Sunday, 14 March 2010

The ‘Good Enough Cook’ on Mothers Day

This week Toby Elles who lives in Salford fell asleep while cooking some bacon. When he woke up about an hour later, not only was his kitchen filled with smoke, but under the slices of burnt bacon he discovered the image of Jesus etched into his frying pan. I mention this lack of culinary skill as this weekend will see many families across the land celebrating Mothers Day. Mother's Day has been celebrated in the UK since the 1600. Mums with younger children will be blessed with breakfast in bed followed by lunch and or dinner lovingly prepared by children possibly unable to spell the word kitchen, but thanks to M&S, will produce a wonderful three course meal. In the UK, Mother's Day is the third-largest card-sending occasion. According to Hallmark cards, over 150 million Mother's Day cards will be sent this year.

Many countries celebrate at different times throughout the year, Canada, Denmark, South Africa, Finland, France, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Japan Sweden and Belgium all celebrate Mother's Day in May. Norway observes Mother's Day on the second Sunday in February, and Argentina celebrates it on the second Sunday in October. Lebanon celebrates Mother's Day on the first day of spring, whereas both Spain and Portugal celebrate in December.

Of course not every child will want to celebrate their Mothers in this way. For example, in California this week, Rebecca Stancil a typical 9-year-old all American girl, told a court about her desire to kill her mother. The story noted that that Rebecca had reported been haunted by images of wolves, men with monster faces, and shadows and shapes that scampered around her bedroom at night and had done so since she was 3 years old. The way that Rebecca responded to what might or might not have been hallucinogenic experiences was to behave violently towards her Mother. In 2008 Rebecca was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. Schizophrenia in children is extremely rare – internationally on average only 1 in 30,000 children are diagnosed with this disorder each year. The report made no mention of childhood sexual abuse, which will be the experience of many more children each year, and which could also result in such behaviours.

Some children have yet to grow up and learn about Mothers Day. Joanne Walters, 30, from Middlesbrough, will be celebrating Mother’s Day with her partner, her new baby son, Thomas and his two-year-old brother, Joshua today. Unfortunately, Joanne had contracted Swine Flu after declining the vaccination while she was pregnant. As a consequence she spent nearly a month on a ventilator in an intensive care unit with double pneumonia and kidney failure before giving birth to Thomas. All are well now.

On Friday I was privileged to take part in a NUS sponsored event exploring how to enhance student union representation for students on professional based degree programmes. I took part in a very lively panel discussion that looked at how the university could better accommodate the typical student of today. These were students described as being over 25, often single parents and/or married and with young families of their own, and who might also need to work to supplement the house hold income while they studied. I came away with many ideas for the School to consider. The responses I heard are a long way away from how nursing students in 1940 were often treated.

For example, in the Hansard of April 1941, the Minister of Health was asked whether he was aware that many hospital authorities refuse to employ fully qualified nurses, or to train students, who have been, or are, unmarried mothers and, was he awre of the recent action of the General Nursing Council who removed the name of a nurse who was an unmarried mother from their register just because she had given birth out of wedlock.

Finally, I am spending today looking after a wonderfully diverse collection of Grandmothers, Mothers, daughters who have become Mothers, a daughter who is a  Mother but whose own Mother is far away and one Great Grandmother!

To borrow from Donald Winnicott, the English pediatrician, psychiatrist, sociologist and psychoanalyst, I hope I will live up to being the good enough caterer’!