It’s Time to Update Mother’s Day

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family of swans with mother
A family of swans \ Image: Pixabay

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend, and I have a few arguments about why we continue to celebrate a holiday that is meant to acknowledge someone in our lives that should be acknowledged every day.

A quick note about the term “mother.” A mother, as referenced in this article, can be anyone you see as that kind of figure in your life regardless if they are blood-related or not. They can’t be anyone you fill fits the term and does not have to reflect the person who brought you into this world via birth.

The History of Mother’s Day

Ann Jarvis, a motherless and husbandless woman, is the individual we have to thank for Mother’s Day’s initial national recognition. She is also the woman who would later campaign for its removal from the calendar due to the over-commercialization.

The day started out as being a day to honor mothers and the sacrifices they made for the family. Back in the 1900s, the mother was responsible for taking care of the children, home, and a husband.

Mother’s Day wasn’t celebrated with fancy gifts or cards. It was simply a reminder of all that the mother did for the home and was a personal celebration between families.

Ann Jarvis campaigned for the regionally recognized holiday to become a national one, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson made it official.

Jarvis campaigned for the holiday to become nationally recognized, but with that kind of recognition, commercialization wasn’t far behind. When the holiday went national, it didn’t take long for card makers, florists, and candy makers to start profiting off what was supposed to be a simple day to honor mothers. This angered Jarvis to the point that in 1920 she started to campaign for the removal of the holiday from the national calendar. By the time Ann Jarvis died in 1948, she had disowned the holiday in its entirety.

The Parental Roles Are Changing

Over the years I’ve seen a few trends show up mainly that the role of “mother” has changed and no longer necessarily reflects the woman in the household. Some men are taking on the role of raising the children and taking care of the house while the woman goes to work. In some households, the roles are shared equally. We also have LGBTQ families where the term “mother” doesn’t apply at all.

In our home, my husband stays at home and deals with school work, house cleaning, laundry, and other “motherly” jobs while I go to work five days a week. It’s been this way since my son turned a year old.

Get Back to the Reason for the Season or Get Rid of It

Let’s get back to the original intent of the holiday for a second: wanting to be appreciated and acknowledged.

I understand the idea of wanting to be appreciated, but isn’t that something we should instill in our children on a daily basis instead of lumping a year’s worth into one day?

When I get home from work, my puppy gets excited and spends a few minutes showering me with attention. My husband kisses me and asks about my day. My 12-year-old son doesn’t even realize I’m home until its dinner time and he turns around from his computer to see me on the couch. This isn’t his fault. It’s mine. I’ve taught him that it’s okay to only acknowledge me when it’s convenient for him.

It seems to me that the only people we have to blame for the holiday would be ourselves. We already teach them to appreciate their toys and belongings, the idea of appreciating people should be thrown in there somewhere.

By telling them “Mother’s Day is today. Behave” it feels like we are teaching them their behavior or lack of appreciation the rest of the year doesn’t matter when it does. How many parents have uttered the words, “Why can’t it be this nice all the time?” Well, why can’t it? Shouldn’t it be like this all the time?

Children could show appreciation by doing simple things like:

  • Listening to their parents without them having to repeat themselves.
  • Picking up their clothes and putting them up.
  • Not leaving toys in places that cause hips to be disjointed or four-letter words to be thrown about.
  • Calling to say hi once in a while. (I’m guilty of that last one.)

These are things we can teach them daily now.

Love vs. Appreciation

I’ve been talking a lot about appreciation but have yet to fully define it. Love is an emotion. Appreciation is an action. Or as Webster’s defines it:

Appreciation is a feeling or expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude.
Love is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.

In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie (1993), the turtles loved Splinter as their father, but it wasn’t until they lost him for a brief while to Shredder that they appreciated him and the role he played in their lives. Early in the movie, they had been stereotypical teenagers not fully listening to his guidance and paying him little attention.

As soon as he was gone, they were despondent, lost, and if it weren’t for April and Casey, in a sort of depression. They suddenly felt the need for his words of wisdom and comfort in their lives. They started to appreciate all he gave to them in his fatherly ways.

Gifts… Gifts… Gifts

I won’t lie and say I don’t enjoy the gifts I receive. Heck, I put the Mother’s Day Gift Guide together this year. I wouldn’t complain though if those gifts just arrived another day in the year as a thank you instead of it being on a certain day every year. Instead of, “Damn. What do I get for mom for Mother’s Day?” it could be, “Hey. Mom really helped me out last week with that project. I wonder if she would like a new book.” (The answer to that last question is always YES!)

Small tokens of appreciation are fine and welcomed by most, but that doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. When it comes to showing your appreciation for something or someone, the amount of thought that goes into it matters more than the amount of money.

In the End, Ask Yourself Why You Do or Don’t Celebrate Mother’s Day

No matter your feelings toward the day, I think it’s time we all step back and think about why we celebrate it. Are we bottling up our appreciation for one day? Are we doing it because the calendar says we should? And if you do decide to celebrate, how can you make it more meaningful to your own mother?

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