(In which I self-plagiarize from my FB.)
I woke up this morning (on a very lumpy pile of blankets at the foot of my bed, because the sick/teething baby apparently requires the entire width of a queen bed to herself) thinking about Mothers’ Day, in particular about all the ways today is painful for my friends. I am thinking about people whose mothers have died, who have or had difficult relationships with their mothers, who feel their mothers were missing. I am thinking of mothers whose children have died, of people who desperately want to be mothers and aren’t, of people for whom motherhood wasn’t a choice, of people for whom motherhood is so difficult that it is at least sometimes a regret. I think of women who don’t want to have children and have been told they are selfish, that they aren’t really real women if they don’t; I am thinking of women who are told they aren’t old enough or rich enough or normative enough to be mothers, that they should give their children to someone better. I am thinking of mothers who are told, for a hundred reasons, that they aren’t Real Mothers. I am thinking of mothers whose motherhood feels invisible or uncelebrated by a holiday that holds up as an ideal a model of family life that has never in history been true for all families, that even at its high-water mark in the 1950s was not true for most poor families or many non-white, native-born ones. I am thinking of mothers who want to be spoiled today and aren’t, of mothers sharing the day with others, sometimes uneasily, of children made to feel in some way that their families are made wrong.
(An aside: teachers, I hope you will consider not making these holidays part of school. I am so glad they aren’t at The Bean’s school.)
Today I am thinking about how all those things are connected to the ways our culture defines motherhood as an individual choice/activity, a definition that is used as a excuse to make maternity leave available only for “lucky” mothers whose employers choose to give it, to make childcare the responsibility of individual families, and so on. And I am thinking about the real roots of Mothers’ Day as a call to radical, communal action. Better sanitation to benefit all children in Appalachia, mothers united to oppose war for the sake of all their sons. It’s easy to see why those ideas had to be domesticated and Hallmark’d right out. I’d like a little more of them in today.