Mother’s Day is a social justice issue

Is it just me or has Mother’s Day gotten more aggressive lately? It was inescapable yesterday. Facebook was totally overwhelming, and I was genuinely afraid to leave the house and go out to eat or to the zoo or wherever. (Ended up going to see Iron Man 3, where the theater was, shockingly, only half full. Guess that’s not a top pick for most moms?) Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total curmudgeon. I asked my husband to let me sleep in and make me pancakes. I got in some good play time with my toddler. Also, Iron Man 3. I had a terrific day. But there were just… a lot of things that bothered me.

The biggest one was that a close friend of mine lost her baby last fall.  As if every day isn’t hard enough for her, I can barely imagine how much harder it would be to have other mothers and babies shoved in her face all day. The last thing I wanted to do was to give her even a little more pain by my actions. And she is by no means alone–I know many women who have dealt with infertility, or miscarriages, or have had terrible relationships with their children, or terrible relationships with their mothers, and having Mother’s Day take over their lives is just… not fun. To put it mildly. My friend mentioned feeling silenced, and I think that’s a good way to put it–feeling that personal pain, and then also feeling incredible pressure to not only make that pain invisible so it doesn’t interfere with other people’s lives, but to celebrate other people having what they don’t.

But in the larger picture, too, Mother’s Day does this weird double whammy of misogynism. On one side, it’s honoring mothers because mothers aren’t honored the rest of the year–it’s this weird implication that we have to have a day to celebrate this because it’s not celebrated enough the rest of the time. (It’s like Black History Month–where’s White History Month? Well, the other 11 months of the year….) So let’s give mothers this one day so we can ignore them the rest of the year. But it’s also dividing women into two groups: mothers, who are worth honoring, and everyone else, who should sit still and be quiet until they do something worthy of public recognition, i.e. having babies.

(Disclaimer blah blah: I’m not saying everyone who celebrates Mother’s Day is doing this on purpose. I don’t think anyone is doing this on purpose. But because we live in a society where women struggle for equal time and money and respect, that’s how it comes off. For the same reason I hope someone tells me when I have lettuce in my teeth, I’m telling you that you’ve got some misogyny in your Facebook feed.)

So I kind of muddled through yesterday. I appreciated my husband and daughter making me feel like they were glad to have me as a mother in their life, and I called my mom and grandmother and hopefully made them feel the same, and I didn’t say a thing on Facebook one way or another.

Maybe next year I’ll be braver. Maybe I’ll be a little closer to finding the right words to say this. Maybe next year I’ll feel like we’re a little closer to honoring mothers every day–maybe there’ll be a couple fewer Time magazine covers tearing down moms who are doing it “wrong”, maybe it’ll be a little easier for women in the workplace to earn enough to support a family, maybe we’ll be a little closer to equal political representation. Maybe I’ll spend a little more of my time, all year long, letting the women in my life know that I’m glad they’re in my life.

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