A lot has changed in my mum's life since I was living at home. She has been through not one, but two divorces, multiple house moves and seeing all four of her children fly the nest. My eldest brother and I were the first to leave. Some years after our departure the family were gathered for Christmas when my brother turned to me and commented on how happy Mum looked. Contented, joyful and relaxed, really quite different from how we remember her as kids. My mum was always a great mum. She would always have dinner on the table when we collapsed in from school, or college, or work. We never had to do our own laundry, or ironing, Mum had it all covered. But she was rarely relaxed. Her sense of humour only lasted a particular length of time before it was pushed too far. Oh and how we loved to try and push it. From disguising ourselves as burns victims with coloured contact lenses and peelable face masks, to drink, drugs and rock and roll, between the four of us we covered pretty much all bases. When observing this new, relaxed Mum we pondered over why she had changed so much, putting it down to coming to the end of an unhappy marriage to my dad.
This conversation between my brother and I took place before kids. Now I have had kids my perspective has been totally changed and I can honestly say, Mum, I get it. I am not sure if I was ever a totally relaxed person. I suffer with anxiety and over analyse most situations. But I can honestly say I'm not sure when the last time I even slightly relaxed was.
The days my children were born will undoubtedly go down as the best days of my life, but from the moment I found out they were even in my womb I worried. I worried about miscarriage, I worried about still births, defects, labour. When they arrived it only got worse. I could no longer protect them inside me, now they are subjected to germs, hurling themselves around, becoming independent. I think about all the things we did as teenagers and I feel ill at the thought! I am desperately clinging on to the child stage.
Aside from the worry associated with children there are all the other day to day issues that simply come from being a parent. The sleepless nights, the winter months filled with viruses, the comings and goings. Between school runs, toddler groups, dog walks, out of school activities, work and any teensy bit of socialising I can fit in, I can go hours without even sitting down for a minute.
My mum did all of this with twice the number of children as me. While my husband works twenty minutes down the road, my dad was always away, sometimes for nine months at a time. We lived abroad in countries where we didn't speak the language. We would arrive not knowing any one. Thousands of miles from family and friends. Mum, seriously, you amaze me.
It makes me sad that I could not see exactly how much mum did for us until recently, once I became a mum myself. It concerns me even more that while my siblings remain childless they may never really, truly appreciate her at all. Mum, now I know why you were in bed at nine every night- you were exhausted. Why you never properly relaxed on a day at the beach, or while bowling, or at the supermarket- you were trying to single handedly round up four rowdy kids. Why whenever we were sick you always seemed a little bit cross- because you were trying to clean up vomit and prevent any more of us coming down with yet another nasty bug while my dad was working away and not on hand to assist. This post comes a little early for Mother's Day. I'm not even sure if you read my blogs, given you are a bit of a technophobe. But if you do read this, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for always being there for us, for never bailing out when the going got tough. Thank you for being a fantastic mum. If I can do just a quarter of the things you did as a mum, then my girls will be lucky to have me, just like we are lucky to have you.