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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.