Claire Black: Mum’s the word at Mother’s Day

Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
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CONSUMERIST con, saccharine celebration or a genuine opportunity to show your mum how much you love her? Truthfully, I am undecided.

There have been times, for example, when confronted with an array of hideously ugly greetings cards in hues of pink, always pink, or upon receiving a barrage of e-mails informing me that several hundred quid spent on a tablet/handbag/kitchen gadget is the only way to demonstrate affection, when I’ve struggled to see Mother’s Day as anything other than another shameless retail opportunity. I have also had difficulty finding myself and my own uniquely dysfunctional family (aren’t they all?) in those images of soft focus familial perfection on adverts for restaurants and spas.

This year, though, I feel a little different.

It’s not that it’s the first time I’ve wanted to show my mum I love her. My mum is an amazing woman from whom I have inherited much – my frown, my propensity to shoutiness, my love of scones and Mario Lanza and action movies. It’s that this year, for the first time, I am a mother too.

It’s not that I imagined propping myself up on some pillows in bed to await my breakfast tray delivered by my fine son. Despite my contention that his ability to say “Buh-pa” and pass a ball from hand to hand with dexterity I consider breathtaking show his truly exceptional capacities, I’ve also got to accept that at eight months, scrambled eggs on toast and a pot of coffee is expecting a bit much. What excites me about today is that I get to luxuriate in and to stretch out into what it means to be a mum.

In Dickens, they are feckless or worse, in Austen, schemers or embarrassments, in telly soaps I can’t think of one that isn’t anything other than a nightmare. In film they run the gamut from Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest to Dianne Wiest in Edward Scissorhands, via my all time favourite, Manuela in All About My Mother. In celebrityville they are the commodifying Kardashians to the more hopeful, breastfeeding, bootyshaking Beyoncé. But none of these is me.

From what I’ve learned so far, being a mum is something you learn as you go along. More than that, it tells you as much about yourself as your child. So far, it’s the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, filled with moments of genuine joy and, at 4am with a deadline looming next morning, the most taxing.

My own entry into the club isn’t what has allowed the scales to fall from my eyes about how badly we treat mothers in general. I know only too well they are blamed for everything – for working too hard, or not enough, for being overprotective or not protective enough, too pushy or too lax. It’s just that I know with greater clarity that all you can do is what you can do. All you can hope is that you are better than you aspire to be and not as bad as you fear. And the rest will work itself out.

My son is lucky enough to have two mums so today is a double celebration and I couldn’t be happier about it. Happy Mother’s Day.

Clear your diaries for October

I HOPE all the gay couples who tied the knot yesterday are waking up with fuzzy heads, confetti in unmentionable places and the vague but unforgettable memory of Aunty Ethel bustin’ some shapes to I Am What I Am long after the buffet was plundered and the choking incident caused by a wayward sugared almond. After being granted Royal Assent back in July 2013, as of yesterday, gay people in England and Wales can legally marry and for me that deserves an enormous “we’re here, we’re queer, yes of course men can wear fascinators”. It’s been a long haul and in some ways it’s been a complicated argument – shouldn’t straight people be allowed to have civil partnerships? Yes, they should. Must all gay people aspire to marry? No, but those who want to should be able to do so on exactly the same terms as straight people. So this is a truly historic moment. According to a survey last week, one in five people would refuse an invitation to a gay wedding. That’s sad, but I’m choosing to interpret this statistic as four out of five people would love to accept an invitation to a gay wedding. With a bit of luck, gay people will be able to marry in Scotland by October, so hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities.