No one prepares you for how difficult motherhood is, or how funny and rewarding it can be, Judith Holder tells Grace Hammond.
JUDITH Holder speaks from long experience about the mixed bag that is motherhood. Her two daughters are now grown-up and have flown the nest and she misses them desperately, but she has put her maternal angst to good use by writing about what she calls “the dark art of motherhood” in her new book Mum In A Million.
For this light read she harnesses both her mothering wisdom and impressive career experience, having produced TV shows for the nation's top comics including Billy Connolly and Victoria Wood, and co-written the stage hit Grumpy Old Women.
She was never going to write a soft-focused, flowery homage, as she believes in telling it like it is.
“Motherhood’s the hardest job in the world, but of course it’s the most wonderful as well,” she says.
“It’s bittersweet. I wanted to write something for Mother’s Day which wasn’t too soppy and made mothers and kids laugh – it seems to me that all the stuff around Mother’s Day is sugary-sweet and not that realistic.”
She recounts the truisms that both mums and kids will relate to – like The Things Mothers Say. No mum will read this eclectic mix of one-liners without hearing her own exasperated voice saying, “That's neither funny nor clever”, “Don't make me count to ten”, or “Do you need the loo before we go?” And then there are the Things Mothers Don’t Say: “Have it your way”, “Why not have a party while Dad and I are away?”, and “Don’t worry about cleaning up your mess”.
Embarrassing mums are fertile terrain – Holder insists that mums who aren’t embarrassing aren’t real mums at all, as it’s part of the job description. She describes how mothers, especially at the school gates, have a determined children's welfare agenda that includes finding out what the other kids are reading and how well they’re doing at music.
“You can’t help yourself,” she admits, “because you want them to do well and be happy. But you also want them to do better than the other kids – let’s face it, if you could rig it so they were Mary in the school nativity play, or form captain, you would, wouldn’t you?”
She says her daughters know she’d “take the bullets for them”, and that’s part of the joy of it all – and why she misses her own mum Jean so much. Jean died four years ago, and Holder says it’s a great shame she didn’t live to read the book, because it would have made her laugh and “a little bit cross with me too”.
She says: “When something goes really badly and you’ve had a terrible day, you want to call your mum. That love is just astonishing, and that’s what I miss so much. I don’t think you get it until you’ve had kids yourself.”
Those accidentally funny things that kids say and do are part and parcel of the joys of having them, says the writer.
“Motherhood makes the world go round and is astonishing, but it’s better if you can have a laugh about it with your kids and agree that mothers can be terribly two-faced and devious, annoying, nosey and economical with the truth.
But she adds: “You only get one mum and she loves you unconditionally – children work this out at a very early age. But here’s the miracle: despite all the work involved, for most of us being a mother is the single best thing in life.”
Mum In A Million by Judith Holder is published by Orion, £9.99. To order from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop call 0800 0153232 or go to www.yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk