Thursday, 1 October 2015

Motherhood and apple pie

...without the apple pie.

Gazing from the foot of the bed, Harcourt divined in the still, recumbent figure the girl his mother had once been. He felt an impulse to cry, but did not cry. He saw as in a dream the whole of his mother’s life, from girlhood to grey hairs. And his sadness increased. He was acutely sorry for her, as we are always sorry for the poor dead. He realized that he had never been entirely just, and never generous enough, towards his mother.
Arnold Bennett - Under The Hammer (1931)

At what age does a chap see the girl his mother had once been? Not an early age perhaps? Motherhood seems to be an aspect of modern life we don’t handle as well as we could and once did, as if our capacity for this most deserved esteem has been siphoned off by the manipulative canker of modernity.

Or perhaps motherhood is a comparatively recent middle class invention never adopted by aristocrats or peasants. Yet it seems to be one of the reasons why we are where we are, the nurturing, the crucial years of early education and that unquenchable desire to pass on to the child more than the parents ever had.

Yet learning how to handle motherhood more sensitively - and it may as well be said, more productively - does not seem to be on the politically correct agenda. Pushing mothers into tedious careers with false promises of liberation and fulfilment, fiddling around with tax and benefits, holding up celebrity mothers as role models while nanny who does all the work stays safely in the background. There is a dark undercurrent of dishonesty in the way we project modern motherhood.

Perhaps Bennett’s words suggest it isn’t a new problem even its nature has changed, but we could at least acknowledge how important motherhood is without those blasted celebrities, without oily political sentiment or strident rhetoric. It’s a supremely delicate matter with sentimental slush at one end and at the other end we have charlatans, airheads and professional poseurs plying their unlovely trade.

Bennett was right but we cannot make too much of it because of what we are, because of our refined ability to destroy the fragile delicacy of a balanced standpoint. It requires not propaganda but a quiet recognition of what motherhood is, what mothers sacrifice, what they give with such wholehearted willingness and why it is so remarkable.

Unfortunately there is too much political kudos sucking too many teats, from those ghastly celebrities to sanctimonious political stooges. They steal from us our most precious human potential and one of them is motherhood.

At times it almost feels deliberate, as if the potential of motherhood has been shackled, as if all that gently ambitious nurturing was just too successful.


Sam Vega said...

I'd never really thought about this before. My guess is that motherhood has been largely ignored because it is relatively difficult to monetise or to play status games with. Quite unremarkable, even stupid individuals often seem to do remarkably well at it, and they don't seem to need crowds of experts shouting advice. Women just get on with it, don't they?

I feel a bit ashamed the way I took my mum for granted. Yet our family was bog-standard typical for the time and place. I wonder if this is a very typical feeling.

Sackerson said...

World chess champion Garry Kasparov's mother was always there at his matches.

James Higham said...

I was never able to handle my mother.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I feel the same, took my mum for granted too. It's only when we have kids that we see just how remarkably selfless mothers can be.

Sackers - Andy Murray too if Wimbledon is typical.

James - that's how it's supposed to be!

Demetrius said...

Do we really want to see our parents as daft teenagers of their period?

A K Haart said...

Demetrius -were they daft though? I don't think mine were as daft as I was.