I’m typing this as I’m garnering up the strength to call up my own mother – who doesn’t do the email or the skype or the book with the faces or the blahging. But I’ve been thinking about the event of Mother’s Day recently and why it’s a big deal as an event relative to Father’s Day. Please bear with me for a minute.
Now, as a Father, of course I recognize that Father’s Day isn’t as well recognized and celebrated. We don’t have special brunches or gatherings. Rarely do we get to stay in bed while the women try to burn waffles and destroy the kitchen so that we can clean it up (I really hope people aren’t doing this to “honor” moms anymore, but…). Church services aren’t usually packed for fathers. It’s just not as a big an event, not a special holiday like Mother’s Day. This is not, however, a lamentation or a whiny post about how dads are forgotten and should be treated better. No, in fact, in keeping with the inverse rule of memorials, I argue that the bigger the event to memorialize/make sacred, the smaller the honor is being spent on a regular basis.
Consider for a moment that Mother’s Day is such a big deal because Western (and particularly US) society doesn’t really honor mothers.
Think about it: What job is of more use to the perpetuation of society than baby-making and child-raising? And yet women have to pay to have healthy children, to feed them, to house them. Poor women often do not have the means to do so properly and are actually punished for not doing it properly. Women who end up severely abused and mistreated sometimes lash out, and for this they are criminalized and go through victimization again – often as mothers. The criminal justice system does not offer them justice nor safety. And even trying to find a way out of domestic violence situations for mothers means that they are rendered from their families again.
In the US, maternity leaves are considered a luxury for the wealthy. Child care is a gamble for the poor and often more costly than staying home. Living wages for people with children are quickly vanishing and other options (such as supplementary food assistance) are also going the way of the buffalo.
Religion is used (in this context) as a pretext to further control women and use them as incubators and child-raisers, without questioning the violence that the mother and children see/receive from the state/society/father-figure. If a pregnant person realizes she* cannot go to full term or doesn’t need to or doesn’t really want to, the religious pretext tells her that she is a murderer, tries to illegalize her, restricts her actions. If she is young, she has to report to her parents, regardless if they are a cause of violence for the child and the reason the child seeks an abortion in the first place.
We shame women for not having children. We shame them for having too many children. For not having them at the right time. For not being able to control their children. For being too dominating.
Mother’s Day began as a revolutionary statement – from and for mothers and their families. Like many such holy days, it has since been coopted by the patriarchy.
Which isn’t to say the day should end, nor that there’s not something revolutionary in the slight role-reversals of the day, of the celebrating of motherhood, in the manner in which the day refuses another workday for many mothers. A day for mothers to treat themselves. But perhaps we can extend that revolution a bit?
*or non-binary. Because trans people can be pregnant too.