Reflections on Mother's Day
by Christina DiGasbarro
So today is Mother’s Day. Arguably, this holiday is one that has most successfully been hijacked by Hallmark and surrounded by an extremely consumerist attitude—it seems like everyone is expected to buy Mom cards, flowers, gifts, etc., to show her how important she is. But, setting those concerns with consumerism aside and not allowing them to obscure the intent of Mother’s Day, this holiday is definitely worth some attention, even though motherhood is certainly nothing new.
When I was younger, I used to wonder if maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t quite fair, in that it celebrates women but only those who have children, and there’s no equivalent holiday to celebrate women without children—some of whom surely don’t want children anyway, but some of whom probably would like children but can’t get pregnant or adopt for one reason or another. But ultimately, we take a day to honor mothers for two legitimate, important reasons. In the first place, a woman who becomes a mother takes on the huge responsibility of caring for another life, and the acceptance of this responsibility and the sacrifices it usually entails are to be celebrated; after all, no mothers means no children, and that means a pretty short future. In the second place, being a mother is generally one of the most thankless jobs out there.
Whether a mother is a stay-at-home mom or works full- or part-time, she is usually the one who ends up doing all the jobs that people (who can afford it) are willing to hire others to do for them: cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, tutoring the kids, watching the kids, etc. And Mom does it all without being paid. Even when she can get some help from Dad, or from the kids, once they’re old enough to take on various chores, the majority of the domestic burden still tends to fall on her. She probably doesn’t often get thanked for doing all these things, either.
One thing to think about, considering how much mothers do in the domestic sphere, is whether we can’t get fathers more involved there, too, especially in families where both parents work (or at least want to). We’ll celebrate Father’s Day in June, but beyond celebrating fatherhood, which is, after all, the acceptance of the same responsibility as motherhood, we still have work to do on de-stigmatizing domestic work as women’s work in the currents of mainstream culture.
No matter what we can accomplish in terms of domestic and workplace equality between men and women, and while motherhood isn’t necessarily for everyone, we can’t deny the importance of that role. While Mother’s Day is, after all, only one day out of the year, and thus doesn’t really begin to cover the debt of thanks we owe our mothers, it is a nice step in the right direction. It’s not about the biggest bouquet of flowers or the flashiest gift; instead, make a really nice dinner for Mom, or tell her that she gets the day off from her responsibilities and should do what she wants to do for herself. It’s about taking the time to say, “Mom, I recognize how hard you’ve worked to raise me and the sacrifices you’ve made over the years to take care of me. Thank you.”