I have a confession to make: I can't stand Mother's Day.
Ever since my mother died 12 years ago (and then my mother-in-law 2 years later) Mother's Day has had a bittersweet taste for me. I don't like thinking about mothers, because I don't have one, and all the things that you traditionally do on Mother's Day are all the things I can't do with her. (I know I'm not alone in this; my sister also confessed that she feels the same, and I've seen posts by other people whose mums have died which have suggested similar conflicting feelings). Therefore I tend to dismiss it as tacky and commercial, just another holiday dreamed up by card manufacturers and marketers to encourage us to spend money.
I know that I AM a mother now, and that I should be feeling all warm and fuzzy when my children give me cards and flowers, but they aren't really old enough yet (and anyway, Mother's Day is on a different day in the US). And besides, it just reminds me that they don't have any grandmothers, which is a constant source of sadness.
But this year has been different. We have had my husband's Aunt staying for a few days. And, despite the fact that her visit coincided with the worst weather we've had for months (driving rain and howling gales; half of Long Island has suffered from power cuts), it has been wonderful. I've been reminded of what it must be like to have a mum.
She has been a total trouper; baking cookies with the boys, treating us to delicious meals out, offering to babysit so that we could go to the cinema (to see An Education: the best film I've seen in ages and definitely worth the trip). She was there to grab the scooters and provide a dry jumper when Littleboy 2 fell into a freezing duckpond within two hours of her arrival; she has sat through Ice Age AND Ice Age 2 with the Littleboys (and looked as if she were enjoying them); tomorrow she's taking me to a spa for some much-needed beauty treatments.
It has been so valuable for the boys to spend time with her; the closest person they have to a granny. When we come in from preschool, and they are screaming at me simultaneously to take their shoes off, get them a drink and look at something in their schoolbag all before I've got my key in the door, it is such a relief to have someone else there to calm them, help with all the clobber and ask them what they did at school. I think sometimes as a parent I am so caught up in the day to day stresses of Just Managing that I forget to treat my children as what they are: very, very small and vulnerable human beings.
For me, just having someone to speak to who has brought up three children herself and seen it all before is unbelievably helpful. I know not everyone sees eye to eye with their mothers on child-rearing, but at least it's good to have some advice; rather than just winging it as I feel I am doing most of the time.
So I can see why Mother's Day means so much to people - but I think it should be extended, perhaps, to Aunties, Grannies, best friends and all other women who are there for us. Because no matter how much we think we can do it all ourself, there's nothing like a bit of help to make us realise how much we miss it.