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!
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:
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.
As 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. 🙂