One of the enduring injustices of good mothering is that your children remember so little of it.
This could be why you hear mums at the end of their tether hissing at their misbehaving spawn “Do you know what I do for you?” but this is the worst type of rhetorical question, akin to expecting acknowledgment from house plants or goldfish.
The human brain is extremely efficient at storing the information it needs for survival and, for this reason, evolution decided all those boring bits we experience before age five really aren’t worth hanging on to.
Our children literally cannot conceive of the thousands of breast or bottle feeds, the ache of mastitis, or the chafing of raw nipples their mummy suffered through.
Neither do they remember the endless nappy changes, or the kajillion times they squirted vomit, poo and wee over you – often just minutes after you’d finished cleaning up the last batch of fizzing, liquid excrement.
Predating even this, how could your kids begin to even understand the sore feet and back you weathered during pregnancy? The incredible exhaustion, the morning sickness, not to mention the contractions of birth or the stabbing pains of caesarean and episiotomy scars afterward?
No, the kids remember nothing. Zip. Nada.
And while some mothers make a habit of reminding their children – sometimes daily – about the sacrifices they made for them, the silent majority of mums just get on with it.
Growing up, many of us hear the phrase from our parents – “just you wait until you have your own children” – and laugh about it like it’s the Second Coming or global warming – a distant, future event that will probably never even happen.
But, when it does, your parents’ words don’t so much ring in your ears as ricochet around your skull, reminding you what an ungrateful little turd you’ve been.
This is one of the sublime gifts of becoming a grandparent – when your children have their own children and they suddenly realise, “Holy crap, mum (and dad) went through all of this for me?”
I know that I now look at my mother in a different light, thinking of all those kicks under the ribs and pokes in the bladder I gave her, which she’s never once mentioned, even after her second bottle of wine.
I changed her body. I changed her life. I bawled at her like a meth-addicted chimp most nights for three years and then I had the gall to throw tantrums when I couldn’t watch Neighbours or go to the roller disco on George Street.
Perhaps what’s even more unjust than our lack of memory of what our mums did for us is the fact that good mothering leaves far fewer obvious traces than bad.
We never hear tortured rock stars singing about their great mothers. Dispirited novelists don’t write bestsellers dramatising their happy childhoods. Actors don’t get sent to rehab and do tearful interviews with women’s magazines about how selfless their mums were (unless they’re on MasterChef and then they never stop blubbering).
No, your well-adjusted, much-loved, sensibly disciplined children just slip happily into a society which then decides once a year to celebrate the Sisyphean exertions of parenthood with “Mother’s Day“.
As a new dad, I’m certainly looking forward to my first Father’s Day, but I kind of feel like a bench player who’s been on the field for five minutes in the grand final and still gets a premiership ring.
I know my time doing the hard yards will come, but I doubt it’ll ever equal the efforts of my partner.
And this is why, if I am to get a Father’s Day, I reckon she and all mums should be honoured with at least two Mother’s Days, maybe even three.
And hopefully their kids will remember the dates.
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