I’ve been watching my Facebook news feed this morning, fill with images of Mother’s Day cards and carefully crafted handmade gifts. At 42 I am just the right age to be surrounded by friends who have young children. By young I mean pre-teenage years, the point at which they still believe everything you say to be true and the worst thing they’ll do is colour the dog electric blue with your questionable choice in nail varnish.
Anyone with teenage children will know they morph from this sweet little baby into actual people with strong opinions and even stronger body odour. To add to this joy, they have been blessed with encyclopaedic knowledge on all of the subjects you only thought you knew about - and they are only too willing to share it with you. Those mothers will currently be enjoying a shop-bought card and, if they’re lucky, a break from their daily subjection to eye-rolling.
My own baby is now twenty-one, the same age I was when I had him. I was one of those ‘young mums’ without a wedding ring or a proper plan. As it turns out I didn't need the former and I got the latter together pretty damn quickly! And what do you know? I am undoubtedly a better and happier person because of my little 'accident'.
Yesterday, I spent a glorious day visiting two of my friends who have just given birth – one is 42 and one is 32. If you’re to believe social convention, we three are like Goldilocks and The Three Mamas – too young, too old and just right.
Because no matter where you look at the moment, there seems to be an inordinate amount of media attention surrounding the age at which women are becoming mums for the first time.
According to the people that know, below the age of twenty five we are too young to make a decent job of it. We don’t have enough life experience, enough money, enough of the mortgage paid off or a career worth mentioning. However, you better grab that window quickly because a woman awakens on her thirty-fifth birthday only to find her first wrinkle, a loud ticking noise and her fertility hurling itself off of a cliff.
You’ll notice I said ‘becoming mums’ and not ‘becoming parents’; because apparently dads are exempt from this particular piece of social chatter. And we shouldn't get all up in feminist arms about this becasue its a simple matter of biology. Given the raft of research that backs this up and the very real stories I hear from some of my 35+ friends who are trying to fall pregnant, I really can't argue with that.
However, if it’s only a simple matter of biology why is it that every time we read an article surrounding the ‘Best Age’ to have kids, a woman’s career choices, her wine consumption, her years of bumming around Australia or her collection of previously unsuitable partners are held up as evidence with which to lash her with for ‘leaving it too late’?
I’d argue therefore, that all of the attention surrounding ‘The Perfect Age for Motherhood’ has little to do with the very real qualities that make a person a good parent; and more to do with the fact that 101 years after we celebrated the first International Women’s Day a woman’s personal decisions about her life are still considered public fodder. I have yet to read anything questioning a man’s career path, his years spent spreading his wild oats or his daily penchant for a local craft beer being in any way connected to fatherhood.
Call me radical, but I’d say being a good mum has nothing to do with age, career, a mortgage, money, a wild past or an insatiable taste for an oaky chardonnay. Nothing. Nada. Sweet F A. Having been that young single mum and having watched my friends become mothers at varying different ages and in all sorts of family circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that most of what gets society's parental-knickers-in-a-twist doesn’t count for anything.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 41; if you have a high-flying career or five ropey standard grades; if you have a handsome husband, the love of another woman or if you wake up every day and go it alone. It doesn’t matter if you have given birth, fostered or adopted; if you used to help build schools in third world countries or flash your boobs when you were drunk.
Call me radical, but I’d say being a good mum has nothing to do with age, career, a mortgage, money, a wild past or an insatiable taste for an oaky chardonnay. Nothing. Nada. Sweet F A.What matters is that you love your child and your child feels loved. That you sit down and listen to their stories of nonsense and make believe and nod in agreement. It matters that you dance around the living room, read lots of stories and laugh at really silly jokes. That you pick them up when they tumble, dust them off and send them on their way. That you teach them manners and let them see right from wrong. That you instil them with a quiet confidence, let them make their own mistakes and always cheer on their wins.
It matters that you teach them what you know and that you encourage them to learn what you don't know. That you make it okay for them to ask questions, and if you don’t have the answers it matters that you are prepared to help find them. That you stand by their side, supporting their decisions and picking up any pieces when the wheels fly off. And most of all, it matters that you fall in love with their passions and that you celebrate anything that fills their life with joy.
Nothing on this list is determined by your age, your job or the size of your house. And if we’re going to get right down to it, none of it is even determined by your gender or whether or not it was you who gave birth to the child you are raising.
So, the next time you see a young mum, or an older mum, or a mum without a dad in tow, or a mum with another mum, or a working mum or a stay-at-home mum or a mum with a nanny, or a mum with eight kids or a mum with one kid… take a look at the children around her before you jump to one of the sweeping generalisations the media has helped to create. If the children are happy, if they’re chattering and laughing loudly or if they're having a complete melt-down because they’re not allowed the giant chocolate bar in Thorntons window, the chances are she’s a great mum.
So, forget all the bits that don’t matter and give her a smile to let her know she’s doing a brilliant job.
When I walked into my friends’ houses yesterday I found exactly the same scene in both. And it was the same one you’d have found walking into mine twenty years ago. Tiny babies, happy mummies and messy rooms packed wall-to-wall with love.
In my mind that makes all three of us just right.
Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you.
The photos I've chosen to celebrate mothers day:
Saddle up partners! Scottish musical theatre group Funbox bring their latest spectacular - The Wild West Show - to Perth Concert Hall.
August 12th Monday 2019
Starting nursery can be daunting for children, and for parents. Alice tells us how she and James got on when he hit this major milestone last year.
August 7th Wednesday 2019
Diane McLeish is a Perthshire based humanist who specialises in naming days for babies, toddlers and children.
July 25th Thursday 2019