Here's to all the real mums

real mum
real mum 

Here's to the plain mums, the brainy mums, the not-always-sane mums. Mums with dirty floors and interesting thoughts, who don't care about 'whiter than white' or turbo-brush hand-held vacuum cleaners.

Here's to the mums you don't see in Mother's Day brochures. They tend not to have ice-white bed linen. They look older than 25. They've made a life or two or three or more – and it probably shows.

Here's to the mums in their 60s and 70s, working as house cleaners. Bend. Scrub. Mop. Pick hairs out of bath. Dressed nicely, doing what they have to, because they've bills to pay and bugger all super.

The David Jones mum: "This immaculate woman is like no mother I know."
The David Jones mum: "This immaculate woman is like no mother I know." 

Here's to the mums who volunteer. Counting coin towers for school banking; filling book club orders, sewing costumes – none of it measured by the GDP.

Here's to the mums who are too busy at work to volunteer.

Here's to the mums whose babies puke on them, instead of glowing cutely from pristine pink dressing gowns (see Myer catalogue). They favour trackie daks over silk kimonos, maybe with a cloth flung across a shoulder to catch the vomit.

Here's to the mums whose bodies changed forever after childbirth: thicker waists, varicose veins, and so on. They jump or cough with trepidation because, as a male surgeon told me, "once you hit menopause it all falls away down there''. Still, look at those sturdy new people they've made. ‘"What have youse got?" asks the sensei at our local Aikido class. "Great potential!" yell back 30 little voices.

Here's to the mums whose aprons have sedimentary layers: cake mix, tahini, tomato sauce, dhal.

Here's to the mums who don't own an apron.


Here's to the mums who'd rather read a good book or see a decent film than "become the favourite child'' for a day (see Dick Smith's catalogue).

Here's to the mum at our school who's an actor and singer. She started a choir for parents; got us stretching our mouths and bodies, excavating sounds we didn't know we could make. She gave me songs to sing to my daughter. What a great gift.

Here's to the single mums like author Maxine Beneba Clarke, who writes "messily, in snatches", wherever she can. She might be found at the kitchen table, "jotting down a poem on the back of a Coles docket" while the kids stand around her, both talking at the same time. She once wrote for 45 minutes in a Centrelink queue. "Broken home/nuh uh'', goes one of her poems, "there is nothing here needs fixing".

Here's to the mums who quite like lying in a dishevelled bed, watching a kid dressed as a ninja shout "Hiyaaaaah", before stabbing her dagger into the doona.

Here's to the mums who'd rather be asleep at this very moment.

Here's to the mum with two kids under three who recently nursed my own mum in hospital. She was heavily pregnant, working night-shift.

Here's to the mum who cleans for someone I know. She works all day as an aged carer, then scrubs and irons after hours.

Here's to the mums looking for a permanent part-time job. (Good luck.)

Here's to the mums looking after their own parents as well as their kids.

The cover of David Jones' Mother’s Day catalogue features a young, blonde woman with thin, tanned arms, sitting in an Arctic white bed. She wears a caramel satin camisole. A pink sleep mask is stuck on her head.

This curiously sterile scene is arranged as carefully as a Dutch still-life. There are pink and white macarons and a cup and saucer on a tray. To her right, a red, platform-soled stiletto rests (inexplicably) on a cake stand. Behind it, there's a shell pink handbag, also displayed as some kind of delicacy.

Strewn around this child-woman are other gifts: bangles, undies, flowers, coffee-table books. Her own child is strangely absent. Maybe he's picking his nose somewhere or about to ninja bomb the bed with Vegemite-smeared hands?

Where, in this tableau, are the qualities I associate with mothering: strength, resourcefulness, resilience, generosity, dark wit? This woman is like no mum I know.