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Voices: There’s one huge problem with Mother’s Day – here’s how we can fix it

People say that being a mother is the hardest job in the world, but that isn’t true – writing op eds is the hardest job in the world. Every day is a struggle and I’m a hero for doing it. But being a mother is a close second.

I know this because I watched my mum do it for me and my brother – and all by herself, no less. My dad walked out when I was eight years old (and he was barely around before that), leaving us stuck in a council house in the bad part of the bad part of the bad part of Manchester. It was the kind of upbringing that Ken Loach makes movies about and the government pretends doesn’t exist, and we could have been set up for a life of hardship and failure if it wasn’t for the strength of my mum.

While other kids were running rampant, joining gangs and stealing cars, she kept us (relatively) trouble free. While other kids’ parents told them that school was a waste of time, she was helping us out with our homework. Both me and my brother were the first two in our family to not just go on to university, but to get postgraduate degrees too, and we owe it all to her taking the time to sit there with us, read through our work, and encourage us not to give up whenever we felt like we couldn’t do something.

It wasn’t just my education, either. All my weird nerdy quirks can be traced back to my mum introducing me to some weird movie she liked when I was her age, or some fantasy book series she put me on to. I’m a horror addict, largely because of my mum’s extensive Stephen King collection and her philosophy that, when it comes to traumatising your kids with scary stuff that they’re way too young for, books simply do not count. If you’re old enough to read 900 pages of It, you’re old enough to deal with the consequences.

She still encourages me to keep going, even when things look bleak (which, in the current climate, they often do). She doesn’t have a lot to give, but what she does have she gives freely, not just because I’m her son, but because that’s just the kind of person she is.

I’ll never be able to pay my mum back for everything she’s done for me. This Mother’s Day the best I could do was Flash Gordon on Blu-ray and a soppy comment piece in the newspaper (although, in my defence, Flash Gordon does rule).

I think that’s probably true for a lot of us. That’s why days like today, and International Women’s Day a few days ago, are so important – they give us a chance to say the things we should really be saying all year round, to the people who deserve to hear them.

It’s a shame, in some ways, that we pile all that gratitude in a single 24-hour period. Often these people deserve more than a few token acknowledgements, a box of chocolates, and the 40-year anniversary collectors edition of the greatest sci-fi movie ever made, complete with digitally remastered Queen soundtrack.

But it’s definitely a lot better than not showing any gratitude at all. So today, if you haven’t already, maybe use this opportunity to tell your mum how much you appreciate all she’s done for you. Or, if that doesn’t apply, maybe there’s another mother in your life who could use the pick-me-up. A friend, a relative, whoever – even just a quick phone call can make all the difference

So get out there if you can, and let the mothers in your life know that they’re appreciated. They deserve it – they’re doing the second hardest job in the world, after all.