February 26, 2024
News Opinion

MICHAEL WOLSEY: Bah mumbug! Time to ditch this Mother’s Day nonsense

What is a modern Irish mammy? Or mam, mum, ma, mom, mommy, mother? Whatever you’re having yourself.

She has as many roles as she has names. She might be a business woman who also looks after a family. Or a carer who also holds down a job in a factory.

She might have children but no husband or her husband might be another woman.

She might be a footballer, a jockey, a boxer, or a scrum-half with ambitions to play for Ireland. She might be a snappy dresser who reads Vogue or a plumber who loves DIY magazines. She might be both.

To her friends and her family, the modern Irish mammy can be many things. But to the makers of greetings cards she is a creature stuck in a time warp. Her clothes wouldn’t cause much of a stir in the 1950s. She doesn’t wear short skirts, or jeans or a tracksuit, She does wear lipstick. Her hair stops just above her shoulders and seems to be done in some sort of perm.

I got all those names for mothers from an ad that Aldi has been broadcasting in the run-up to Mother’s Day, which caused me to look at their cards in my local shop. Mammy wasn’t actually pictured on many of them. They mostly featured drawings and inspirational messages. From  these I gather that mam is a sentimental old dear, whose favourite colour is pink. She likes robins, roses and daffodils and is fond of bad poetry.

To sing your praises mom
I don’t know where to start,
Be you far, or be you near
You are always in my heart

Of course, Aldi is not really in the business of greetings cards. I thought maybe shops with a wider selection, or online suppliers, would  provide a better reflection of a modern mother. But they are not much different. More cards just means more of the same.

There was little mumsie in her blouse and knee-length skirt, cooing over some rubbish rhyme while doves fluttered overhead and her offspring gazed fondly at this maternal wonder.

Mammy doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour, either. Jokes feature on lots of birthday cards, Valentine cards, even Christmas cards. They are rare on Mother’s Day cards.

I spotted one that said mum shouldn’t have to lift a finger on Mother’s Day “and if you ask her to, she’ll lift two”.
And I liked one that declared: “It’s not easy being a mum. If it were, dad would do it.”

But in the main, Mother’s Day cards don’t go for humour. There’s no room for jokes after they’ve squeezed in the hearts and flowers and terrible tributes to the world’s greatest mom.

Mothers are not the only victims of greetings card stereotyping. Grandmothers, who seem also to qualify for a card on Mother’s Day, are subjected to even more sentimental slush and, if depicted at all, look like a cross between Mrs Brown and Queen Elizabeth.

I found more stereotyping last year when I tried to buy a birthday card for my young granddaughter. Boys’ cards were coloured red, yellow, green and orange – all bright and garish. On the girls’ cards you could have (to misquote Henry Ford) any colour you like, so long as it was pink -and a pretty insipid pink at that.

Cards for boys were illustrated with footballers, rugby players, astronauts and Bart Simpson up to all manner of mischief. Cards for young girls had hearts, flowers, cup cakes and warbling birds. The only cartoon character in any of them was a simpering Disney princess.

In the unlikely event that my granddaughter were to try to buy a card for me, she would come up against the same sort of problem. Grandads, in the world of greeting cards, are dozy-looking old guys, wearing slippers, sitting in armchairs and smiling in a fashion which, I guess, is meant to be benign, but comes across as a bit sinister.

So if it’s any consolation, mommie dearest, you are not alone. In the greeting card world we all have our role and it never changes.

We never grow old; we are all old to begin with.


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