Five Thoughts About Mother's Day and Why It Needs to Go Away
I guarantee that on this day, a mother you know is faking a smile, hiding her tears, or torturing herself reading hundreds of sappy callouts on social media about wonderful mothers. She has dreaded this day every year. Let's not forget her or any other amazing women who have taught and guided us; especially when our own mothers couldn't.
1. Mother's Day Was Never Meant to Be Commercialized
Before I dive into the grit of this topic, I'd like to share the origin of Mother's Day, as cited by Wikipedia, and explain my motive for writing this piece.
So many people, myself included, have never taken the time to learn why such a day exists in the first place. We follow the masses and fall prey to societal traditions without even knowing why we do it. My goal in life is to remove the stress and pressure put on us a culture, so I will challenge even the simplest of topics, such as this one.
"The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St. Andrew's Methodist Church now holds the International Mother's Day Shrine. Her campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother's Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world".
In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother's Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a "Mother-in-law's Day". However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all U.S. states observed the holiday, with some of them officially recognizing Mother's Day as a local holiday (the first being West Virginia, Jarvis' home state, in 1910). In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother's Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother's Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother's Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother's Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother's Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved. Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis protested at a candy makers' convention in Philadelphia in 1923, and at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By this time, carnations had become associated with Mother's Day, and the selling of carnations by the American War Mothers to raise money angered Jarvis, who was arrested for disturbing the peace".
2. Mother's Day Is Often Stressful
While birthdays and Christmas rank high on the list of forced indulgences, there is something even more irritating about Mother’s Day. It’s the fact that this one day is supposed to make up for all the other days that were not-so-great.
I've never been a fan of Mother's Day, but didn't give it the introspective thought I do now. I did my best to enjoy it when my kids were little because it was adorable watching them fight over cleaning toilets and who picked out the prettiest flowers for me. I didn't mind it so much then, because I was distracted by my four little job bombs, who loved on me with sweet innocence and genuine good intentions. This meant I didn't have to think too hard about not having those same fuzzy feelings of grandeur towards my own mother, which is another story.
As a child, my father, a loving and protective man, insisted that my sister and I be on our best behavior that day. Mom and I were always at odds (I was high energy, had a voice, and asked questions). I was instructed to not talk back, fight with my sister, to clean the house, and sit quietly during church. If I messed up, there would be hell to pay. It was always a day of tension and expectations and I hated it.
Year after painful year, many of us who can relate to what I've shared thus far, go through the same feelings and emotions. Sometimes, we have other things we'd rather be doing on that second Sunday in May. It forces us to plan something with our mothers that we should randomly be doing in the first place, because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to. For some mothers, it might be the only day for months to see or talk to their kids. That simply isn't right in my book. I’m not saying it’s not wonderful to see my kid's faces or hear their voices on Mother's Day, but I want to see and hear from them any day, more days in fact, because they miss and want to spend time with me, not because the calendar says they should.
3. We Neglect Our Mothers Most Days
I could not wait to have babies. I also love helping women become mothers as a delivery nurse. I love the tiny, special bits that come with being a mother; baby snuggles, that short period of total dependence, kissing boo boos, being a mom taxi, comforting their failures, and watching them excel. Unconditionally loving moms want nothing in return, other than to have a strong bond with their kids and to be remembered from time to time. We want them to ask about our day or our lives now and then and for it not always to be about them. These are the little things that children, young and old, should remember to do for their mothers. We tend to forget the unconditional love and special things they did for us and how we could be thanking them simply by being present and genuinely interested in their lives.
4. Many Women Will Never Be a Mother or They've Lost Their Mother
Mother’s Day leaves a bitter taste and reminder of what is no more or never was. There are many special women who were never able to be mothers, but longed to be. How does this day make these women feel about the baby they never held, the children they may have abandoned, the ones they aborted, or the child that was lost too soon?
What about the children whose mothers have passed, some too soon, some just recently? What about the mother who can’t love back, never be pleased, or are estranged from their children? There are no cards, flowers, gifts, or even words to honor or console these mothers on this day.
5. Mother's Day Fans the Fires of Expectation
It's the second Sunday in May, and so it begins. As moms of youngsters, we lay in bed for an extra long time because we are probably getting breakfast in bed (admit it; you want it and it's pretty damned adorable). If our kids didn't do it, we might want our spouse to do it for us. Wrong! You are not his mother, so stop right there. It's not his job to ogle over you today...he probably has his own mother and obligation and guilt to contend with!
Next, we anticipate a full-on house-scrubbing, top to bottom because you "deserve" one day out of the year to not have to ask a thousand times for them to empty the dishwasher or take out the garbage. After-all, it is Mother's Day; a day of obligation for every child, young and old.
Next, we hope to walk into a kitchen full of flowers and home-made cards. But what if none of these typical Mother's Day things happen? Automatically, your day is ruined and no one loves you. You no longer feel special and then... OMG! You forgot about your own mother, who is sitting at home wondering where her card, phone call, brunch, and flowers are! You forgot to do a single thing for her! Now you've come full circle, you look at your kids, hug them, and go about your day as if it's any other...because it is!
No one twisted our arms to be a mom and we didn't earn a PhD in motherhood. If you boil it down to basic science, it's what women are biologically programmed to do; to reproduce. So why do we need a set "day" to over-indulge and put undue pressure on ourselves and those we love?
Heartfelt Gifts You Can Give Your Mother Any Day
As a mother, and a sentimental one at that, I often think about the day-to-day things that I could be doing for others to show them I care. They say "life is full of surprises", so why don't we create more of the good surprises, especially for our mothers? Even if you don't have a living or present mother, think of the special women who have influenced you in some way and do something nice for them. These are just some suggestions that any one of us could do for our mother, or a mother-figure, on any random day.
1. Study and learn about your family tree. Most kids do not appreciate where they came from until later in life. I study my ancestry faithfully now and it would have been so fun to share all I have learned with my parents. Why not buy her a subscription to Ancestry.com and work on it together?
2. Write her a special letter thanking her for all she has done and what she has taught you--be specific and point out the special moments and how they shaped you into who you are today. Moms are usually told many ways to Sunday how they have failed, but rarely how wonderful they are.
3. If she rarely does anything for herself, treat her to a spa day of pampering or buy her a wine club membership; something that she likely wouldn't spend money on for herself. I personally love the that is accepted at thousands of spas nationwide. Spafinder Wellness Gift card
4. Make her a personalized gift. One of my most treasured gifts is a set of wood flatware hand-carved by my son and engraved with my maiden name.
5. Make her a scrapbook showcasing your favorite memories of her--or-- make it about her life and the things she has accomplished. You may need to solicit help from her spouse, yours and her siblings, her friends, or other family members to compile this keepsake, and you might even be surprised what you didn't know that other people can share with you about her!
6. Give her a basket of YOUR favorite things! Let her get to know what she may not know about you, now that you are off on your own. Include your favorite products such as foods, snacks, wine, coffee, perfume, toiletries...anything you personally love or enjoy. It will help her feel close to you knowing what makes you happy day to day.
These are just a handful of examples how you can knock her socks off when she least expects it. If you want to make your mom feel extra special and loved, trust me on this advice. It will mean more to her than any obligatory gesture on a compulsory day.
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© 2019 Debra Roberts