Thoughts on Mumdom…

May 8th has rolled around again and I am amazed that I still feel such a sense of calm on this day, as if it is my special day…

But it’s not.

It’s my Mum’s.

Perhaps it has something to do with VE day falling on her 21st birthday in 1945 marking the end of World War II after five years of bombing, curfew, evacuation, fear, rationing, heart-ache and much, much more.

It was one of our family stories, May 8th and the end of war,

My Mum’s birthday and Victory in Europe are inseparable in my  mind.  

Whatever the reason I feel peace at this time, armistice day in Europe, my mother’s birthday, or just simply the prettiest month of the year, my tranquil state on this day is a fitting gift to remind me my Mum would have been 94 years old.

I said to Hubs,

“I’ll still be alive at 94!” and he proceeded to name a few personages who are,

Olivia de Havilland, 101, Angela Lansbury, 92, Honor Blackman also 92 and of course, we can’t forget Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, 91.

Today as I think of Mummy, who she was, whether I fully appreciated her and how much I miss her, I ponder our relationship.

Hubs and I are currently reading a book about boundaries and for the first time I realize that Mum was an expert at keeping her life separate from mine.

Her trick?  I think it went back to when she had to leave school at fourteen and her dream to sprint for the county went up in smoke.


Mum at fourteen, her dream to sprint for the county gone

As she went from one small job to another I imagine she decided she needed to take control of her life before someone else did and she had the gumption to aim high.

She pulled away from her old ties and formed new ones.  With marriage she started a new life that included no-one else but my father.

They had both been sent to Germany after the war and met on a train station or the ski-slopes, slowly fell in love or loved at first sight, depending on who was telling the story,

And were married.


Married in 1950

Any aspirations she’d entertained during the fifteen years she happily lived in Germany rubbing shoulders with diplomats and officers ground to a halt when she returned to London in 1960 with her youngsters, 


My bother and me

She became a stay-at-home-Mum who pinched pennies which reminded her of the world she grew up in and had been so desperate to escape.

My mother was tenacious and her ambition, that my brother and I receive a good education and a better start in life, was always at the forefront of her mind.  She was also pretty confident for she had the school for my brother picked out before leaving Germany; he was earmarked for Worth Abbey, a Benedictine boarding school for boys in Sussex, somewhere my father’s boss in Germany had sent his boys.

I suppose she could have set her sights on Eton or Harrow but I’m sure even during her most heady flights of fancy these two elite private schools were a little too much for her son.

Thankfully I had no blue stockinged Cheltenham Ladies College or Benenden to look forward to when the time came round for us to leave our parents.  I was sent to a small convent she’d heard about just months after our long awaited for posting to Beirut, Lebanon in 1965.

She waved goodbye to us at the airport and settled into Embassy life with her peers, the other women who had also sent their offspring ‘home to school’.  She threw herself into the social whirl required of her as a diplomat’s wife and threw parties, made canapés and witty small talk.  She developed the art of conversation without saying very much of anything.

For about two months out of the year she was called upon to parent along with all her wifely friends and together they arranged diversions and parties to keep us busy while they chatted and sunbathed with  various au pairs in charge.

An estrangement developed during the few weeks a year I spent at home.  I was there as a holiday-maker, a guest to be entertained.  She let me make my own mistakes, refused to be drawn into teacher/pupil conflicts, only wanted to hear the good news, never let me bring friends home and finally, when I graduated from college at the age of 21, she declared her responsibilities over.

According to the book on boundaries I’m currently reading my Mum did the right things all those years ago.  But as the recipient of her hands-off parenting techniques I found her distant.

My bed was still my bed in a dire emergency but only for very short snatches of time, like one night, and never with my husband or offspring.

Her house was just that, hers!  I couldn’t even pour myself a glass of water let alone wash my own clothes, make my own sandwich or rustle up baked beans for my kiddos!

She offered no advice apart from,

“Have no regrets.”

Her motto was,

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

She never called for a natter just to see how I was faring,

“I’d never interfere,” she’d say, “in someone else’s marriage.”

I called her if I wanted to tell her news or wish her many happy returns of the day.

My child rearing and hostessing skills quite deliberately took another path,

“My house is your house,” I’d say when she came to visit.

I homeschooled.

Raising a family was a joint venture with Hubs and our sons and daughters.  Under our watch they became independent dreamers, followers of their own passions.

Rather like my mother, I see now.


Follower of her own passion

As each birthday rolled around she and I grew further apart.

My parents lived for each other, they were wrapped up in their couple-dom.

That’s the way they were and today, as I pursue my boomer life and learn about cutting apron strings, I find myself examining what Mum-dom looks like for me now.

And I wish Mummy was here to compare notes with…

Thrust into this hands-off period of parenting I think I am able to better appreciate some of her early theories on separation.

“Start the way you mean to go on,” was a rule she lived by.

Transitioning from a family who were very much bound together to severing the ties over a period of time has been difficult and I am sure Mum and I would have some very enlightening chats setting the world to rights and repairing the dis-connect as we began drawing closer to each other over detachment.

I miss you especially today Mum.

Love you always.


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