Mother’s Day: appreciation, but no glorification, please!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there and all others who play a significant mothering/nurturing/supporting role for children, especially young children. Well, and especially teenagers, too!

Mother-Flowers

My husband and I have been blessed in the mother department. Both our mothers were women who provided solid, secure foundations for us, although with very different personalities. Just knowing the two of them went a long way towards showing us that there’s more than one way to do the “job” and do it well. And my mother-in-law gave us the additional gift of living to a ripe old age and demonstrating by example how to age with fun, grace and gratitude.

Our two practically perfect sons both married women who, aside from being lovely, loving and intelligent, are wonderful mothers to our grandchildren (even if the teenage grandchildren might not always agree; they’re not heavily into being mothered at the moment!) As I say, we have been blessed in the mother department.

But not everyone is able to say the same. And that’s where I have a wee bit of a concern about the continuing glorification of motherhood as the pinnacle role of a woman’s existence. I don’t want this to be a downer – it’s true that there’s nothing I’ve done in my long life that I think is more important than being a mother – but I think we need to put this day of honouring mothers in perspective.

All the cards and adverts describe a mother as basically being the one who shapes their kids. Who provides them with the love that sustains them through life, who provides comfort that nobody else can come close to. Sorry, but this may be true for some mothers – and some fathers, and some teachers, and some neighbours – but many of these Mother’s Day quotes are setting impossible expectations for women who have tried their best as mothers. We’re just human beings!

Some over-the-top examples:

Mother-Kipling

Mother-Manual

I don’t think we should give up Mother’s Day, not at all. After all, I am a mother, and who doesn’t like a special day. But maybe we could think it through a bit more. There are a lot of kids – young and not so young – who find themselves being reminded of painful personal situations as Mother’s Day is anticipated in daycares, schools, online ads, and stores. Single-mother families, where breakfast in bed and a delivery from the florist just isn’t going to happen. Single-father families, where both the kids and the father are reminded of the absence of their mother. Two-Dad families, where the kids are in happy, supportive families, but are reminded as Mother’s Day cards are being drawn at daycare that their family is “different”. Or the pain for a family who has just lost their mother, and today must face yet another reminder of their loss.  In other words, Mother’s Day is not the straightforward occasion for many people that the rest of us think it is. Life is complicated.

Mothers-MothersAs I alluded to earlier, mothering actually comes in many packages, and it’s not always the biological mother or even a woman who has provided the critical mothering role. And yet, society seems to continue to be stuck on attaching the “mother” label on women, especially when a message of wrong-doing is involved.  This is where my latent feminist streak comes to the fore. A fellow blogger, an exceptional and frequent writer who is also the mother of two young children, wrote a blog post for Mother’s Day the other day that started with this observation:

It seems like when I see a headline on the news relating to something that happened to a mom, it starts with something like, “Mom of two is ____” (fill in the blank with missing, found guilty, bitten by a dog and so on). She also might be a real estate agent, banker, engineer or some other profession but it seems in my non-scientific survey, that they always lead with her parental status.

Which I take to be evidence of the importance of mother figures.

Now, I knew from her usual inquiring and insightful writing that she couldn’t really mean that conclusion, but, of course, being me I couldn’t let it go. Because she’s right, when a woman is reported to have done something wrong, her role as a mother is often front and center, implying for no apparent reason that she’s a bad mother as well as whatever else she’s being accused of. How often have we seen a headline that says, “Father of two found guilty of ______”? I believe the answer is: never. So, regardless of all the changes in the world, where women can – and should be encouraged to – work at whatever they are qualified for and be successful at it, and where many, many women are the sole breadwinner for their family, the notion prevails that women are only successful if they are mothers – and practically perfect mothers at that. That’s just not right. Maybe it’s time to join Mother’s Day together with International Women’s Day!!

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest! Now everyone can get back to having a lovely spring Sunday. And a Happy Mother’s Day … for appreciation, not glorification. 🙂

Mothers-LittleKids

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37 Responses to Mother’s Day: appreciation, but no glorification, please!

  1. Jean says:

    I also love that comic you chose. 😀

  2. Jean says:

    What a great post, Jane. Mother’s Day means different things to different mothers and also to their grown children. Agree, that to blame all person’s pesonality/personal problems on their mother whatever she did, is unfair or it overshadows all the other facets of a woman. I recognize the important of parenting..which is why some of us chose not to become a parent. I’m one of the luckier ones, who feels I made the right choice. I prefer to be an aunt…7 nieces and nephews from 3 sisters.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks very much, Jean. And thank you for describing the reasoning that goes into taking the tough but honest decision to not have children. As you remind us, there are many other ways to make invaluable contributions in the raising of children.

  3. Pingback: Dear Mom, Part 2 – Surprised By Joy

  4. Inkplume says:

    Chiming in late on this one but, as a stepmom, thank you for this call to the reality of diverse types of “mothers” who are doing their best out there!

  5. Bernie says:

    I am with you — it’s not about being a perfect mother but about celebrating the relationship we have. Over time those relationships change. But I also think it has become so commercialized that it doesn’t represent reality; either the day or the actual parenthood. Bernie

  6. Wynne Leon says:

    Such a rich and thought-provoking post, Jane! You have covered so much territory as to why all stories are so important and as you point out so well, gratitude instead of glorification is a better way to go.

    And I love that you pointed out the other side of my intro – that fathers aren’t introduced the same way on the news. It’s so fascinating that as far as we go, some views are so ingrained that they’ll take a lot longer to change!

    Hope you had a wonderful weekend! I’m so grateful for you in all your roles, but especially as an insightful and deep blogger!

  7. Beautifully put and lovely in every respect, Jane. An aunt of mine was fond of saying, “Parenting is hard, but mothering is both complicated and multi-faceted.” – Marty

  8. Jane , loved the way you covered emotions of all kind of mother’s or I cn say woman’s. Motherhood is complicated but it’s amazing experience for those who are experiencing it. This post covered all different levels, which no one of us noticed or we just ignore.

  9. debscarey says:

    I agree Jane, Mother’s Day can cause a complex array of emotions for lots of differing reasons. The sibling in my family who’d have made the best parent is my youngest sister, but she was unable to go full term. I think Mother’s Day must cause her all kinds of grief. She, being a lovely & stoic soul, never says a negative word and always celebrates it with a smile & generosity. But I feel for her.

    I’m a great believer in expressing gratitude, but I’m not comfortable with the pressure in schools to mark these traditional roles.

  10. Well said, Jane. Mother’s Day isn’t all roses and elaborate meals for everyone. And we’re far from perfect. I think of all the women, men, and children, who are struggling with so many challenges…disease, war, poverty, violence. Maybe we need a day to acknowledge all who are struggling.

  11. I don’t care for Mother’s Day or any other made up day. I don’t like Mother’s Day. Because the message it conveys stands against everything I believe in. Not because “you should not just say thank you to your parent in a single day, but every day,” as would-be philosophers like me spread occationally, but because the pure opposite is the case.

    “Isn’t it a mother’s duty to be there for her children, to care for them, to participate in their lives. Why should she get flowers for it?”

    Do children owe mothers thanks? Why? They chose them, not the other way around. With the decision to give birth to them, they have made a commitment. It is their duty to be there for the children, to care for them, to participate in their lives. (That was thought-provoking…sorry)

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. OK, I have to admit, you have put forward a reasoned argument for your case! However, showing gratitude for people who go the extra mile – in whatever they do – surely is always something to be encouraged. I’ll go with showing gratitude, in a positive way. Maybe it’s the commercialization of Mother’s Day and the accompanying overblown hype that is what really concerns me. Thanks for making me think some more!

  12. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    The joys and complications of family in our changing times.

  13. Another very well written thought provoking posts on different levels. Some of us, me included, are very fortunate to have had good and possibly great mothers but in may cases that has been the role of the father. However, as part of a paternalistic society, I think that will take some time to change. One of my son’s best friends is the home parent while the Mom works but this is certainly rare even in that segment of the enlightened.
    I do think mothers have an advantage when it comes to bonding but think fathers can have almost as strong a bond if they work at it?
    Thanks again for your thinking and writing.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I think you’ve nailed it, Wayne., in saying that it will take our paternalistic (aka male-dominated) society some time to adapt to change. I also know families where the mother is the main breadwinner and the father is the main caregiver. And virtually every young couple I know shares the parenting and household responsibilities fairly equally. Personally, I think this is a much more gratifying role for fathers than the “bring home the bread and serve as disciplinarian” role of old. Fathers can have very, very strong bonds.

  14. Well stated as usual, Jane. Life is complicated. Mothering is complicated. Here’s to gratitude…not glorification. 💜

  15. margiran says:

    Jane, a difficult topic for some, which you have covered so well. All I will say is that some women are not seen as part of the ‘earth mother community’, nor do some wish to be. Some men could be included – if they wanted to be. So much pressure! But to congratulate all who may not be part of the ‘normal expectations’ – yes, why not! After all the job they do is one of the most important jobs, if not ‘THE most important’ – yes?

  16. heimdalco says:

    What a perfectly wonderful post. It struck me personally on a number of levels. My mom died 18 years ago & a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her. Holidays, birthdays & Mother’s Day are particularly poignant because I miss her so much but also because I have such wonderful memories of her & was blessed to have the mom that I had.

    I administer our church Facebook page & looked for the perfect photo to add to the reminder about today’s Mother’s Day morning service. The photo I added was a mama cat snuggling with her kitten. My husband asked me why I used that photo. The answer was I didn’t want to depict the usual picture of a Caucasian mom because all mothers aren’t that & I didn’t want to use a photo of a female mom because all “mothers” aren’t that.either. After my explanation my husband told me the cat/kitten photo was a perfect choice. I was pleased but am waiting for someone to point out to me that all mothers aren’t feline but that’s OK. None of us can please all of the mothers all of the time.

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