As a mother of four children whom I love deeply, and who love me, and with whom I’m in wonderful, healthy, honest relationships, one might think I’d adore Mother's Day and plaster sappy posts all over my Facebook wall about these “best kids in the world” who “make it an honor to be a mother.” But I won’t ever do that. Here’s why.
The version of Mother's Day as we know it in America was established about one hundred years ago. It stemmed from many different efforts in the 1800s, from uniting mothers to support good causes to acknowledging the difficulty of mothering and providing support to be a good or better mother. Influenced by these efforts, a woman named Anna Jarvis conceived of the specific day to honor her late mother, and she got backing by a department store owner in Philadelphia and help from members of the floral industry. It started with passing out flowers in churches. It grew in popularity, until in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as the official holiday. But then everyone who could, capitalized on the concept and jumped on board. From card makers to florists, confectioneries to jewelers, it became so commercialized, Jarvis campaigned to stop it. By the time of her death in 1948, she’d spent most of her personal wealth to lobby for its removal from the national calendar.
Today, you can’t live in American and not know it’s Mother’s Day, and believe me I've tried. You walk in a store or mall, you’re slapped in the face with the question of how will you honor “her.” You go online, TV, radio, social media, and you’re bombarded with notices, posts, boastings, honoring memoirs. It’s everywhere. But what is wrong with that, you ask? Get over it, you say?
I love mothers. I serve mothers. I speak at moms' groups. I've started and led mom support groups. I'm all about moms.
But here’s why I hate this day. All across America this morning in churches, mothers will be recognized. Restaurants will be filled with parties of people taking out mom for lunch. Phone lines will be buzzing more than any other day of the year. But consider the other side of this hijacked, commercialized, guilt-ridden, compulsory-driven event. As pastors in churches ask all the moms in the congregation to stand up and be applauded, what about the women who can’t stand? Who have never had a child when that is the only thing in the world they want? Or those who had a child and lost him? Or had mothers so horrible they can’t even go there in their mind or they’ll have panic attacks. Or what about the men in the restaurants who went and picked up their moms and took them out, smiling over the pain, ignoring the damage that still haunts them every day because of what their mothers did to them? Yet, they must do this thing for their mothers or they will be labeled “terrible sons” or “unloving,” or “Come on man. Just do it. Get over yourself. What harm will it do?” It seems to me that Hallmark shouldn’t be able to determine when it’s time to face your demons. When you’re ready, your therapist, or God, or your inner child should be the one to determine that, not an annual get-rich scheme exploited by every single profit-making entity that says every stinking year that you must swallow your heart, buck up, and pretend it doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t kill you. What if you don’t make that call, give that card, send those flowers? Then you’ve said something. Your choice to not participate screams louder than if you just do the thing everyone else is doing. “They” determined that for us. You can’t NOT do something or it communicates something wickedly heartless. The card companies and every other money-driven entity own this adulterated event. And there is nothing we can do about it. So, we must stand by, helpless, when the flowers are handed out and know there are broken-hearted ladies near us who are trying with all their might to smile and not shatter into a thousand broken pieces. We’ll know that the gentleman helping his mother get out of the car to go into the restaurant may be devastated inside but cannot do a damn thing about it, and so must just bear the pain in silence. It is undeniable that the phones will be ringing around the nation today because the caller has absolutely no choice but to dial that number, that way too many of those offspring are being forced into an action that, without the condemning, disparaging influence of the profiteering corporations, they never would have picked up that phone.
Maybe the day elicits overdue communications. Maybe it stimulates action that needs to happen. Maybe it's a gentle reminder to stop the busy hustle and bustle for a moment to remember a lady who sacrificed much to get you raised and let her know you're thinking of her. And I know it's a tearful time for children to honor their late mothers whom they miss terribly. But at what cost? I can’t get my mind away from the women I know who never got to hold a baby, or worse, had death snatch him away. Or the sons I know who try so hard to be good men, or good dads, or good ANY thing to make up for the hell they grew up in. I just can’t not think of them. And so I’m stuck. There is nothing I can do about it.
Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. And that, my friends, is why I hate Mother’s Day.
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