The Way We Were...

If there’s one person I’d like to meet at the moment, it’s a certain somebody who goes by the name of “Everybody Else’s Mother.”


Commonsense tells me, of course, that everybody else must have more than one mother between them, but according to my daughters, this much talked about phenomenon would seem to be a single person, the embodiment of permissive parenthood combined with all the gifts of Super Mum.


To some extent she is a unknown quantity. I don’t know how old she is, or what she looks like, or where she lives – the girls never volunteer such information even though they apparently know the woman well. What I do know about her is the way she deals with her children, as opposed to the way I deal with mine.


“Everybody else’s mother,” Anne will lead off, “lets her children wear summer clothes to school now, instead of blouses and gymslips and things.” I say, isn’t it a bit early and couldn’t we wait until after Whitsun? We are barely into May, after all, and the weather isn’t all that warm. Everybody else’s mother, it seems, wouldn’t agree with me.


"Everybody else’s mother,” Hilary takes up the tale from her sister, "made summer dresses for school during the Easter holidays. On a sewing machine,” she adds, pointedly – a direct reference, I imagine, to the fact that lack of time and ability had led me to seek the services of a dress-maker.


But summer uniform is only one issue of many. Everybody else’s mother allows her off-spring to stay up until ten o’clock every night – “ELEVEN o’clock on Saturdays!” – and wouldn’t dream of sending them to bed if there were the remotest chance of Gary Glitter, David Cassidy or the Wombles being on Top of the Pops.


Everybody else’s mother lets her children have sweets every day and not only on Saturday; everybody else’s mother has already passed her driving test so her fortunate daughters are saved a hot and bothersome bustle to ballet lessons after school every Monday; everybody else’s mother bakes beautiful, mouth-watering birthday cakes in the shape of steam engines, windmills or ocean liners and wouldn’t ever be seen hot-footing it down to the baker’s three days before the great event to slip in an order for a “square iced sponge with pink lettering, please.”


Come to think of it, everybody else’s mother is, without doubt, a cordon bleu cook, who has never over-cooked a shepherd’s pie in her life and wouldn’t recognise a piece of burnt toast if it popped out of her electric toaster and hit her squarely in the eye.


It’s the bedtime business, however, which generates most heat in our household. For seven years my children have taken themselves obediently to bed at what I consider a reasonable hour. In the early years, indeed, it was Dougal and the Magic Roundabout that heralded the approach of bath and bedtime.


“Time for bed!” said Zebedee – and so did I. Now it’s seven o’clock on weekdays, with unspecified allowances made at weekends – and not a hint of trouble until my daughters discovered that everybody else’s mother was more lenient than I.


It’s never pleasant to be on the unfavourable end of a comparison – so perhaps it is a good thing I am never likely to meet the lady in question; charming, sweet-natured creature though I am, I might well be provoked into conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.


Eventually I was drawn to the point where I had to take Anne on one side to try to explain my position. I put it to her that, first, any “rules” I might make for her and the others – like Saturday sweets or seven o’clock bedtimes – were made for their own benefit and not out of any unfeeling desire to deny them anything; and secondly that, however superior the qualities of other people’s parents, it was rather hurtful not to be given any credit for endeavour and good intent.

Anne listened gravely then dismissed my argument airily. “I shouldn’t worry about it,” she said, preparing to make a thankful escape, “Nobody else’s mother bothers about what everybody else’s mother does.”


I have a feeling that ought to make me feel better ...


Slough Evening Mail - May 1973


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Latest comments

23.04 | 19:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 12:17

I have broad shoulders x