Mother’s Day, as your conspiracy-theory-minded friends will be quick to misinform you, was concocted by the evil marketing geniuses at Hallmark and retailers to push more product between Easter and Christmas.
But Mothers’ Day matters — especially when the mother in question is the mother to your children.
Even if she says it's commercial nonsense and she's not into schmaltzy pink sh*t, it still matters.
The first Mother’s Day after my daughter was born, I realised that the day served a greater purpose than keeping Breville in business.
Knowing that my wife Kasey had always believed Mother’s Day to be nonsense — and had said as much on more than one occasion — I had bought her no gift and prepared nothing. By the end of the day her disappointment was obvious so I asked her to explain.
‘I had no idea how hard motherhood would be,’ she said. ‘This has been the hardest time of my life and even though it’s totally irrational, I feel like I deserve the acknowledgement that comes from Mother’s Day.’
When any opportunity arises to tell mothers that we appreciate them we should seize it.
But with three Mother’s Days and a lot of park and playground chatter under my belt, I know that not every way to celebrate Mother’s Day is equal.
To help new fathers grappling with the conventions of the day, the following is a handy guide to celebrating Mother’s Day.
1. Presents – give her something she wants, not something you think she needs
This might sound like the bleeding obvious, but I’ve heard stories of men giving their wife or partner a potato peeler or a vacuum cleaner for Mother’s Day.
This is never a good idea, not even if the vacuum cleaner happens to be the Dyson DC23 Motorhead — the one specifically designed and engineered to appeal to your inner geek. (I know. I’m as surprised as the next metrosexual that many women don’t seem to be enamoured of this little beauty.)
Any symbol that reinforces her new role or improves her domestic efficiency is just plain rude.
If you have to say ‘It’s the thought that counts’ when selecting or giving a gift then it’s pretty much certain that there has been no thought put into the gift at all.
And stay away from gym memberships and anti-wrinkle creams that are pushed as Mother’s Day gifts by advertisers. Any implication that you think she needs to ‘get her body back’ is sure to ruin her day — and yours.
2. Take photos
One of my female friends commented recently that if she dies tomorrow, her son won’t have any photos of the two of them to remember her by, expect for the early shots from the hospital holding her newborn.
Look though your phone/camera now. How many photos are there with mum and the kids? And how many shots has your wife taken of you and the kids? Enough said.
Generally women are the photo takers in families, especially when it comes to special occasions. This often means that are very few permanent records of her involvement in the kids lives.
3. Take the initiative to plan the day
Just like photos, it’s usually women who expend all the emotional energy and effort in planning family activities. Although it might sometimes seem like it, a day out with children doesn’t just happen.
If you’ve not done this before, it requires roughly the same organisational skills and contingency planning required to land a rocket on the moon. This includes thinking through and preparing for all the things that need to be done before, during and after the activity.
Think nappies, snacks, bibs, drink bottles, dummies, wipes, comfort toys, changes of clothes, scheduling sleep and meal times, activities for car trips, wet weather alternatives, the list goes on. Once you’ve succeeded, you’ll know that you have the Right Stuff and can feel free to send your application to the NASA space program.
4. Sleep and time away
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for the mother of your children is to give her some time away from you and the kids. One of the hardest things about motherhood is that it never ends. There are no home times, lunch breaks, weekends or public holidays. And the much fabled ‘me time’ is mostly just that: a fable.
No matter how much she enjoys her kids, nobody wants to do anything all day, every day. In a culture where mothers are expected to demonstrate the burnt chop devotion to their children, she may need a little encouragement to leave her guilt at the door and take some time off.
5. Try applying these tips throughout the year
In general, becoming a father adds to men’s lives. We are still all the things we were before and we get to be parents as well.
No matter how much women love their children and how egalitarian home life is, motherhood is a bigger trade off: reduced income, stunted careers, lower social status, and less control over their bodies and time.
We need to step-up, share the load and show the mothers of our children how much we appreciate the great job they are doing on this Mother’s Day and everyday.
And of course, don’t forget your own mum.