The Trials and Tribulations of The Irish Mammy

The Irish Mammy is a wonderful, yet strange, thing. Irish Mammies are all things to all people: best friends; arch enemies; nurses; cooks; politicians; guards; judges; teachers; partners-in-crime – the list goes on. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful mammy (Ma); to have lived with her mammy (Granny) and to have grown up with frequent visits to my dad’s mammy (Granny Wexford). I also have a second mammy (Sally) – which raises some eyebrows, but it’s a lot less complicated than people first imagine.

When people think of The Irish Mammy, the first thing that springs to mind for most is Mrs. Brown. Brendan O’Carroll’s character has graced screens all over the world. Some people say that Mrs. Brown is so over the top, and does not show a true representation of real life. This is where I disagree. I think Mrs. Brown only tells half of the story of The Irish Mammy.

Growing up and living with my Granny was a memorable experience. She raised her children during the fifties and sixties. Unfortunately for my brother and I, her parenting style did not progress with age. She insisted that dinners consisted of one meat, two veg (and one of the vegetables always had  to be potatoes). My brother and I wanted new foods like pizza (or “pissa” as she liked to call it). After much begging, she caved. We came home from school one day to find pizza with a side of boiled potatoes. Irish Mammy Fact: You cannot have dinner without spuds.

Granny loved to bake. She made scones and fruit cakes daily. Granny also used to smoke Carroll’s cigarettes, but she could never smoke sitting down. She only smoked when she was active around the house. So it made sense that when she baked, she smoked. I should point out now that Granny was deaf and blind (I say that, but like all Irish Mammies, she could hear and see when she wanted!). So, while she smoked and baked, she could not see that the ash off her cigarette was falling into the cake mixture. The ash was mixed into the batter, and put into the oven to bake. I doubt many of the recipients of the cakes knew that, but they always came back for more!

They say that as we age, we turn into our parents. I can confirm that this is true. Although she may not agree with me, my mammy is slowly turning into her mammy. About two weeks ago, my parents came to my house in Dublin to visit. My Ma wasn’t in the house two minutes, when she had her coat off, her sleeves rolled up and she was ironing my shirts for work on the table. Some might love this, but my face was the colour of a cherry when my roommate walked in to see her 23 year old friend’s mother doing his ironing. Irish Mammy Fact: Irish Mammies love ironing. 

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Irish Mammies only want the best for their children. A steady job with good pay and pension plan – sure what more could you want?! This is very true of my Ma. When she picked me up one day from college, I told her that I was setting up my own charity for people with intellectual disabilities at aged 21. It was like I had murdered the Pope. It sent her into palpitations – she nearly crashed the car. “WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? YOU HAVE NO FUTURE. HOW ARE GOING TO SUPPORT YOURSELF – DON’T MIND A FAMILY?! DO YOU THINK I CAME DOWN IN THE LAST SHOWER? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GET A NORMAL JOB? Far be it from me to be normal. Before you judge her, she was right. She had my best interests at heart. I have never wanted for anything in my life because of my parents. She wanted this lack of longing to continue for the rest of my life. Who could blame her?

Being the stubborn person I am, I still went ahead and set up the charity. On the launch day, my parents came along, and when it was all done, she said “Maybe I was wrong that day in the car”. I will always remember this because Irish Mammy Fact: Irish Mammies are always right.

Granny Wexford is a formidable woman. A farmer’s wife, she raised ten children. She is usually the nicest person in the world, but be prepared if you upset her. About twenty years ago, Pops (my granddad) was supposed to bring her to the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. They drove twenty minutes when Pops became ill. She insisted that he would be fine, and that they should keep going. He had to turn around, and she has not let him forget it since. Only yesterday, Pops said that he had a pain in his stomach. Granny Wexford replied “Would you stop. You’re not sick. You didn’t have a pain twenty years ago, and you don’t have a pain now. So stop moaning!”. Irish Mammy Fact: Never cross an Irish Mammy.

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When I say I have a second mammy, people normally give a weird look. Sometimes I play along – whats wrong with having two mammies? In reality, my second mammy, Sally, is my Ma’s right hand woman. Sally has been there at all stages of my life, and normally plays referee between my Ma and I. She is as equally on my side as she is on my Ma’s side. She can be often heard saying “Anita, would you not put some money in his account?” or “Liam, aren’t you lucky to have a mother like her?”. I think everyone should have a second mammy because Irish Mammy Fact: Two Irish Mammies are better than one.

Although I may give out about these strong, brilliant women, they have helped make me the person I am today. I am very thankful for all they have done for me, and are a source of encouragement, motivation and can act as a much needed reality check! Long live the Irish Mammy!

Coming up: The Trials & Tribulations of The Irish Daddy

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