Having lost her mother Jenny at the age of 16, Emma Winterschladen has gone through the ebbs and flows of a young adulthood typified by what she calls ‘missed-mum-moments’ – from reckless romances to graduating university, first job joy to the politics of female friendship, and not to mention all the ‘Oh, Mum would LOVE that’ times in between. Now 25, she explains her bittersweet relationship with Mother’s Day, and the importance of celebrating all the leading ladies in our lives, whoever they may be.
"It’s that time of year again. Already I can feel a familiar, sigh-inducing anxiety bubble away in my tummy - that complex mix of cantankerousness and melancholy that descends upon me in the week leading up to Mothering Sunday. Not because I am fervently jealous of those friends who are ‘popping’ home to see their mum this weekend, or those who lament how they are ‘too busy’ to bother with sending a card. Those things, granted, trigger a twitch of irritation in my eye; a forced, thin-lipped smile. But, I get it. I really do.
As a petulant 16-year-old, more concerned with texting my latest crush and scavenging a fake ID to hit ‘The Toon’ with, I too had the luxury of a mum who was always there to nurse my bruised heart and underage hangovers. A mum who would constantly bombard me with ‘what shall we eat tonight???!!’ messages at school; who would unapologetically smother me in her infamous BFJK’s (‘Big Fat Juicy Kisses’) and shamelessly demand ‘tickles’ whilst draping her arm, at times her FOOT, on me as I tried to enjoy the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model.
No, I think it’s the awkwardness I dread. That uncomfortable, unspoken acknowledgement in the run up to Mother’s Day that seems to quietly wrap itself around my days. That commercial onslaught of ‘Treat your mum this Sunday!’ or ‘Show your mum how much she means to you!’ which leaves me flustered - if only because it annoyingly, incessantly bombards my inbox. Because, actually, the fundamental message that lies behind the cards, flowers and afternoon-tea Groupons, is one I can get on board with. We all need a little reminder to tell our mums that we love them – I know as a self-absorbed 16-year-old I certainly did.
If this weekend makes you stop and think, if only while you casually peruse the card aisle, how much your mum means to you, then surely that’s a good thing.
And if, like me, your mum – for whatever reason – isn’t around for you to dote on this Sunday, then why not choose another important female figure in your life to say a great big, fat, juicy ‘thank you’ to? That’s what I’m planning on doing. Because, in truth, since my mum died nine years ago her role, although irreplaceable as a whole, has been filled with the love, guidance and companionship of the ‘Other Mothers’ in my life. Those relatives, professional mentors, friends (and even an ex-boyfriend’s mum), who have each taken me under their maternal wings, and provided me with a generous blanket of warmth and support.
I found myself, often unintentionally, seeking out these superwomen as I haphazardly navigated the bumpy landscape of my final years of school, university and the beginning of my life in London. Often, I have been embarrassed by my so blatant, textbook dependency on them and their friendship.
My unashamed tendency to hang around in the kitchen at parties to talk to the mums and my innate craving to be apart of a ‘complete’ family, if only for an evening meal. It felt so obvious and pity-inducing. But, as I have nurtured these bonds, they’ve each grown into fulfilling and vitally important friendships that enrich my life in a way friends my own age simply can’t.
And as the years grow since I had a mum who was here – alive – and with the busy whirlwind of time, I find myself thinking more and more of mum’s absence in my life, and what that means.
As I settle into my twenties, my career, my friendships, and as I continue to grow into the happy, fulfilled, ambitious and – I hope – kind person my mum always knew I would become, as she herself was, I feel the raw cruelty that she is not here to enjoy it sits with me, inside me, everyday.
Perhaps it’s because I’m aware of the ticktock of time moving me closer to a so-desired, so-hoped for motherhood myself, or maybe it’s because I feel myself so keenly comparing my own lifeline to my mum’s – forever aware of the whispering shadow of her short 45 years.
But, despite the annual Mothering-Sunday-Fear, there is also a poignant allure about the day I can’t ignore. It’s a day where I can indulge myself in memories of Mum – take time to quietly ponder who she was, and who I am now, without her. I can’t resent Mother’s Day simply because mine isn’t here for me to give flowers and a frantically scribbled ‘I love you’ card to. Because, actually, she knew I loved her, although I definitely didn’t tell her enough. So, that’s why I’m instead going to make this Sunday a celebration of all the empowering, caring, inspirational female role models that I’m lucky enough to have in my life now."
With thanks to Anne, Nicky and all the 'Other Mothers' in my life - your love and support means more to me than you will ever know.