Mothers’ Day – Guest Post by Emma Curtis

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Today I am delighted to welcome Emma Curtis, author of suspense thriller One Little Mistake (which I review here), to my blog. Emma’s book explores the tricky balancing act that so many women live juggling friendship, marriage and motherhood – and the catastrophic consequences of a seemingly small mistake. She has written this guest post for Mothers’ Day.

On Mothers’ Day, we reflect on everything our mothers did for us and we give them a call, or take them a bunch of flowers, and thank them. This is the time to forget the fact that as teenagers, we said to ourselves, if I ever have children I will never do that! It’s the time to forget the parties we weren’t allowed to go to, to forgive the unreasonable bedtimes and irrational decisions that were never satisfactorily explained. When you have your own children you quickly realize that even if you do have a mental check list of the dreadful things your own mother did, there is a one hundred percent chance your kids will be able to come up with some humdingers of your doing. Mothers’ Day is a time to remember that mothers are human beings, and if they make mistakes it’s because they love us and worry for us and sometimes overreact.

One Little Mistake is a novel about an ordinary wife and mother who doesn’t always get it right. But none of this would have mattered and she would have muddled on, just like the rest of us, had it not been for one major lapse in judgement. When I wrote Vicky Seagrave, I drew on my own experiences of falling into motherhood four years before I had planned or wanted to. It caught me and my husband by surprise and we were unprepared for every aspect of it: the love, the fatigue, the mess, the restrictions, the adjustment in our own relationship.

Vicky’s ‘Mistake’ has a catastrophic effect on her life, the reverberations rippling through her marriage, her closest friendship, her job and her position in the community, putting at risk everything she holds dear. One Little Mistake is a psychological suspense novel, so what happens to Vicky and the danger she puts herself and her family in, is of course extreme. However, at the heart of it I wanted to show the confusing side of motherhood: feeling out of control; discovering that it’s not all perfect baby skin, talcum powder and fluffy white towels like in the ads, that it’s mess and tears, it’s unwashed hair and eyes bruised and baggy from lack of sleep. It’s dirty dishes piling up and piling on the pounds. It’s being two hours into a six-hour train journey to Edinburgh and realising you forgot the spare nappies – yes, that was me! It’s keeping things going on the surface and trying to ignore the muddle churning underneath.

But above all, it’s a mountain that we climb not so much because we have no choice, but through animal instinct and unconditional love. And in the end, you kiss your children as they leave the house on their own for the first time and you know that it’s OK. You can forgive yourself the mistakes you’ve made, because they make you proud. And then one day, you tell your twenty-five- year-old daughter, sitting on the sofa glued to her laptop, that you love her and she answers distractedly that she loves you too.

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One Little Mistake is published by Black Swan, an imprint of Transworld Books.

 

The commercialisation of love

As my family and friends get older I find it harder to think of things to buy them for special occasions. There seems to be a choice between spending far more than I am comfortable with or buying tat. With my nearest and dearest I can ask them what they want so as to be sure that, if a large amount of money is to be spent, it is used to buy whatever they may want or need. If they cannot think of an appropriate gift then it is probably because they do not require anything at that time. In this situation I would prefer to buy them just a token gift and allow the money to remain available for a future date when they may have a more specific desire. It is not a lack of care or love for them, but a practical wish not to waste money.

With friends I find it is equally tricky. If I wish to offer a gift to a special friend then I tend to give consumables as I am not good at guessing what alternative they may like. Over the years I have given many things, but have never felt confident that any of it was of use to the recipient. Putting thought, time and effort into a gift that will lie unused in a cupboard seems such a disappointment and a waste.

To not offer a gift suggests a lack of care. For me this is just not the case. I can care deeply for someone but still not be able to think of anything to buy them. Perhaps it is just a lack of imagination on my part but I have more or less given up trying to come up with original ideas. If they get anything at all these days then for my Dad it is whiskey, my mum has flowers and my local friends get cookies or wine. The first time I made these offerings they were probably fine. As the ideas are repeated I do wonder if they remain acceptable. The joy of giving has been tarnished by the pressure to give.

The card and gift industries push a growing number of ‘special’ occasions these days. We have barely got through Christmas before they are demanding that we show our love to that special someone on Valentine’s Day. Then it is Mother’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day. At some point in each year we must remember each person’s birthday, and even Halloween has become a card giving occasion. I dislike the insidious suggestion that if we do not comply by making offerings then we show a selfish lack of care.

However much I dislike submitting to a practice that feels shallow I do not wish to upset those who matter to me. Thus I have been card shopping this week and my Mum will receive a Mother’s Day card from me at the weekend. It took me an age to choose as none of the cards really said what I wanted in the way I wanted to say it. I want my Mum to be happy and I want to send my love but I am not a flowery sentimentalist. It is becoming hard to know how even a card will be received!

Had I been more organised then I could have had the card made for me. I have a lovely and talented friend who makes beautiful cards to order (see her work at angillcards.wordpress.com). I could have asked her for design ideas and specified the wording. I did have her make a card for me to give my husband on Valentine’s Day. Along with the banoffee pie that I made I felt that this was an appropriate way of marking the day. It did not feel as if I had surrendered to the commercialism I despise. However, as my Mum lives in a different country from me I cannot take her out or bake her a gift. I know of nothing she needs and would not send her money. It seems that a card is all I can do. A less than ideal one is probably better than none at all.

I wonder why we have allowed ourselves to be sucked into this vacuum of consumerism. I have friends who rail against the concept of having to show love on a particular day and I agree with their arguments. How to square that with the issue of a recipients potential hurt and disappointment is less straightforward. Personal principles are fine until they cause pain in others. I have no wish to upset my Mum over my reluctance to spend £2 on a card.

I will not be concerned if my own children choose to ignore Mother’s Day. Any offering from them is always gratefully received whether it be on a specified occasion or as a random act of kindness. I know that they love me and care about me as they show me this throughout the year. A good mother deserves to be appreciated by her children, just as good children deserve to be appreciated by their parents. We should not need special days or expensive gifts to show that we notice and care.

English: Mother's Day card