WOMAN ON TOP
Mother’s Day madness is a short-lived, random affair
Christmas is barely over when Valentine's Day and Easter rear their commercial heads
Christmas barely stuffed back into boxes and we’re heading into silly season again – Valentine plastic and sugar; Easter eggs dotting the aisles; and, soon enough, the ubiquitous, soft-focus Mother’s Day fare, prominently placed for night-before dashes to shops.
When I was little, planning Mother’s Day for my mom was an event akin to putting up the tree lights in December.
Short on cash and lacking any notable culinary or artistic skills, I nevertheless made the event as precious as possible.
Poor, long-suffering mothers: the number of burnt toasties they’ve eaten in bed, at dawn; the gaudy, ceramic mugs collected; the countless bouts of enthusiasm displayed for a crayon heart or tumbler of wilting garden daisies swarming with enraged ants.
But I really, really love my mom – and there’s no better high in the world than smothering with affection the object of one’s delight. It’s only when I became a mom that I realised what a highly-charged rite of passage is this randomly created day.
The march of commercialism stops for no activist, so instead, I’m placing bets on how quickly we’ll see this year’s promotional material and frenzied marketing ploys.
Each year, without fail, the contents aggravate my momhood – primarily because the brochures still bark the clichés that we’ve worked so hard to squash.
Apart from postage stamp-sized adverts for reasonably stimulating books – and the requisite shots of chocolate (no argument there) – the gift guides bade my husband and kids to buy things that identified me as a person who does all the dirty work amid a desperate desire to be beautiful.
Two-thirds of one brochure thus: an apron, gingham-style dish cloths, matching oven gloves and a non-stick pot; a waterless iron, touch-button kettle and placemats.
If I wanted any of these things, I’d buy them myself, reluctantly, with my own money, because they’re useful and practical and everybody in this house cooks and makes tea.
Lying in bed, being presented with an XL rose-patterned apron, is light years away from my idyll of feeling pampered, loved and cocooned. What thinly-veiled message associates with an apron on Mother’s Day? The assumption that we’ll leap from our beds to make a roast?
For Nigella Lawson, who makes love to her kitchen because she wants to, an apron is apt. For the greater numbers of mothers who don’t know what the hell to make for a medley of hungry mouths seven days a week, it’s nothing short of lunacy.
It reminds me of a friend’s birthday once, when she was given a top-of-the-range chopping board for her 35th.
That the rest of the adverts are usually made up of anti-cellulite creams and “age-defying” lotions is a given. We’re just not there yet – we’re not past the idiocy that is thin and young and a whizz in the kitchen.
Kate Stone Lombardi, in Time magazine, explained that these commercialised holidays are revealing “a lot about the growing gap between cultural gender stereotypes and the reality of most families’ day-to-day lives”.
Traditionally, we’re portrayed as desperate to be alone, in bed, wearing slipper socks, while the rest of the family shares our chores and lets us sleep late.
Conversely, Father’s Day has been celebrated as great family time: with braais, rough-and-tumbles on the beach and general bonding between the lot of us – rather than the sympathetic isolation of the matriarch, for whom the pay-off is one day of not having to wipe a bottom or hustle little people to eat their toast.
As Lombardi argued, moms and dads are taking on more similar roles.
We’re both stressed, exhausted and tired of wiping bottoms and buttering toast sometimes. One day “off” a year doesn’t compensate for the reality of the remaining 364.
For my mom, that breakfast in bed was a short-lived affair – an hour of spoils, a couple of trinkets and then back to the fun of family time on a Sunday.
And nary a jar of anti-wrinkle cream in sight...