Internal Memo:-Ministry of Motherhood
Following its astonishing success, the Ministry of Motherhood would like to congratulate its Propaganda Department for the ’18 summers’ meme which has been shared over 200, 000 times across all social media platforms.
Whilst previous directives from the ministry have dealt with such issues as, breast vs. bottle, baby weight, healthy eating, screen time and academic achievement in the under fives, the success of this particular meme was largely due to its guilt inducing properties relating to the creation of Happy Memories ™.
If you know of any mothers who were not wracked with guilt upon receipt of this summer’s missive please report them at once to the thought police for monitoring. Fathers please carry on as you were.
REMINDER: Please have the ‘18 Christmases’ meme ready for distribution no later than 01/11/18.
If you’re still reading then chances are you’ll know what I’m talking about. Hibernating for the next 9 months in the dustiest corners of the internet, this meme had its moment over the summer. Something of a shape shifter, it featured in its various iterations soft focussed scenes of infants playing on the beach, mums holding hands with their offspring, or children sat on swings. However, unlike its equally nauseating counterparts, this meme really seemed to gain some traction and as the summer holidays approached I saw it more times than I’d care to mention. And whilst the photos and fonts varied, the message remained unchanged.
Time, Mama, is running out. 18 summers are all you’ve got with your children and each one needs to count.
A quick scan of the internet revealed that the whole ‘18 summers’ idea came from an American blogger. Whilst the blog itself seems normal enough (albeit in a slightly over the top heavily religious way) parts of it are comedic in their earnestness, accusatory in tone and seemingly better suited to a WW1 recruitment poster featuring Lord Kitchener than something that sits alongside recipes for lasagne and cupcakes.
How many summers do YOU have left? What you do with your children now will determine whether you look back someday with regrets or sweet memories.
It would be easy to dismiss this as the work of one well intentioned but misguided blogger but the fact that it seemingly resonated with so many people irritates and saddens me in equal measure. Because this utter dross embodies so many of the lazy, dated and sexist views subtly and not so subtly directed at mothers, and all too often it is propagated by ourselves. We’re too fat, too thin, too lazy, we’ve never had it so easy, we bottle feed, we breast feed for too long, we ‘iPad’ parent, we helicopter parent, we’re too focussed on our careers, or we’re ‘just’ stay at home mums; and between us we’re raising monosyllabic, self-entitled, obese children who are ill equipped for the rigours of The Real World.
I cannot imagine a single dad I know looking at that meme and doing anything more than shrugging his shoulders (or maybe swearing under his breath), feeling nothing more than he’s doing the best he can in raising a happy, well provided for family.
Whilst childhood may have some kind of time limit to it, parenthood does not. It is not a ticking clock and to view it as such is depressing beyond belief. What’s more, I’d estimate that I’ve spent at least 27 summers either partly or fully in the care or company of my parents both pre and post children and here’s the rub – I can barely remember the details of any of them. Much like my own daughter can’t remember that life-enriching afternoon spent puffin watching in Iceland, nor the time she took to the floor of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul merrily throwing shapes whilst people quietly went about their prayers. Yes, of course certain memories stick in my mind. Crabbing in Swanage, paddling about with my sister in a dinghy that my parents had bought us, and of course Dad falling in the river in Scotland but above all what I’ve retained from those 756 days of summer is a hazy feeling of fun, happiness, sunshine, laughter and love, most of it involving my immediate family but with a great deal given over to my friends too. Gone are the rainy days, the squabbles with siblings, the teenage fights and heartaches and what remains is no doubt greater than the sum of its parts.
Whilst summer holiday fun is of course a big part of any childhood, love and joy and happiness cannot be confined to 42 days of the year. They are to be found on wet Wednesday afternoons, chilly autumn mornings, and that period between Christmas and New Year in which the nation collectively hibernates in a position which is equidistant from the TV and the fridge, elbow deep in Quality Street. Much like the cliché of children playing with the boxes their Christmas presents came in, all parents can tell you of planned ‘fun’ days out which despite inordinate amounts of money and effort being spent have ended in disappointment, tears and tantrums. Happy memories are made of more complex stuff than money, excursions and organised fun.
In fact, alongside the picnics, cricket matches, strawberries and ice creams nestle other summer holiday memories of mine which are less bucolic in their nature. The summer when both my Mum and Dad were working where my sister and I watched Jurassic Park. Every. Single. Day. It was awesome. My knowledge of that film is still encyclopaedic. Then there was the summer where the Spice Girls were filming at the end of my road. Day in, day out I’d sit on the low wall outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the Melanies, Geri, Emma or Victoria and my patience was eventually rewarded with a handwritten note and autographs from the whole group. Whilst my own children were fortunate enough to spend a day in Disneyland Paris this summer, and it was truly fantastic, I know that these memories will share equal billing with the discovery of a giant dead crow in the paddling pool and the ensuing chaos as mummy tried not to lose her shit.
Interestingly as the holidays gathered pace, I saw ’18 summers’ on my feed less and less. Maybe idealism gave way to reality and as Britain sweltered people came to realise that ‘living their best lives’ every day for a month and a half sometimes had to give way to eating packets of pom bears on the couch or hanging out by the freezers in Sainsburys in an attempt to keep cool.
And then, just like that it was gone. The longest summer I can ever remember, a behemoth that stretched from early April to the dying days of August suddenly upped and left, and in its place we have chilly mornings, dark nights and fading tans. Before we know it we’ll be sobbing over John Lewis adverts and standing in never-ending post office queues all the while dreaming of the halcyon days of summers past. But whatever you do this Christmas just promise me this; don’t succumb to the guilt, the Insta-lies nor the Facebook fakery, don’t count down the time you have left with your children and don’t act as an agent for the Ministry .
And for goodness’ sake stay away from memes!
A Guest Blog from Clare Watson
Clare is a wife and mother of two living in Cheltenham, currently working as a content writer for an educational publisher. When not tidying up she likes to cook, read and travel. She is an avid traveller, aspiring travel writer and aims to have visited 40 countries by the age of 40. She’s very nearly there…