I have never liked Mother’s Day. There, I said it. And it’s not because I lost my own mother six years ago. In thinking through this post, I have done some informal social scientific polling and have found that I am not alone in my aversion to Mother’s Day (and Valentine’s Day and other Hallmark “holidays”).
Even before my mother passed away suddenly, I was acutely aware of the mass consumption that surrounded the “holiday.” I thought that I expressed my appreciation for both of my parents as often as I could and I felt resentful that this one day on the calendar upped the ante in terms of mother-love. I did the Mother’s Day thing for my mom because she liked having a special day.
My conscientious objection to Mother’s Day has less to due with expressing love and appreciation for our mothers (and our aunts, grandmothers, cousins, sisters, friends) and more to due with the monetization of our appreciation. Mother’s Day like other Hallmark “holidays” has strayed from its roots. Mother’s Day grew out of a church service honoring the efforts of mothers to improve working conditions for other women and raise awareness of women’s suffering around the world.
Unsurprisingly, the ads for Mother’s Day imply that all mothers’ roles have changed little in the twenty-first century. On Mother’s Day, we encourage mom to “take a break” from mothering and household duties (like cooking) to relax, as though mothers are overbearing and relentless, constantly cleaning and cooking. One hundred years after its inception, Mother’s Day is about buying presents and sending flowers. Flower purchases for Mother’s Day account for one-quarter of all holiday flower purchases yearly and Americans spent $17B on Mother’s Day gifts in 2012. That’s up from $15B in 2009! We hardly think about where these flowers come from [spoiler alert: the flowers are largely grown in Columbia where works conditions could be questionable] . I often wonder if Columbian mothers working on flower farms wish they had a day to themselves, celebrated with brunch and roses.
I wish I had captured more media images of Mother’s Day goods, but I can’t. Retailers have moved on to Father’s Day.