Growing up I often looked at my mum’s hands and vowed my hands would not look the same when I was older. Despite regular lashings of hand cream, strong stuff at that, her hands remained dry, chapped, worn out.
It’s only now, with three children of my own, now that I’ve been bestowed with the special title of mama, that I understand why her hands always looked so overused, so tired.
It was from helping us wash our tiny hands, washing our muddy or dinner stained clothes, soaking our trousers, the ones with the grass stained knees, from bathing us, washing our hair after a day playing out in the garden, from the endless, thankless task of cleaning the home we lived in, washing the dishes after dinner, from cooking and baking.
Hands in water. Hands immersed in detergent, hands covered in dough, constantly dipped in and out of dirty dishwater, wringing out sodden wet clothes, hanging damp clothes on the washing line. Hands in constant use. For years. Day in, day out. From sun up to sun down. No breaks or respite from the work she did, even when we were on holiday. No thought, time or money for a manicure.
When we started school, my brother and I, my mum started working in school meals, to fit her working hours in with us. All day in a kitchen: cooking, hands in water, hands covered in food, cleaning, clearing, creating. Then she went home and started all over again. I understand now that her hands took a battering from her daily tasks, the ones she never complained about doing. Her hands took a battering from motherhood.
No amount of handcream could keep the cracks at bay. Handcream never got the chance to soak in, let alone had time to work its promised magic.
I look down now at my own hands. They are tired, aged hands. And I’m proud that my hands look just like my mum’s did. They make be dry, chapped, tired but I am consoled by the fact that is is all in the name of motherhood.
Today is Mother’s Day in the Netherlands. This is for my own mother, my own way of thanking her for everything she did for us growing up, but who is more distant now than I would ever wish. Let your mother know today, even through you are all grown up, that you know what she has done for you. That you are grateful that her hands are worn by the years of motherhood. That her hands are worn for you.