8 May 2021

What mums really want for Mother's Day

6:46 pm on 8 May 2021

Of course, there is not just one answer. Mums are all unique, have different tastes, desires and needs. Some might want a bottle of expensive perfume, an expresso machine or the latest watch, and if you believe the advertisers - they all do. But they do not.

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I asked dozens of mums to tell me what they really want for Mother's Day and there was a common thread throughout their answers.

Many want time. "Time alone", "time to think", "time to breathe". They want to sleep in, to be delivered breakfast in bed, and then for their families to leave, and let them be alone.

"A run by myself", "a night on my own", "a weekend on my own", "to be home alone".

It's not that they do not want to be with their families, but being alone means they have time to themselves where they are not responsible for others, do not have to answer hundreds of questions or make food for anyone else.

"No mental load for the day," one mum put it simply.

Mums are constantly telling me about the burden of the mental load. They are carrying the weight of the life admin, decision-making, organising, cleaning, and often even if their significant others help, mums are still directing.

Harvard PhD candidate Allison Daminger spoke to Jesse Mulligan earlier this week about her study, which found women do most of the cognitive labour. She described it as a constant loop inside their head, with all the things that need to be done floating around and being mentally ticked off.

Mums overwhelmingly told me they want a break from the mental load - 24 hours would be amazing, but they will happily take just a couple of hours. That is what they really want.

To not have to think about all the things that need to be done - the shopping, meal planning, making food, washing, admin, dishes, getting school uniforms ready and packing lunchboxes. One mum said she wants "literally anything I don't have to make/plan/save up for/organise/buy/do myself".

"Someone else to do all the thinking," Emily said.

"To be able to tune out and know that the day will still run smoothly. That the cat will be fed, things will be added to the shopping list, something will be taken out for dinner. Just to hand over the mental load for one day."

And they want to do it without any guilt.

They want to be appreciated and acknowledged. They want the cuddles in bed, the homemade cards and to be taken out for brunch. They want to go for a walk with whānau or to do some other activity together - but they do not want to be the one that has to plan it.

After thinking about she really wants, Emily was prompted to tell her partner, "but I'm not holding my breath," she said.

Another mum described what she really wants, against her partner's expectations.

"I would like to wake up to multiple thoughtful gestures of love, be treated to a delicious breakfast and killer coffee in bed and then for my family to f*** off for the entire day and most of the evening, making contact intermittently throughout the day to express wonder and appreciation by text, photo message, email or messenger or possibly voice-mail.

"In reality, my partner seems to have agreed for me to go out for lunch at a sports bar with his bignoramus parents and our kids. I am Not Going."

For some, they want to be able to do something special with their children they cannot usually afford; others want a gift. Some wish their own mums were still alive, or their children.

Other comments were more general - specialist medical care for women's health, pay equity and decent universal benefit for all mums and primary caregivers, for women who cannot have children, trans-women and non-binary to be celebrated too. For everyone to be getting along.

But there was also one other common thread: chocolate.

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