So, how was your Mother’s Day? I hope you escaped the hype and obligation and were able to find moments of quiet and reflection and that you could express whatever was on your heart, be it gratitude and love, or sorrow and grief.
I’ll be honest: since I became a mom myself, I have found that Mother’s Day is not my fave. It stands as an annual reminder of how little has changed for mothers, and how they are still expected to hold up half the sky without support, taking comfort only in flowers and cards and burnt toast. Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mom. My children are the loves of my various lives. But I am acutely aware of all of the ways in which motherhood comes eas(ier) to me because of my privilege. And, in spite of that, it is still enormously difficult.
That’s what I wish we could talk about on and around Mother’s Day: pay gaps, childcare, maternal mental health, and the continuing precipitous fallout of COVID-19. I wish we could acknowledge the hard bits that are made harder because of how society undervalues work done within the home even as we lament what we frame as the societal impact of inadequate mothering. If you care about children’s nutrition, you care about mothers having access to a steady income so they can feed themselves and their children. If you care about children’s literacy levels, you care about mothers’ ability and access to the resources they need to actively raise reading children. That should be the bare minimum of consideration given to mothers.
On the maximum end of the scale, you should talk about mothers and their livelihoods and health and hunger because they are people too. And not only do they continue to be people in their own right after they become mothers, but they bear the bulk of our societal expectations and baggage about what it means to socialise and integrate new members into our (human) race.
So, here’s to a world wherein we choose mothers, just because. I suppose, as a compromise while we get there, we could settle for choosing mothers via our children. Here’s the thing about that: imagining motherhood as a means to an end pits our humanity against our children’s. How many mothers have been told to be grateful they have a healthy baby, even as they are just emerging from traumatic births? How many mothers forego life-saving psychiatric interventions such as medication or insitutionalisation because they are made to feel that they are at odds with their children’s health? How many more still are boxed out of workplaces that refuse to bend and flex to the wills and whims that come with new motherhood?
My Mother’s Day message this year: enough already. Don’t entertain or participate in any social narrative that presents mothers’ reasonable needs as being at odds with their children’s reasonable needs. Refuse the lie that it’s either a mother’s humanity or her baby’s. We can have both. It’s not the final slice of a very small pie, for heaven’s sake.
Are you with me? If you are, here are a few responses for when you encounter the mother vs baby fallacy:
- OMG yes, moms should totally breastfeed AND we should totally pay them a monthly stipend for each month of the first year of breastfeeding! It ain’t free but it’s still unbelievably cheaper than formula!
- What’s that? Moms are superheroes? Oh, boy. You’re gonna wanna sit down. While we’re at it, I have some bad news about the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas…
- You DON’T want to hear about her distressing birth? Stuff this cold quiche into your mouth please, and let the sounds of your obnoxious chewing shield you from the inconvenience of a woman’s truth.
- Why, yes, I will happily pay – directly or via my taxes – for this young mother’s refill of her psych meds. Better medicated than dead I always say!
- Baby shower?! I would love to come. What’s on the list that’s just for the mom? No, not the muslin blanket. Look again. Ah, a voucher for a postpartum massage/night nurse – THERE it is!
Happy Mother’s Day.