I’ve wanted to write a post about my Mum – DorkyGranny – for months. I tried to write one for Mother’s Day, but it didn’t quite come together. I have heard it said before that stories become easier to tell the more often you tell them, and I’m realising that to be true. I’ve had to tell the ‘story’ of DorkyDad and me so often that I’m now completely comfortable with it, and it flows very easily. I have a fairly set vocabulary and phrases that I will always use when telling people about my marriage, but I haven’t yet found the language that feels right for talking about Mum. She is staying with us this week though, so it seemed like as good a time as any to try again.

The word that first comes to mind when I think about my Mum is gratitude.

It is only when you become a parent yourself that you realise the work your own mother put in. I had no idea how much effort it takes to keep a household running – even a small one like ours. The endless dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping… remembering the birthdays of everyone in the extended family, making sure there are clean clothes to wear and shoes that fit, organising haircuts and doctor’s appointments and repeat prescriptions… making sure the bills are paid, the house is insured, the holidays are booked… It is not thrilling stuff, but it’s essential to keeping a family happy and functioning.

I have always had a good relationship with my mum, but now I have a whole new level of gratitude, and a new understanding of how hard she worked.

It is the silliest of things that I sometimes find myself getting emotional about. Now that I know how hard it is to keep a house stocked up with all the right kinds of food, I understand how much effort she put in to making interesting meals for us on a tight budget. When I think of my Mum, I think of warmth and good smells in the kitchen – stews, soups, roasts and pies. Scones, stir fries and banana bread. Lemon chicken and lattice treacle tart. It was from her that I learnt how to make a good omelette, and the world’s best potato salad.

I would come home from school and sit on the radiator in the kitchen window. We would drink tea and chat about the day while she prepared dinner. So perhaps it is no surprise that now, many years on, I feel most like a Mum myself when DorkySon and I are bustling around in the kitchen doing some baking. That urge to provide, to fill little bellies and to see plates scraped clean, is far stronger than I had ever imagined.

So another word that springs to mind is nurturer.

But my Mum is also creative – she is a painter, and a crafter. I have many memories of visiting her studio, which even to six year old me provided a glimpse into the woman beyond the wife and mother. I loved her big seascapes, her palettes that were smudged with oils, and the intoxicating smell of white spirit, which she used to clean her brushes. She went back to school as an adult to get the necessary pieces of paper – the formal acknowledgement that yes, she could paint – and soon after was accepted to art college. I am so proud of that, and still sad that life got in the way and she couldn’t take her place.

Deborah Cameron artist

For a year or two, when I was at primary school, Mum worked in the bank. It seemed to me like the most glamorous job imaginable. She would put on her staff uniform and pearly pink lipstick, scoosh a wee whiff of perfume on her wrists, and walk down the village in her blue, heeled court shoes. How I longed to know what went on in that grownup world of finance. I envisaged her sorting through towering stacks of gold coins and thick wads of notes.

I suspect the reality was somewhat less glamorous but again, in retrospect, that just makes me all the prouder. The challenge for mothers of finding the right work-life balance is not a new one, and I know that all the questions currently churning around in my head about what to do when DorkySon starts school, and what kind of job I’ll be able to find, are questions that my Mum had to deal with twenty years ago.

When I find myself questioning my decisions as a mother, I think about what my own Mum would have done. I hope that as DorkySon grows older I can find the same balance that she managed of being a source of security and comfort, but not being stifling.

Tonight we sat down to a dinner which I had made – chicken soup – which had been simmering away on the stove all afternoon, filling the house with a lovely smell, and steaming up the kitchen windows with the heat.

A bowl of soup is not really an adequate thank you for all she has done.

But it felt good.

It is a start.

39 responses

  1. Ah what a lovely post. I completely relate to all you’re saying about your mum being an inspiration and finding the right work / life balance. My most recent post was written very much with my own mum in mind. She worked so hard and if I ever feel like I’m struggling I just think of my mum, cycling 20 miles across a busy city to get to work in the rain, after dropping me at school and my sister at nursery, before cycling back the same route and taking us swimming after school or making up plays with us (she was a drama teacher) or baking. Gosh, I think you’ve inspired me to write my own post now.

    • I have been thinking about that post of yours since reading it, but haven’t commented yet because I’m coming from such a different place. I am so full of admiration for how hard you work, and I am FULL OF THE FEAR about how I’m going to do that in the next year or two! I can’t wait to see your post about your Mum xxx

  2. What a lovely, lovely, lovely post! That picture of you and your mum is just so wonderful – you can tell that there is a very close bond between you both, that you are very, very close friends – such a lovely portrait of mother and daughter. I love that you would come home from school and have chats with your mum with a cuppa – and what gorgeous food she made – lattice treacle tart was a favourite in our house too. She sounds like she has been a great role model too – as a mother, artist and working/career woman. I’ll bet she’s really, really proud of you! And that painting is brilliant – a real talent – she a shame is was not able to go to art college, for what ever reason it was. Could she go back to college now perhaps? A very creative streak clearly runs in your family, and your mum very evidently passed the baton onto you! X.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment! I think I might have to make one of those treacle tarts now that I’ve got them in mind! It is one of my fave photos of us too – taken the morning of my wedding! xx

  3. I love the picture of you and your mum, there is such a visible connection between you. The warmth with which you write about her gave me goosebumps, I think because my own mum is so very important to me. I know what you mean about not fully understanding the efforts and hard work our mums have made on our behalf until you are there doing it yourself. Selfishly, before I had children I struggled to find time to make the calls and see her. Now not many days go by without a phone call and I just love when she visits. I love to cook for her now and spoil her.

    • What a lovely comment, thank you so much. It sounds like you have a really wonderful relationship with your Mum now too – how fab to be in such close contact. xxx

  4. What a young and glamorous mother. And what a beautiful beautiful picture of the sea that I assume was painted by her. I’d clear my walls for that. You reinforce my shame that while my mother cooked as inventively as yours, my children are reared on fishfingers and are scared witless by stews and stir fries.

    • Ooh she’ll be chuffed when she reads that! I agree, she’s lovely, as are her paintings. Don’t feel too bad – there are a lot of fish fingers served up in this house too. If your children had to choose between having you chained to the stove or spending time with them, I bet they’d rather the time xx

  5. That’s absolutely lovely. She sounds a really wonderful mum. I so miss mine – lost her ten years ago now, but she was such an inspiration. Although my new book was about our home schooling days I found as I was writing it was a lot about her and her character and although we lost her during this story which was hard to write about, it was also a beautiful accolade to her too. So glad you wrote about yours when she’s still with you – she gets to read it. x

  6. Oh lovely, lovely! So very LOVEly. The pics are gorgeous too – what a lucky pair you are – you clearly deserve each other 🙂 x

  7. beautiful post, its so hard to find the right words to write about those closest sometimes, but you have done it beautifully, your mum sounds like a wonderful women and one who everyone should try to be like x

  8. I absolutely love the photo of you both. It’s just gorgeous. I often look to my own mum to work out if I am doing things right with my own little one and figure that if I can be as good a parent to Kraken Junior as my mum is to me then all will be well with the world.

    • Thanks very much, it’s one of my faves too.
      It must be incredibly hard to find your own way as a mother if you don’t have your own around to look to for advice. I’m always calling and emailing with questions, and bouncing ideas off her. I then completely ignore some of those suggestions too, of course, but it’s brilliant having a knowledgable and honest sounding board. D’you think in twenty years DorkySon and Kraken Junior will be writing posts about how bloody brilliant we are?

  9. Pingback: Gratitude | Tots 100

  10. Beautifully written post. Has DorkyGranny seen it? Sure she’ll be so touched – and so proud of you. There is no greater compliment to a woman than to hear her daughter strives to be just like her.

  11. Such a lovely thing to read, and a reminder not to take the people we love for granted. I remember my mum just being there, always, and I’m cross with myself that I don’t give my own children the constant, calm presence that I remember from her.

    • Oh goodness, I don’t think there is any mother in the world who offers a constant, calm presence. I bet your own mother didn’t feel she gave you that, but memory is very forgiving. I am hopeful our children with have strongest memories of the good bits, and that all the mad, bad days will fade. All any of us can do is our best 🙂 x

  12. What a beautiful post. Your mum sounds like a mum to aspire to. She’s a talented lady too. She must me so proud of you x

  13. Pingback: Goodbye 2012 | dorkymum

  14. Pingback: Gratitude | Tots 100

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