Mother’s Day is fine if you have either a mother or children. Otherwise, it’s difficult, confusing, and even annoying. And for some people, worse than that.
Let’s think about this.
According to U.S. Census data, less than half of women are mothers. Yet childless women are ignored on Mothers Day. For childless-by-choice women, this is usually okay, except for reminding them that they are not participating in what society tells us is the greatest experience in life. And on Mothers Day, all women are assumed to have children. Try eating out and see if you aren’t handed a flower just because you are of an age to reproduce (or have ever been at an age when you could have reproduced), whether or not you have children in tow.
But for women who are childless – and not by choice – Mothers Day can be a day of profound sorrow. Infertile women; women who’ve had miscarriages or even some who’ve had abortions; women without partners who believe a child needs a father; women whose children have died from disease, violence, or suicide can find Mothers Day an occasion for mourning rather than cheer.
And let’s talk about how society requires that people be joyous and appreciative on Mothers Day.
First, we know that much hoopla regarding Mothers Day is promoted by the greeting card, florist, jewelry, perfume, beauty products, restaurant and any other industry that can think of a way to get you to buy something “for Mom.” Churches, civic groups, and other organizations are on the bandwagon too. Mothers Day sermons, “Best Mom” contests, and modeling dough handprints abound.
In the midst of all this glowing praise, we seem to forget that not all mothers are good mothers and not all children are good children. Who would want to be reminded that Mom was abusive? That a hoped-for child is a drug addict? That the relationship between mother and child is irretrievably broken for any reason?
The Deserving Others
And whom else do we leave out on Mothers Day?
How about single fathers?
How about people whose mothers have recently died?
Do we forget about adoptive parents in the flurry of sentiment over giving birth?
Do we neglect foster parents, too?
And aren’t there teachers and counselors and other caregivers who give as much love and promote a child’s healthy growth by being a mother-figure – sometimes a child’s only one?
In our zeal to celebrate motherhood, do we forget that there are many kinds of families, and that families of the heart are as important as families that share DNA?
And what about mothers-in-law? I had a wonderful mother, whose memories I treasure and whose passing I grieve. She was kind, and giving, and determined to do the best for her family. But now I have a mother-in-law who is devoted, and generous, and someone I can proudly cal “Mom.” Isn’t she worthy of honor and celebration, too?
So what’s the take-away for me? That I have deeply mixed feelings about the holiday and how it’s celebrated? Yes. That I have had good mothers and mother-figures? Yes. That I know not everyone’s experiences of motherhood and raising children are ideal? Yes. That I think society puts too much pressure on women to be mothers? Yes. That I deplore the commercialism and no-thought gifts that get so much emphasis placed on them? Yes.
Am I a mother? No.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to opinions on the subject.