Sunday was Mothers Day. Tuesday was International Women’s Day. Both cause for celebration and contemplation I think.
Many years ago in a different life I was the manager of a branch of a well known high street card and gift store. It was actually one of my favourite jobs, I had a great team of staff, we worked really well together, all playing to our strengths and supporting each other with learning more. I enjoyed a good relationship with the management team above me and felt respected and valued by them and was given a lot of freedom and autonomy to run the shop how I chose. I was ambitious for a high powered career back then so after 18 months or so I was searching for the next opportunity but that remains one of the employment periods I look back on most fondly. Working in retail, which was largely what I did during my years as an employee I was used to a seasonal feel to my year. Retail management is rarely about the days of the week, you certainly don’t get the celebrated Friday feeling as the chances are you will be working the weekend. You don’t do the 9-5 either, a typical working day for me back then was 730am -630pm with lunch taken after the lunch time rush if at all. Late nights, early mornings and back to back shifts were a matter of course with Christmas being the busiest period of all. We lurched from one peak period of trading to the next with workload heavy times such as stock takes or paperwork scheduled in for the quieter times meaning even they were fraught and stressful. In that particular job though there were graded times of busyness – Christmas was by far our biggest ‘season’ when from October onwards we would be rearranging the shop weekly to expand the footage given over to Christmas until it took over half the shop. The next biggest season came directly afterwards in the shape of Valentines Day, from which we lurched straight into Mothers Day. There were other seasons – Fathers Day and Easter were probably the main secondary ones with the period from May to August deemed Wedding Season when we would extend the footage given over to invites, wedding cards, anniversary cards and thank you cards, July seeing us put out stands for Thanking Teachers, Congratulations on exam results and so on. This is nearly 20 years ago but we were already starting to capitalise on St Patricks Day, Nurses Day and some of the religious festivals of faiths other than Christianity.
Working in that environment gave me a cynicism for these largely manufactured events and excuses to make money – and chop down trees – to celebrate these days. There were certain types of customer – the smug, early bird types who were in purchasing all their Christmas cards in October (or worse still, those who purchased them in the January half price sale and would be able to find those stashed bargain cards 11 months later!), the last minute types (we always kept Valentines and Mothers Day cards out for a few days and always, always sold them after the event!) , the customers who looked at the price tag or the ostentatiousness of the card choosing the biggest, sparkliest or most expensive, or the considered ones who stood for ages reading the words, comparing several options and really putting thought into their choice. I too, for many years fell into one or all of those categories and it is fairly recently that we have eschewed all purchased greetings and celebration cards in favour of home made or not at all.
I have read some backlash comments against Mothers Day this year, about how we don’t need celebrations of motherhood or excuses to buy flowers and cards and turn the role of mother into something consumer driven. I tend to agree with this, we don’t celebrate Valentines Day for just that reason but I did send a card to my Mum, along with a message to someone I consider my second Mum and have wished a Happy Mothers Day for several years. Mothers Day has become something Davies and Scarlett mark though, utterly of their own volition. While motherhood certainly does not define me – it is a massive, massive part of my life. As a Home Educator I have spent the whole 15 years of my parent in the company of my children and it has been the most enlightening, rewarding, educational, exciting, fun and happy time. The fact that both my children go to such lengths – not just on Mothers Day, but every single day – to demonstrate how much they feel the same fills my heart with joy. Mothers Day gives them the opportunity to celebrate specifically and this year they presented me with chocolates, a gorgeous tumbler and most precious of all hand made cards. Scarlett was the organiser of the gifts my capable thoughtful, doer of a daughter who makes things happen. Davies once again reduced me to tears (as he does pretty much every birthday and Mothers Day) with one of his amazing cards. A complete labour of love with illustrations, words straight from the heart and a testament to everything I have done for the last 15 years and why I have done it. The words he has written about what I mean to him and why he loves me are wonderful and had me sobbing, but I think what meant the most was not that their acts were directed at me (as very lovely as that was) but that they are capable of such acts, able to articulate themselves and feel such love, demonstrate such kindness and thoughtfulness, be such amazing people. I am so proud of them, proud to be their mother, proud to know them and have them in my life.
Which brings me to International Womens Day which I celebrated this year by telling 25 of the women I know why I think they are amazing on facebook. And that was barely a quarter of the amazing women I know, who I could spend the rest of my life enthusing about and listing all the reasons they are wonderful.
Those ‘special’ days to mark events can just be an excuse to spend money, or feel bad for not doing so. They can also, quite rightly, be a celebration of more than that, a prompt to tell someone just why they are wonderful and what they mean to you. And of course we should do that anyway, regardless of whether that is marked off on the calendar as an opportunity to celebrate mothers, women or love but in busy days in busy lives it is easy to get distracted from doing so.