I am not the world’s most enthusiastic member of the Mum Club in that the concept of Mother’s Day grates on me horribly. It comes around every year and people begin falling all over themselves to “remember Mom”. Cards and flowers and perfume and brunches … it all comes out in droves. There are usually whispers of giving Mum the day off, because she works so hard and deserves it.
I don’t really hate any of those things, specifically. As a mum, I sort of enjoy people remembering and appreciating me and the work that I do, because it is a grossly underpaid industry. Any mum out there knows that there is quite a bit of work involved. Most mothers I know work the Second Shift. The amount of free time to herself is almost always balanced with the needs of everyone else in the household. For the most part, it’s a thankless job, and for a lot of mothers, it was one they chose enthusiastically (hint: I am not one of those).
The thing is, we don’t respect mothers. We don’t value them. We raise up and sing praise to what we think motherhood should be. We romanticize it to the point where actual motherhood — the jobs and sacrifices that come along with it — isn’t what we are celebrating. We are celebrating a specific kind of motherhood. The idealized vision of the white, cis, straight, privileged, stay at home mum who is able to wile away her time making cupcakes and taking her kids to the park before she is home to have the roast on the table. The ideal mother we see is married to Mr. Breadwinner, and they all have the kind of faces that can be sold in picture frames.
Motherhood is this fantasy of white, class, straight, cis, able-bodied privilege. When women dare procreate outside of the norm we judge them. We chastise and point out all their flaws. One day a year we talk about how wonderful mothers are, yet we live in a world that refuses to give all of them the support they need to do the job we take for granted. We take away the choice to not become a mother if the woman feels she doesn’t have the tools she needs to bring a child into adulthood, but we damn her when she has to fill out those government forms for assistance. We tell women that they shouldn’t exist in public by insisting that the “civilised” world be protected from crying children, because motherhood is glorious so long as we don’t have to see the messy sides.
I am not opposed to Mother’s Day, not outright. We should be valuing and appreciating mothers. It’s not an easy job. It’s one I tear my hair out over daily (literally). It’s one that I worry constantly if I am doing right. It’s all-consuming. That, however, is the point. Motherhood doesn’t happen one day a year. The unpaid, undervalued, unappreciated work of mothers goes on even when we refuse to see it. You can’t balance that with a pink flowered card one day a year.
To truly celebrate Mother’s Day, we should be thinking of ways to make that job more acceptable in its reality every day of the year. We should be finding ways to take the burden off of the over-worked and underfunded. The mum who works two jobs to keep food on the table (the same one we demonize for choosing to make that food takeaway between shifts). The mother who has to stay home with her kids because daycare would cost the entirety of any wage she could earn. We should be working to remove the stigma of assistance, and finally, we should be fighting to make sure that motherhood is a choice that can be freely made only by those who really wish to become one. Becoming a mother is too savage and life-altering to be entered any way but of your own free will, and yet we can’t seem to grasp that. We can’t seem to agree that the best way to respect mothers is to make sure they were willing to become them in the first place.
Love your mothers (if they are deserving of your love). Send them gifts and call them and tell them how much they mean to you, but I hope you are doing that more than one day a year. At the same time, though, honor your mother by examining the world we live in and looking for ways to make it better. For all mothers, irrespective of gender, race, class, ability, or other privilege.
Originally Posted on Tumblr