Mother’s Day

12 May

I’m gonna be totally honest here: Mother’s Day makes me feel weird.

I think that part of it is that I have an automatic distrust of anything that’s gender-specific. Like, why is it Mother’s Day? Why not just Caregiver’s Day? Or Excellent Parental Unit Day? Or, as a friend of mine mentioned on Facebook, Gender-Diverse Parents’ Day? I mean, I get that it’s supposed to be about how hard mothers work, and how under-appreciated they are, but something about this sentiment seems … off to me. We spend most of the year crapping on moms, picking apart their parenting choices and publicly lambasting mothers that we disagree with, but suddenly we’re supposed to spend a day talking about how great they are? It sort of reminds me of the way that a good friend spoke about her ex – he was great at the big things (like buying her lavish gifts and taking her on fancy vacations), but not so much with the little day-to-day stuff. And really, it’s that day-to-day stuff that keeps the world turning, you know?

I guess that part of my ambivalence comes from the fact that Mother’s Day was never a big deal when I was growing up. We would make cards for my mother, and maybe bake her a cake or something, but it never went much beyond that. I mentioned once or twice that I might make my mother breakfast in bed, but she always vetoed that idea, saying that she would be the one left to clean up my mess (which was, to be fair, probably true). Even when my dad still lived at home, we never went out for brunch or anything fancy like that. I think I remember really wanting to make it a special day for her, because school and television and books made me feel like that that’s what I should be doing, but not being entirely certain of how to about that. I realize now that the best gift I could’ve given her would have been a kid-free afternoon or more help with household chores, but those things didn’t occur to me at the time. I wanted to either go big or go home (and I had no way of knowing just how “big” a few childless hours would have seemed to a single mother).

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t really understand how HUGE Mother’s Day is for some people until I became a mother myself. Then, all of the sudden, people wanted to know what I was doing for Mother’s Day – they seemed especially interested in what, exactly, my husband was going to buy me. As my first Mother’s Day approached, I heard more and more about all the gifts I should be expecting.Β What do you think you’ll get for Mother’s Day? people kept asking, as if I had submitted a list of desired items months ago and had only to use my mad deductive skills to figure out which one my husband would pick. When I told them that we would likely go out for a nice family brunch and then go to the park, they seemed disappointed, as if I was somehow missing the whole point of the holiday.

The whole “Mother’s Day is too commercialized” thing has basically been done to death, but you guys? It’s pretty much true. It’s now more about picking out the perfect jewellery or the cutest card or the fanciest chocolates than it is about honouring the hard work your mother does. And to get back to that weird gender thing, why are we so obsessed with honouring how hard our mothers work? Or rather, why are we only interested in thinking about it only once a year, and why is our solution to throw sparkly things and candy at it, and then ignore the issue for the next 364 days?

I can’t help but notice the differences between how Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are marketed. Mother’s Day is all about honouring the sacrifices your mother made for you, showering her with pretty, mostly useless things as a sort of payback for all that she “gave up” in order to raise you. Father’s Day, on the other hand, seems to be about high-fiving your dad for being such an awesome friend, and maybe thanking him for somehow, occasionally having had a hand in how you turned out. Even these lists of suggested Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts are pretty telling – a whole lot of stuff to make Mom look and smell pretty (with a few gardening items thrown in), and then a bunch of fun, boozy, outdoor-adventure stuff for Dad. I mean, I’ll be honest – I would way rather read a book on my Kobo while sipping a glass of nice scotch than put on a stupid scarf and spritz myself with floral-scented chemicals. Not unexpectedly, all of the gifts for mothers are about her appearance, whereas all of the gifts for fathers are about going out and having a good time.

I guess that, at the end of the day, what really bothers me about Mother’s Day is this idea that sacrifice is somehow inherent in the idea of being a mother. And also that there’s something sacred about getting knocked up and then giving birth, as if that raises you on a pedestal above all other women. I feel particularly irritated by this image from Indigo’s website:

105468_MothersDayShop_03_mini

Because, you know, everyone doesn’t have the best mom in the world. The ability to be sperminated and pop out a kid doesn’t really mean anything; I definitely know enough people with awful mothers who pretty firmly disprove that rule.

Instead of celebrating how much women have to give up in order to have children, why don’t we look at ways that we can even the playing field? Instead of insisting that mothers have to be the nurturing caregivers, how about finding ways to help promote these behaviours in fathers? And instead of having Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, why not just a day that celebrates all of the people who help make our kids the way they are? Why not have a day that acknowledges the fact that some people owe more thanks to their aunts, uncles and grandparents than they do to their mothers or fathers?

But if we have to have a Mother’s Day, I would much rather celebrate Julia Ward Howe’s proposed Mother’s Day for Peace. I would rather honour the sentiments put forth in her Mother’s Day Proclamation than receive a bunch of flowers that will be dead in a week. Because you know what? This is a Mother’s Day that I can really get behind:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

β€”Julia Ward Howe

 

To those of you who celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope that you have a wonderful day. To those of you for whom this day is painful, I hope that it passes quickly and peacefully for you. And if you’re someone looking to give a mother that you know a really amazing gift, consider finding a way of giving her some time to herself. I promise you that she’ll love that more than almost anything else.

And finally, to the amazing kid who came along two years ago and made me a mother: thank you. The same goes for Matt, who does more than his fair share of co-parenting. I’m super lucky to have these two dudes in my life. It’s been a hell of a ride, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else.

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23 Responses to “Mother’s Day”

  1. isitjustmenadine May 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I couldn’t have put it better myself, reblogging it!

  2. isitjustmenadine May 12, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on Is It Just Me? and commented:
    Happy Mother’s day! This blogger describes my take on the tradition better than if I had written it myself.

  3. Writer / Mummy May 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    This is lovely, thoughtful post. I agree completely – I was shocked when I read the Julia Ward Howe message on Facebook in someone’s post today, because I had never heard it before and it makes much more sense than cards and flowers. How quickly the true meaning of things gets swallowed up by Halmark. Thankfully Mother’s Day isn’t quite so huge over here, but I admit I did still feel a bit disappointed the first time I had one as a Mother because I didn’t get that much of a fuss. Now I accept my husband doesn’t do commercial days (which is probably a good thing) and instead I go and make a fuss of my own mother (although taking the kids with me probably off-sets the niceness of cooking her lunch!)

  4. annesquared May 12, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Happy Mother’s Day. Great column, I enjoyed it very much!
    Somehow those little ones make this a very special day, don’t they πŸ™‚

  5. mfennvt May 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I was just getting ready to link to Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation, and there it was! Wonderful post. πŸ™‚

    We didn’t celebrate any of the Hallmark days when I was growing up. I’m kinda glad about that.

  6. AmazingSusan May 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Yes, and not all mothers are created equal, as I blogged last Mother’s Day (http://amazingwomenrock.com/sacrilege-on-the-sacrosanct-sharing-mixed-feelings-on-mother-s-day) while in the middle of a year of caring for my own Alzheimer’s mother.

    Most parent/child relationships, and I think mother/daughter relationships in particular, are fraught with all kinds of challenges and issues. Or at least that’s my observation after 57 years on this planet. We should probably celebrate the fact that any of us turn out to be decent people based on how we were raised πŸ˜‰

    Nice post Belle. Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day πŸ™‚

  7. Jenn Garro May 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    Beautifully put. Thank you!

  8. Archita May 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Amazing ..Exactly what I think about Mother’s Day or anything gender specific celebration..!

  9. Sarah D. May 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    I agree with the sentiment of this post – obviously it’s not just biological mothers who parent – there are step-parents, aunts, grandmas, beloved grownup friends, teachers, etc. And it’s the act of parenting itself, not the act of giving birth, that should be celebrated. Still, I see a purpose to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, depending how they’re observed. I could see putting them together and having a ‘Parents’ Day’ or ‘Child Nurturer’s Day’ or something ilke that, and I think that the mass market flowers for mom and beer for dad approach needs to change for sure. But just like marriage could either be seen as a remnant of the patriarchy or a meaningful, mutual commitment to one another depending on the folks involved, how we honour our parents can be dependent as well. Ari and I usually forego gifts to make the days an ‘event’; lasts year we split the difference and went camping with the boys halfway between the two parenting days. Because we co-parent; he doesn’t need some awesome beercan holder and I don’t need another shpritzy perfume. But we do need some quality time with no other obligations as a family. And this does provide an opportunity for that – or can.

  10. art & life notes May 12, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    “…what really bothers me about Mother’s Day is this idea that sacrifice is somehow inherent in the idea of being a mother. And also that there’s something sacred about getting knocked up and then giving birth, as if that raises you on a pedestal above all other women.”

    I don’t get it. Getting pregnant, giving birth, & nursing is about as gender specific as it gets, and it absolutely involves sacrifice. Then, following through with good parenting necessarily involves daily putting another person’s needs before one’s own convenience, and this (love) is the pinnacle of human behavior. Why shouldn’t people celebrate motherhood in their diversity of imperfect ways? It not about putting mothers on a pedestal above other women, it’s about valuing an incredibly difficult and crucial, yet often thankless role. Sure, ideally such a unique & indispensable role would be valued every day, but memorializing it in a holiday at least makes a statement that the role of motherhood is something worth celebrating.

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  11. studentlondon3 May 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    I agree. I would want to do something really special for my mam, once I made her breakfast in bed on mother’s day. I brought it in on a tray, but tripped over the wire for her electric blanket, the cereal bowl landed on her head – drenching her in milk, the tea went on the floor and I was catapulted into her wardrobe where I crushed the laundry basket.
    After that, I just stuck with a card and a hug.

  12. Rosie May 13, 2013 at 1:25 am #

    Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

  13. Katie May 13, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    Mother’s Day is in fall here. My husband is big into gift giving, and I’m not. When my eldest was 2 I asked to start a tradish — the kids would give me daffodil bulbs. That’s all. And then we plant them together, and watch them come up…seems appropriate. i hope it continues throughout their childhoods.

  14. pengantinpelik May 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Reblogged this on pengantin pelik and commented:
    Why I like this alternative perspective on Mother’s Day:

    1. It doesn’t involve silly religious dogma.
    2. It points out that the upbringing of a child should not be the responsibility or burden shouldered mostly by mothers, or of mothers alone.
    3. Time off from children and the family, to be spent on their own, may be more appreciated by mothers than material gifts.
    4. It is the everyday stuff that matters more – how about picking up after yourselves and lending a hand doing the dishes after dinner, for a start? (And I am directing this not just to children, but also to husbands.)
    5. The Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe – a powerful message for mothers, regardless of nationality, to stand up for peace: “We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country / To allow our sons to be trained to injure others.”

  15. wisewebwoman May 14, 2013 at 1:46 am #

    I had my own take on it yesterday but truly loved yours!
    XO
    WWW

  16. Archita May 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    It was so beautifully written that I re read again today and thought of commenting – Awesome write up and thought.

  17. appleonthetree May 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Hey,

    I am one of those who can’t understand the hype about mother’s day…i wrote a similar post about it….so true if it was “caregiver’s day”, would make more sense.And about the mother’s sacrifice thing, its like being a mother you have to be the sacrificial lamb πŸ™‚ liked your post…

    Cheers,
    Eve

  18. Erkki Hyvarinen April 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    The Mother’s Day is mostly for those who have a mother. Those who don’t, can leave the world turning, ‘couse whatever you do or don’t won’t stop the world turning day out day in.
    If you do not appreciate your mother, you surely do not appreciate yourself either – or your family, people, the humanity in all. So, The Mother’s day should be 7-365 and the leap day too.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Day 2013 is old news, but I really appreciated The Belle Jar’s commentary on the gendering of Mother’s Day versus Father’s Day and the proposition that we celebrate all parents and […]

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