Mother’s Day Holiday Ambivalence

Mother’s Day is on the quite long list of holidays I would just as soon ignore.

I’ve written previously about my ambivalence toward Christmas, but actually I don’t like most holidays and celebrations including  birthdays. Sometimes my poor attitude is because I don’t like attention focused on me. That made planning our wedding difficult. And it made baby showers awkward. And that makes Mother’s Day a holiday I would just as soon ignore.

Another part of my unease is the semi compulsory nature of these days. I really don’t like being told by society when and what I ought to do and feel. I simply don’t trust what “they” tell me to do or not to do. They told me that women could not be veterinarians. They also made me take home economics rather than shop. I’m still miffed about that. And what was that silly six person basketball the girls had to play in gym class? Why couldn’t we play real basketball? I guess I should be glad they let the girls have gym class. Cranky as it sounds, I don’t like being told by society what days I should be happy, or grateful, or patriotic.  Life would be easier for my family if I could be happy and celebratory on the appropriate days.

It is easy for holidays like Mother’s Day to slip into a shallow, sappy sentimentality. To say what ought to be said to my mother or to my sons is important and tender and can’t be summoned by the dictates of the calendar. At some level Mother’s Day always seems a little forced to me. That probably says more about me and my issues than it does about the holiday, but there it is.

There are other problems with Mother’s Day. The iconic images of motherhood we portray every Mother’s Day can be very painful for many women. For some women our relationships with our mothers or our children are sometimes painful or even non existent. So in a good hearted attempt to be sensitive to these situations and not to exclude, we have expanded the scope of Mother’s Day to include women who do any sort of mother-like things.

This approach has it’s own set of problems. It conflates being a mother and being a woman. I know only women can be mothers.  But not all women are mothers or even motherly. And mothering gets conflated with any sort of caring for another that any woman does. We assume, at least for the day, that there is complete congruence between being a woman and being a mother. And of course there isn’t.

For a lot of Mother’s Days I was not a mother and the attempts to include me in the festivities always felt awkward to me. The carnation I got at church on Mother’s Day felt a little like the participation trophies that my kid’s received from their soccer team.

Because of that I am very glad that the last couple of churches I have attended ignored Mother’s Day. That is quite appropriate, I think. The purpose of worship is, the worship of God. It is not the glorification or sentimentalization of mothers, or fathers, or veterans or the USA or any other person or thing that is not God. All those things may have their place in society but worship is not that place.

Personally, I think it might be better if each family picked its own particular day and way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Then we could pick a day that is meaningful for the family. It would make the commercialization and commodification of motherhood more difficult. (Although I’m sure capitalism is up to the challenge.) And those of us who wanted or needed to ignore the day, could.

Perhaps even better might be something we might call “Relationship Day” where we celebrate and honor the myriad of relationships that nourish us and have helped us and sustained us.

This Mother’s Day I have written two posts about this day.  For a less cranky view of Mother’s Day, see here.


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