Another cancelled Mother’s Day

One day we will marvel at the time when visiting your mum was a criminal offence.

Jennie Bristow

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Topics Politics UK

Mother’s Day. The one day in the year dedicated to thanking the millions of women who have dedicated their bodies, hearts and souls to raising a new generation. It’s a bloody, smelly and often thankless task, which is (of course) intensely emotionally fulfilling, but frankly knackering. A ritual show of appreciation on one day a year might not be much in the way of reward but hey, we’re mothers. We take what we’re given.

Except this year – like last year – we’re not even being given that. When Mother’s Day was effectively cancelled in March 2020, as Covid-19 began to rage across the land, there was at least some sentimental regret. Boris even made a speech acknowledging that ‘everyone’s strongest instinct is to go and see their mothers in person’, before telling us we couldn’t do it.

This year, with the virus in retreat and practically all the oldies jabbed, Mother’s Day is cancelled again – with no acknowledgement, let alone apology. ‘The Rules’ dictate that we could perhaps drag our mum out on a walk and shiver on a bench; assuming she lives round the corner and not 200-odd miles away, and doesn’t mind being celebrated with a bout of hypothermia. But cooking her dinner, taking her out for dinner, even popping round to visit the woman who gave us life, is illegal – and, if we believe the public-health ads, immoral. That bit really winds me up. Look your mother in the eyes and tell her you love her but you’re doing all you can to stop the spread of Covid-19 so a half-hour Zoom call will have to do. Again.

For those of us with kids at home, the cancellation of Mother’s Day is a double whammy of everything-it-shouldn’t-be. We haven’t seen our mums in months but we haven’t been away from our kids since January – at least. I have the best kids in the world (of course), and they also cook amazing dinners, but it’s not natural to cage teenage girls with their peri-menopausal mothers, and right now we all need a break. I can’t be the only one thinking that I’d rather spend 14 March down the pub with my mates, rather than have yet another day of everyone trying really hard to be nice to each other.

Who cares about Mother’s Day? The supermarkets, of course, who seem to have collectively decided that what mothers really want is to be spammed with passive-aggressive emails asking whether they want to be opted out of their Mother’s Day marketing emails. There has been some debate among my friends about why that is – are they trying to be sensitive to the recently bereaved, or have they just run out of Covid-secure measures in their stores that they want to tell us about? Whatever is going on in the marketers’ minds, the effect is pretty creepy. Do they know something we don’t? If you have just lost your mum, is that email really going to help? Are they trying to promote Mother’s Day, or delete it?

Given that the word ‘mother’ is apparently so controversial that even maternity services now prefer to talk about ‘birthing parents’, nothing would surprise me. Mothers are at risk of being de-personalised by ‘persons’. If we’re out of lockdown by March 2022, we’ll no doubt end up with a Person’s Day, which will swiftly be usurped by the kids self-identifying as Persons in need of validation and treats. Meanwhile, the dads will carry on laughing: Father’s Day this year just happens to be the day before lockdown is scheduled to end. I’ve never been a feminist but given all this symbolic erasure, I’m wondering if they have a point.

For all that, the brilliant thing about kids is their different perspective – and in that, I’ve already had a great gift. As I was grousing away about the glacial pace of the lockdown exit strategy and all the things we were still not able to do, my daughters pulled me up short. Didn’t I realise that even having an end to lockdown in sight would make a massive difference to how people felt? Hadn’t I noticed that, actually, people really want to move on and get back to normal?

And yes, when the sun came out, there were people hanging out everywhere in town; a lightness of mood and a casualness of behaviour that I haven’t noticed for a very long time. The sense of optimism that fled my part of Kent sometime around November seems to be cautiously returning. So long as we still want out of lockdown, we will get out – one way or another. We move, as the kids are fond of saying. It will be too late for Mother’s Day, but we’ll be first at the bar.

Jennie Bristow is co-author of The Corona Generation: Coming of age in a crisis, with Emma Gilland, published by Zero books in November. Buy the book here.

Picture by: Getty.

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