Now that so-called Mother's Day is over, I'd like to say a few things:
1. It's a commercial holiday that I, as a mother, did not plan or request. Nor do I particularly care for highly-scented floral arrangements, nor am I sentimental, nor is my life a Hallmark greeting card. Yet, like other holidays on the American Holiday Calendar, I am swept up in the Mad Men hoopla; I have expectations. And when they are not met, I deflate. This year, for example, my daughter was up to her eyebrows in deadline work, had no time to think about a card or present, yet made time to come out for brunch with her near and dear parents. And though we had a terrific meal, lots of laughs, and she had taken the time to come out to meet us, she apologized for "not doing anything," meaning what the Mad Men narrative has subliminally told us to do: buy flowers or chocolates, or whatever.
Though it seems as difficult as shutting down social media, can we all please try to shut off the Mad Men narratives and write our own, original family stories?
2. Several friends who do not have children called me on Commercial Mother's Day and wished me a Happy Mother's Day because, as one dear friend said, "I know you are a good mother." This same friend is one of the most caring, nurturing people I know. Why should he be excluded from my Mad Men celebration? And I have other dear friends who do not have children, either by choice or circumstance. They are, to a person, the most nurturing people I know, sometimes more than the parents I know. One is a teacher in the South Bronx in a very rough school who is completely devoted to her students. Completely. The other is an animal rights activist, another a humanitarian worker, another is caring for a very sick partner and has done so for many years. I could go on. Do you get my drift, dear reader?
3. Creating narratives of inclusion (mothers) and exclusion (everyone else), so that the floral and candy industry can flourish, is not my idea of compassion, caring, or mothering/parenting in the largest sense of that word. And we need largess right now, really big, capacious and compassionate gestures. Let us remember all those motherless children incarcerated on our border with Mexico. Let us think of their mothers every day, and their fathers, and their families, and their impoverished or war-torn communities.
4. As it turns out, the woman who "invented" American Mother's Day—and got Congress to declare it a national holiday in 1914—was one Anna Jarvis who I had never heard of until I did a Wiki search. Her mother had cared for the wounded on both sides of the Civil War and Anna wanted to honor her. The carnation became a symbol of the day; it has remained a floral and bonbon holiday ever since. Anna hated it. Indeed, she was so unhappy about the commercialization of the holiday that she tried to have it removed from the calendar. Too late; the Mad Men had their teeth in it. Anna went crazy with her effort and ended her life in an asylum.
6. Instead of Mad Men's Mother's and Father's Days, how about we celebrate teachers and courageous politicians and socially conscious doctors and ACLU lawyers and scientists struggling to preserve Mother Earth, our beautiful mother, the mother of us all.