoeing, sowing, shovelling, tending, watering, weeding: seriously, who has time for all of this? Fortunately, the garden is full up with a climbing frame, trampoline and assorted plastic toys so there’s not much room for nice flowers. My favourite plants are our pale pink Camelia which flowers in early April for my son’s birthday and a Rhododendron whose vibrant dark pink flowers blossom for our daughter’s birthday in late May. And that’s about as much as I know.

The tell-tale ways in which we turn into our mothers

imageAll women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” – Oscar Wilde

I have noticed some strange quirks in my behaviour over the last few years, which I think have dated from having children, and which have now become too obvious to ignore or to laugh off as a coincidence. I am doing things that my mother does now, and things that she did when she was raising us in the 1980’s and 90’s.

These are some of the signs that made me first realise that I was becoming like my mother:

  1. Using tried and tested stock phrases to your children, usually at moments of high stress:
    • Play session becoming increasingly excitable? It’ll all end in tears;
    • Small spillage from a sippy cup? There’s water all over the floor;
    • No-one listening? It’s like talking to a BRICK WALL.
    • They want more toys, DVDs and clothes? I’m not made of money;
    • Children being particularly irritating? Give me strength;
    • The just-replenished biscuit tin is now empty? You can’t pull the wool over my eyes;
    • Exclaiming, he won’t get there any quicker whilst watching the speeding motorist disappear into the distance;
    • Someone guzzling wine? It’s not pop you know;
    • Children squabbling? If you can’t play nicely, you can’t play at all;
    • Children whining that they don’t have enough to do? Well, I wish I was bored.
  2. Saying ‘Ooof’ whenever you sit down or get up from a seat (whether a comfy sofa or wooden chair) and also when you bend down to pick up an item from the floor.
  3. Mixing up the names of your children ALL THE TIME and calling your son by your husband’s name or your daughter by your sister’s name.
  4. Recognising your child’s cry as either a) tired, b) hungry or c) hurt and if c), reprimanding their sibling who tries to deny any wrongdoing. (Flashback to 30 years ago when I scoffed at the different cries:

Ridiculous! They all sound the same”.
Ah, but a mother knows”.
Pah”.)

  1. When daily routines are controlled by caffeine intake: Ken Bruce’s Pop Pickers is on? Time for a milky coffee. Just had an afternoon stroll to the shops/park? Stick the kettle on, I’m parched.
  2. A fervent obsession with turning off the lights in unoccupied rooms whilst muttering under your breath about pressure on the national grid (my mother also used to exclaim: “it’s like Blackpool illuminations in here”. I don’t do this. Yet).
  3. Using words such as ‘snazzy’ (“that’s a snazzy top”); canoodling (“there was a couple canoodling in the swimming pool and it rather put me off my stroke”) and ‘bit of alright’, as in “he’s a bit of an alright”.
  4. Developing an unnatural pre-occupation with time: looking at your watch before setting off on any journey longer than an hour and announcing to the car that ‘it’s 20 past ten’ as you start the engine and continually stressing about missing a train even though you always arrive at the station 13 minutes early.
  5. Anxiety about driving long distances or to places you haven’t been before and refusing to drive in the dark / at rush hour / when it’s raining / anywhere in London / anywhere that you may have to reverse park.
  6. Realising that Question Time is on too late to stay up for. Sorry, David.
  7. Favouring knickers that provide optimal coverage and comfort over, well, ones that don’t. Thong? In the bin. Not that I like to throw items of clothing in the bin but I don’t even think the local recycling clothes bank would want my cast-off G-strings and I don’t trust my two year old to use them safely as a catapult.
  8. Always having a tissue on one’s person (e.g. stuffed up sleeve / down bra) and favouring clothes – especially pyjamas – with pockets in for that reason.
  9. Developing a general obsession about clothes and linen washing. It’s a sunny breezy day? Perfect for getting the washing on the line. Then furtively checking the washing to see if it’s dry and re-pegging it correctly if someone else hung it out. And is there a bigger treat than getting into bed when the sheets are clean, crisp and cold?
  10. Commentating on TV programmes, whether watching alone or with others. My favourite one is commentating over sport commentary, particularly when watching an important golf tournament with my husband: ‘it’s going in the hole, it’s going in the hole, IT’S GOING IN THE HOLE… Oh, it’s not going in the hole’.

For me, the main sign that I am turning into my mother, at least in some ways, is that I recognise all the above and yet I’m not all that bothered actually. Perhaps this is because I’m a mother now and have therefore given up on all hope of maintaining my identity. Or perhaps I’m just more mature than I used to be. I am not saying that Oscar Wilde was wrong (that would be heresy!) but I find it more, shall we say, tragi-comic than tragic. My husband may disagree. In the hole! 

This Mum's Life
One Messy Mama