Is Mother's Day necessary?

Maybe that's the wrong question. Do you enjoy Mother's Day?

The event is a dual celebration: of one's own mother, and, for women who are mothers, of their motherhood. The general idea is to give the role some props; for many days—hell, probably the rest of the year—a mother is appreciated amid a blur of runny noses, I-need-a-costume-for-the-spring-pageant and "He started it."

It is also, of course, a marketing weapon; beginning a month ago, my inbox delivered the imperative to buy Mom a scarf or monogrammed tote bag.

I like it anyway.

Typical Gummy Lump

The sweetness of small children presenting what Robert Ludlum called the Gummy Lump—an art project notable mostly for its heartfelt effort—eyes shining with pride and love, was a fine moment.
In a different manner than the hysterical excitement of Christmas, Mother's Day engages the young in giving, and there is no bouquet as touching. Children tend to overlook our flaws.

By the teenage years, Mother's Day celebrations devolve to maybe a brunch out, if the kid is awake by noon, but Mom is fêted just the same. Or not quite the same; adolescence is another planet.

A mother in the thick of child-rearing might prefer a gift certificate for nine consecutive hours of sleep, but in reality, is offered handmade cards, and that's just fine. I am embarrassed to recall that one of my school Mother's Day projects was a clay ashtray stencilled with our mother's name, but times have changed, as have family units.

Modern families have found variations (and some skip the whole thing). A lesbian couple I know celebrate Mothers' Day, with the appropriate punctuation. Others have expanded the celebration to include stepmothers, aunts or "honourary mothers", to thank women essential to their children, no matter how they came to the family.


Women near my age lucky enough to have a mother still here give an extra serving of affection, which is harder for some mother-child relationships than others. Marilyn's mother was definitely lax, and even absent, for many of those years; the relationship is still under construction. Marilyn arranges for the delivery of pink baby roses (Mum's favourite) when the second Sunday of May rolls around. The accompanying card does not call her "#1 Mom", but conveys good will. Compassion is a precious gift.

Other graceful gestures may mark the day. For years, when we lived in the same city, I would find a small gift—a few daffodils, or a copy of a poem she liked—on my doorstep every Mother's Day morning. Ruth would do the same for at least a dozen other friends.

The child of a single mother, and a single mother herself, Ruth wanted to celebrate friends who had by choice or chance become mothers, to encourage us in our efforts, and to remind us to sleep...eventually.

As Mother's Day approaches, I think about my mother more than usual, of the years when I gave (and sometimes withheld) that appreciation. My father always gave her a gift, too; one year, it was a box of Cuban cigars. (She did not smoke by then.)

On the following Father's Day she gave him a set of china.








9 comments

LauraH said...

Love the back and forth gifts your parents gave each other:-)

I remember making breakfast in bed for my Mom on Mother's Day. Bringing it upstairs on a tray, we thought it was pretty special. I hope she did too.

Mary said...

I must say I have never been a fan of Mother's Day, either before or after motherhood. For my own mother, I always chose random days throughout the year to celebrate the many ways she shaped my life (almost all good) with flowers, a book, a surprise lunch. She enjoyed those days so much more than the standard fare of one Sunday in May. Nor do I care to be feted, though usually a couple of my children who live near me (others living at a distance) will have me over for brunch/dinner. However, I don't need a specific day set aside for the purpose. After all, I chose to have them; they didn't get to choose me. I am happy to know my children love me and appreciate what I did in raising them, but they don't owe me anything. Not even a Sunday in May.

Duchesse said...

LauraH: A sweet gesture that does not involve buying "stuff".

Mary: Many feel as you do, and, generally, the world divides into people who dislike "legislated" commemorations (Valentine's Day, etc.) and those who like or even really like them. I 100% agree with the approach of delighting someone when the feeling arises. And for me, it is not either/or; I did things for my mother "just because", but also know she enjoyed the Mother's Day handmade cards and small gifts when I was a young child.

lagatta à montréal said...

My mother hated Mother's Day, she thought it was hypocritical and what we would now term a "Hallmark Holiday", a holiday invented to make people feel they had to buy stuff.

A neighbour is busy working away making a special Mother's Day feast for his maman, who had a hard life: husband walked out on her and what, 5 children? She enjoys being fêted.

My friends in France utterly refuse to have anything to do with La Fête des mères, because they say it became an observance under the collaborationist Vichy government.

It must be a painful day for women who are childless not by choice but due to inability to conceive or carry a foetus to term, and a very sad one for women whose children died young (I'm thinking of a colleague whose little boy died of leukaemia, decades ago). I never wanted human children, so it really doesn't mean anything one way or another to me, though it is always fun to see families out at the Jean-Talon market and neighbourhood restaurants, especially when the weather is lovely - I've seen Mother's Day picnics!

Duchesse said...

lagatta: it is certainly hypocritical to celebrate one's mother if the emotions the day generally references- love (or at least caring) and gratitude- are not sincere. There is a range of opinion about such invented holidays. But, are not all holidays invented by someone or some group? Even birthdays and anniversaries of life milestones are, though they pertain to an individual, subject to culturally-defined rituals.

Eleanorjane said...

In the UK, Mothering Sunday was a religious holiday about going back to to your 'mother' church on that Sunday i.e. if you'd moved away or were working elsewhere. It's turned into something more similar to the North American idea but thankfully with less marketing of every conceivable thing as a Mother's day gift i.e. iron, crockpot, chainsaw, washing machine, new couch, etc.

I'm mostly getting used to not having a mother anymore after 6 years, but am excited to celebrate myself when I'm a mother next year. I'll definitely be expecting breakfast in bed and all the trimmings. :)

Margie from Toronto said...

FYI - your latest post "Saying Goodbye in Colour" is coming up as a 404 error.

Jane said...

Eleanorjane, That is an interesting history lesson. Would you believe I saw a Mother's Day ad for burial plots! I much prefer a gift of time to a physical gift. This year hubby is rototilling my garden. Will bring me much more joy than a burial plot ;)

Duchesse said...

Margie from Toronto: This happens when I draft a post, edit it, and a bug in the software pulls the date from the scheduled to- right now So then I have to take it down till the correct date. Thanks again, and when that happens, don't worry, it's just the Blogger gremlins.

Eleanorjane: What marvellous news! Dropped in there right at the end, a happy announcement.

Jane: I did not know that either, though I found the term "mothering" obscure. Maybe your garden IS your plot? (Joking, but we did have a garden filled with deceased pets, from fish to dog.)