The New Face of the Irish Mammy

Last Saturday, I was at my girls’ school. My eldest daughter’s classmates were first communicants, and she was as included as she wanted to be in the proceedings. This meant that we went to the church and she sat with her friends for much of the ceremony, before heading back to the school afterwards for cácá milís and a cupán tae.


Ishthara went as far as to wear a beautiful white dress – because the other girls were – but instead of a veil, she wore a tikka that matched the rest of her jewellery. She looked heart-breaking beautiful. But I’m her mother – I’m going to say that no matter what.


What amazed me, though, was not how well the children looked – but how well the other mammies looked. To a woman, they looked fabulous.


I thought back to my own school days. Growing up, every class had one glamorous mammy – maybe two if you were lucky – but the rest of them were, like mine, kind of frumpy in a mammy sort of a way. Back when I was in school, the mammy rule was that your foundation had to be at least two shades darker than your actual skin tone. Not only that, but eye-shadow was pretty much always two blue streaks on the lower lid – regardless of the colour tones of the wearer’s eyes, clothes or skin tone. And you had to put more make-up on when you were going out to something ‘special’ than you would otherwise; to show you’d made an effort, like. This was your ‘dressed-up and going out face’.


In the years between when I was at school and when my children started school, mammies got gorgeous. It’s not just the style and the sophistication of what they wear, though – more noticeable is the confidence and the self-possession that Irish mammies have now. What happened? Was it feminism? Was it the fact that we travelled more? Or that we had access to more magazines telling us how to dress and groom ourselves? Was it the Internet? Was it the Celtic Tiger? Was it Oprah? Was it the mere fact that more of them have third-level qualifications than my mother’s generation had?


Whatever it was, it’s made a very radical change to the face of motherhood in Ireland and I really hope that, with all our current problems, worries and woes, we won’t let the confidence that allows us to look glamorous and sophisticated take too much of a bashing.