Being a mum is the hardest job in the world – and it is a job

Waking up, I reach over to my phone and already, there are two messages from my best friends: ‘Have a great day! Hope you are spoiled rotten – you deserve it!’ 

As I started to reply, another message, then another, came through. 

All from friends, wishing me a happy Mother’s Day. Just as I will wish them one back, a message sent, not just out of ritual or obligation, but out of love and sincerity. 

We know that all of us – mums, and anyone else who takes on a maternal role – deserve to be recognised on this day. Recognised and celebrated.

Because being a mum is a bloody hard job.

That tiny, insignificant, innocent-sounding word – mum – encompasses so vast a role, it really is quite incomprehensible to understand until you’re right in the thick of it.

As anyone who has children will testify, when you are handed that tiny, beautiful little bundle who will take your breath away the first time you set eyes on them and countless times afterwards, you don’t just become a mum.

You become a chef – or rather, at first, a walking milk machine; your leaking, aching boobs having to be available whenever your baby becomes peckish.

You become a bankroller, buying every single little thing they need to keep them warm, clothed, comfortable and entertained.

You become a personal stylist, picking whatever you think they’d look best in that day (admittedly this is one of the more fun roles – certainly more enjoyable than waste-disposal expert and late-night entertainer).

As they become a toddler, you become a trained negotiator. Any parent who has had to persuade a three-year-old in the midst of winter that no, her Minnie Mouse vest top is not an appropriate outfit to wear to nursery, will know this is the role that will eventually bring you to your knees, a quivering wreck of a person.

You become a taxi driver, party-planner and PA when it comes to organising their social life that suddenly blossoms when they start attending nursery and, worse, school.

You become a hairdresser, a teacher, a counsellor, an artist… I could carry on but you get the idea.

Yet, despite the numerous, varied roles you take on, there are no weekends off, no annual leave and certainly no opportunity for sick days. You have to be on call, ready to go, at a moment’s notice – no matter the time, day or night.

And you’re working for the least forgiving, most ruthless boss (no, I’m not referring to Alan Sugar). A boss who, from the minute they open their eyes, demands your full attention. Who will inexplicably burst into tears, or fall on the floor kicking and screaming. Who is not reasonable, rational and certainly cannot be talked down or out of the craziest ideas.

There is no instruction manual. You do your best every single day, despite the uncertainty, the exhaustion and the worries – but you never get any feedback to let you know if you’re doing a good job, or how you could do a better one.

All too often, it does go seemingly unrewarded, unnoticed even. After all, this is what we signed up to. And to be honest, we know, despite its… challenges, being a mum is a complete and utter privilege. Yet, that doesn’t mean it isn’t really, really hard.  

Which is why Mother’s Day is so extremely welcome. A chance for your family and loved ones to let you know that you are doing a good job. That they appreciate what you do.

This week, I picked Immy, now three, up from nursery and she proudly presented me with a pink cookie and a pot full of dirt that she assured me would eventually grow into a sunflower.

‘These are for you, Mummy,’ she announced shyly, as she handed them over for me to balance along with the coat she wouldn’t wear, her bag of spare clothes, her book and cuddly toy. ‘Happy Mother’s Day!’

‘Immy, thank you so much,’ I beamed, giving her a big hug and feeling touched as we made our way home, happy to ignore it was all her nursery’s doing and she had had no input into it at all.  

‘Can I eat that?’ she asked, pointing to the cookie. Ahh…. ‘Of course, that’s fine,’ I told her, my smile dimming slightly as I went to put the sunflower in the kitchen.

‘And can that go in my bedroom?’ she asked, beady-eyed. ‘It has to go on a windowsill. I have a windowsill.’

‘Of course,’ I repeated dully. ‘That’s fine.’

So to all of you mums and grandmas, sisters and aunties, dads and friends, and everyone who is being celebrated today, I raise a glass to you. For doing the hardest, yet best, job in the world.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

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