Philobiblon: In praise of mothers ...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In praise of mothers ...

Feeling tired and sentimental, so I almost shed a tear over The Happy Feminist's paen of praise to her mother. (Excellent blog on many topics, BTW.) Her mother made one huge, enormously brave step, then otherwise fulfilled all of the gender norms.

And of course it left me thinking of my Mum, and how different she was.

Mum, when I was a small child kept the house spotless - and even ironed our underpants, something I finally talked her out of doing when I was in my early teens - but absolutely hated doing it. She did it because she thought she had too.

And she was a dreadful cook, a job she also hated. In my memory - although I'm sure this wasn't actually true - every meal consisted of cheap steak fried to the consistency of leather, lumpy mashed potatoes and frozen corn and peas. It is no wonder Kraft macaroni cheese was my favourite meal.)

What Mum would really have liked to do - at least in my early youth - was drive racing cars. She once, famously, beat a famous Australian racing driver in a hill climb, and I suspect given the opportunity she could have been very good. Of course, however, that wasn't going to happen - indeed I can't even think of a female racing driver today.

And what she gave me, above all, were two things:

1. A determination to do my own thing. She hadn't been able to escape to independence, but she wanted to ensure I had every opportunity to do so. (She was probably five years too young. The middle Sixties in Australian suburbia were still "the Fifties" in cultural terms, and a young woman with little education striking out on her own would have been almost unimaginable - and economicly probably extremely difficult, if not impossible.)

2. She refused to put any burdens on me; to make any claims on me. She consciously and explicitly didn't demand payment for the sacrifices that she'd made for me. Mum thought emotional blackmail was a hideous thing. (An awareness of this issue makes me wonder about these career women who "give it all up for the children" - so beloved by the media. What will they ask of their kids in return?)

P.S. I was reminded in writing this post of a lovely blog I found via Tim Worstall's Britblog roundup this week. Super Woman's Super Blog is written by a manager of a newsagency in "in a desolate seaside town" in the UK. And, reading between the lines, she was the total driving force in it raising more than £1,000 for charity.

It reminds me too of Mum's work in various school Mothers' Clubs. Their members did all the work for fetes, tuckshop rotas and similar, but when it came to visiting dignitaries etc, the males who headed the Parents & Citizens Association would be trotted out to collect the glory.


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