WHY did motherhood get so complicated?

Once up on a time it was easy. You had your babies. You did the housework – OK it took longer when you had no fridge, freezer or washing machine – but the babies pretty much looked after themselves, probably with one or two toys, wooden spoons, pan lids and a doll made from a clothes peg.

You turfed them outdoors, they walked to school by themselves and amused themselves afterwards. As long as they were home by teatime, no one worried. The big ones looked after the little ones and if you were like our next door neighbour when I was a child, you could spend a lot of your time with your feet up, a cup of tea and a fag. Easy.

And you didn’t have to do anything else… Very few mothers worked full-time – my own was a rare exception – but still most of us grew up in a system of benign neglect.

As for school – parents left it to the teachers. Mine dropped me off at the infants’ class when I was four and didn’t darken a school door again for another 14 years until they collected my A-level results for me. I doubt if they knew which subjects I was doing. Most parents didn’t. For all they knew I could still have been playing in the sand pit.

Then I suppose my generation started it all. Maybe with our washing machines and supermarket runs we had time to fuss. We thought about development and vitamins and stimulation and additives and started taking children into the pub with us instead of leaving them out on the steps with a bag of crisps.

We worried about allergies and seatbelts and phonics and where they were on every blessed percentile. We turned our children into projects and sent them to playschool and holiday schemes and went back to work and thought we could have it all.

Now motherhood has become almost a full-time job of encouraging, classes, homework, sports fixtures, ballet classes, parents’ nights, playdates, sleepovers and extra maths.

Never have mothers been so involved in their children’s lives. Never have so many mothers worked full-time. Never have children been so measured and compared. Never has family life been so time-tabled and intense. Never have parents been so frazzled.

Something’s got to give or at this rate by the time our grandchildren are parents you’ll probably need a degree in Parent Studies before you’re allowed to conceive. Motherhood should be getting easier but it’s certainly not.

Anyway, it’s all certainly worth a bunch of daffs.

Happy Mothers’ Day. I hope it’s relaxing. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

ONE of the responsibilities of advancing age is that sometimes you just have to pass on the benefit of your experience to save the young from horrendous mistakes. So here goes… Statement sleeves are the work of the devil.

They’re this season’s big fashion news - sleeves with frills, flares, fringes, bell-shaped, leg of mutton shaped and any amount of fancy ties and trimmings.

Avoid them. Trust me on this. I wore them first time round, back in the seventies and I can tell you that statement sleeves have a life of their own. All by themselves they:

  • knock over wine glasses;
  • unwittingly mop up beer spills on the bar;
  • catch on door handles and banisters and send you flying down stairs;
  • drape into your neighbour’s dinner. Mmmm some soup for later. Yummy;
  • catch alight from the fancy candle, send flames shooting up your arm, set fire to the table cloth and lead to the restaurant being evacuated, a lot of unhappy diners, a very angry owner and a man who never wants to see you again.

Statement sleeves? Don’t, just don’t.

The Northern Echo:

GOOD luck to the Duke of Westminster, 26, and Harriet Tomlinson, said to be love of his life.

The Duke is worth £9billion which must make it tricky to know whether new friends love you for yourself or your billions – how lucky the rest of us are not to have that problem.

But the duke and Harriet were in school together and have been friends since they were twelve years old. She also sounds remarkably normal.

If you’ve known anyone that long, especially at boarding school, then there can’t be that much - good, bad or downright embarrassing - you don’t know about each other.

Out of all the girls a young billionaire could have fallen for, the young duke might just have made a very sensible choice.

The Northern Echo:

WELL, yes, the Prime Minister looked very stylish when photographed by US Vogue at Chequers. Nothing too outrageous – a navy ensemble, bright nails, a chance to plug some small British designers and then those knee-high shiny boots, not the best for a country walk but definitely dashing in a photo shoot.

Don’t know how long it all took to set up and do but, even without the planning and shopping and titivating at the very least the shoot must have taken a whole day, which could possibly have been better spent.

Good PR, of course, but one of the perils of having a woman PM. Can’t remember anyone ever being very interested in where Gordon Brown bought his socks.