Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Closer Look at Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day and across the nation, women are being worshipped and showered with love, praise, attention and gifts for no other reason than for the fact that they reproduced.

This has me thinking. Why is parenthood the only role that gets honored with a special holiday? I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a friend, an employee and the caretaker of 3 cats, and yet none of these roles has been deemed worthy for me to get a national holiday. Okay, I do get honored on my wedding anniversary, but that's by hubby only. There is no national holiday called "Wife's Day".

The idea behind Mother's Day and Father's Day is that moms and dads deserve to be honored because their role is the ultimate in sacrifice. They do so much for us that we must show our appreciation. A national holiday is in order.

I don't think anyone would disagree that parents do so much for their kids (if they are parenting correctly, anyway) but here's my question. Why should a person be honored and worshipped for taking care of their responsibilities? A person makes the choice to reproduce and bring another person into the world, so shouldn't it be expected that they will take care of the being they produced? It's not some heroic act of charity and kindness that propels them into caring for their children - it's duty. Do they really deserve a national holiday to thank them for meeting their responsibilities? We have 3 cats who we chose to bring into our household, so we take care of them. I feed them twice a day, hubby cleans their litterboxes and we give them lots of love and attention every day. This is the responsibility that comes along with having pets and we knew this going in. We chose to have them, so we must take care of them properly. That makes us responsible. It doesn't make us saintly or deserving of a national holiday to celebrate the wonderfulness that is the pet owner.

It all comes back to the persistent mythology in our culture which defines parenthood as the most saintly, selfless and important role a person can undertake in life. Because it often does not feel that way to parents (many of them are miserable, run down by the day-to-day grind of caring for kids, and know their motives for having kids were selfish and not saintly), this positive reinforcement is necessary to sustain the mythology, thus ensuring that more and more people breed and bring more and more consumers into the world who will eventually purchase lots and lots of stuff (Mother's Day cards and gifts, for example).


CFVixen said...

Thanks so much for this post. Every Mothers Day just seems like a day of obligation for me. And frankly, it's just stupid. What am I supposed to be thanking mom and MIL for? Having sex? Giving birth? The dysfunction? The constant complaining? The martyrdom?

Sorry...I'm just really sick of these Hallmark holidays. But I wanted to tell you I appreciated your post

Gumby said...

I was just talking with my friend about this yesterday!

I also started commenting here and apparently have enough strong feelings about this that I decided I should just do my own post and point to yours. Don't want to clog up your blog comments with my rambling! ;)

Thanks for the wonderfully articulated disent! :)

Schrodinger's Kittens said...

Mother's Day is like Valentine's Day: overhyped and commercialized. Breakfast in bed (kitchen to be cleaned later by Mom) and an obligatory trinket (from a mall jewelry store) one day a year doesn't make up for the other 364 days of being unhappy, overextended, and taken for granted--and all because your birth control failed.

Great post!

eyemandy said...

I'm on the fence about Mother's Day and Father's Day. On one side, I don't like the rewarding of so-called accomplishments that should be expected of everyone. Children should get good grades, so why are they rewarded for them? Workers should do their best at work, so what are performance-based raises all about? Besides the underlying principle, it's also an injustice to those who do well all the time, as the people who improve are usually the most praised.

On the other hand, being praised feels good and encourages people to do better. Parenting is no doubt a very hard job when done well. I love my parents and am thankful that they loved me too--enough to make me the person I am today. However, it is often a very thankless job--especially when the child(ren) haven't yet matured enough to realize how thankful they should be. Encouraging good parenting is ensuring a better future for all of us.

Now, as for the ONE DAY A YEAR: eh. I'm a big fan of Valentine's Day ( Love's Birthday as I call it--so I can't really speak negatively of a holiday.

Bottom line: it is what you make of it. :)

firefly said...

From Wikipedia:

"Nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become and spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.

"Later commercial and other exploitations of the use of Mother's Day infuriated Anna and she made her criticisms explicitly known throughout her time. ... She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother's Day, and she finally said that she "wished she [had] never started the day because it [had gotten] so out of control ...""

Funny. Same thing a lot of parents say about their kids!

Excellent post. I was waiting for this one all weekend! :-)

twiga92 said...

What really gets me about this holiday is how some churches, particularly the one I go to, decide they don't want any wanna-be mothers feel bad, so they give out a flower or gift to EVERY WOMAN over a certain age. If you're going to honor mothers, than honor mothers! Don't turn it into women's day just to avoid hurting some feelings! The whole thing is so ridiculous. Thanks for posting!

Psycotic_penguin said...

I find mothers day so over hyped as well. For my inlaws it has to be a big thing and if it is not the aunt (yes the aunt) gets depressed and complains. Just like she has the right to complain that we are not providing HER with more great nieces and nephews.
I do like calling my own mom on Mothers day though, she doesn't make a big deal over the day.

Ire said...

I am the proud mom of three little furbabies! I want a national holiday as a cat's owner now! At least I took them off the streets and gave them shelter, and all I hear around me is I'm mad for having so many cats in a 50m2 house.

hybrid756 said...

I demand a national bank holiday for "Well done! You paid your taxes!" day.