Mammies spoil their sons when they are young... and old!

The traditional Irish mammy did everything in the house and that’s been the way for generations, so says Trevor Laffan in his weekly column
Mammies spoil their sons when they are young... and old!

EXPECTATIONS: Trevor Laffan said he didn’t wash a cup, make a bed or use a hoover until he left home and entered the garda training college. Do modern day youngsters have it as easy? Or is the Irish Mammy still doing everything? Picture: Stock

CHILDREN are messy creatures. When they’re young, you spend the day running around after them, putting toys away, cleaning up the various spillages and picking up their discarded clothes. It’s tiring but you don’t mind because they don’t know any better and you naively console yourself that it’s only short term. Life will get easier as they mature.

Those of you with grown up children know that is absolute nonsense. Teenagers get messier as they get older. They take untidiness to a new level. They can transform a tidy bedroom into a disaster area in minutes. They would rather tunnel under a mountain of dirty clothes to reach the bed than put them in the wash basket.

The bed can also double as a wardrobe, by making a little space among all the clutter to sleep in. That, apparently, is easier than tidying up and using the bed for its original purpose, and I have some more bad news for young parents. It doesn’t change when they hit their twenties and thirties either.

I can’t remember whether I was tidy kid or not, but I do know that I left home when I was twenty to make my own way in the world. Kids remain at home longer these because it’s harder to flee the nest while affordable properties are scarce, and mortgages are difficult to come by.

My wife and I own an adult child. He’s a grand young lad but he takes more looking after now than he did when he was six. He doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to leave either and why would he? He likes it here. He has a roof over his head, has his own tv room, and he’s fed and watered. 

His laundry is taken care of and his mother fusses over him as much as she did when he was a toddler, so, what’s not to like?

Lots of his buddies are in the same boat so our situation isn’t unique and from what I hear from other parents, the untidy young adult isn’t an unusual species either. The chaotic bedroom scene is standard with chaos and disarray is everywhere, but whose fault is it?

The blame lays with us for not training them but how could we? The traditional Irish mammy did everything in the house and that’s been the way for generations. Mammy will look after us, so it’s our own fault.

I didn’t wash a cup, make a bed or use a hoover until I left home and entered the garda training centre in Templemore. One of the first lessons we got as recruits was in bed making. We sat in the large recreation hall which had a stage at one end. A bed was placed in the centre of the stage and one of the instructors gave a demonstration on how they expected us to make our beds every day for the duration of our stay. Bedrooms were inspected regularly and there would be consequences if beds were found undressed.

At the time, most of us thought this bed making lark was a bit over the top, but it soon became a daily routine, and it’s followed me through my life. It taught us discipline and making the bed first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. They also taught us about keeping our personal space clean and tidy which was another new experience for me.

A relationship expert was quoted on the Internet as saying, “Many men were raised by parents who didn’t expect them to do much around the house, so this is very deeply engrained conditioning.” Women are often trained from a young age to look after themselves, and to measure cleanliness as a measure of self-worth so they become more uncomfortable when something isn’t clean and tidy, while their partner might not even notice.

When I was growing up, my mother did the housework and never asked my father to do anything. I remember getting ready for school in the morning and before my father left for work, his breakfast was put in front of him.

When he came in from work in the middle of the day, his dinner was put on the table and when he finished in the evening, he had his tea. He didn’t boil as much as an egg. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how or wasn’t interested, he just wasn’t allowed. He would probably have been charged with be trespassing if he went near the cooker, it wasn’t his place. The range was off limits to him as was the ironing board and the washing machine.

In the early years we were living with my grandparents, and my grandfather was always in the way. My grandmother was forever moving him around the kitchen while he sat listening to the wireless, a big beast of a thing that sat on a shelf in the corner of the kitchen. The wireless was the beast, not the grandfather.

My grandmother always seemed to be attached to the range, cooking and baking and my mother was her assistant. Together they kept the house intact. These days, most men are proficient in the use of an oven and a sweeping brush.

Phyllis Diller, the American actress had her own observations about housework. She said cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the driveway before it stops snowing.

Joan Rivers wasn’t a fan of housework either. She said, “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes - and six months later you have to start all over again.”

According to Oscar Wilde, man is made for something better than disturbing dirt but I have no intention of suggesting that to my wife.

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