Mother’s day: a day set aside to celebrate the mothers of the world with gifts, brunch, cards, and joyful family gatherings. At least, that’s the idealistic form of Mother’s Day we see on TV and in jewelry advertisements. The truth is, for many, many people, Mother’s Day is another sad reminder that a mother or mother figure is gone or that one can’t celebrate the occasion because, frankly, there are no one to buy us flowers or give us a card.
For millions of single mothers, who are busy working and schooling and raising their kids and fighting negative stereotypes perpetuated by society and politicians, Mother’s Day isn’t anything other than just another Sunday that is no different than the previous Sunday, and certainly no more special than the Sunday to follow. For the truth is, Mother’s Day has transformed into something that is about being good consumers rather than being good kids by appreciating your parent, and the new consumerist attitude (rooted in Puritanism and a long American tradition of heteronormativity) blatantly leaves out many worthy parents.
Because let’s be frank, Mother’s Day is mostly about doing the right thing by your mom or mother figure in buying her something. Even simple gifts, like a card that says “Thanks, Mom. I Love You,” costs money, and that’s money that many people, such as myself, just simply don’t have.
What is it like being a single mother, struggling in this economy to raise a child and finish school myself, while trying to keep food on the table? I can tell you, it’s nothing like what we see on Teen Mom and The Secret Life of an American Teenager, or from Bristol Palin. Truly, it’s a daily struggle with what seem far more downs than highs. Living at home is a pain, having to constantly lean on my own father for support is degrading, making sacrifice after sacrifice just so that my son can play baseball stresses me out, struggling to fit time into the day to study is impossible. Of course there are joyful occasions, and the good moments I cherish and am grateful for. I also know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that I am a smart, soon-to-be college grad that has a huge support system, and I will find a job. And often, it’s that light at the end that keeps me moving-I have no doubt many women like me can say the same.
For many women, however, being a single parent is difficult because they could have less of a support system than I do, perhaps they are struggling to find work and get through school, just like me but have other obstacles that hinder their desire to achieve their goals. It happens, you know, one day you are getting ready to start college and the next a giant hospital bill wrecks the finances and school goes on the back burner. Without sufficient support, doing things- anything- becomes infinitely more difficult. So for a lot of us, Mother’s Day isn’t a happy time, because sometimes, it feels as if there isn’t really anything to celebrate. Mother’s Day seems like the holiday women that have happy marriages, nice kids, a husband, and money get to enjoy, not women that don’t have money and are single moms like me.
When I see a commercial on TV of a loving husband presenting his wife and the mother of his children – gazing on excitedly as she opens her gift- with a necklace or shiny trinket, I feel angry, bitter, and really frustrated. First, because I don’t get those things. Hell, this will be the 6th year running that I’ll not receive a gift of some sort on the day, and it would be nice to be included in the American tradition. And second, because I’m made to feel left out in this way by our culture’s continued pressure to conform to that heteronormative, marriage and motherhood, ultra-consumerist lifestyle. You know the one that leaves out everyone that isn’t married and middle class.
The one that implicitly suggests that single mothers and anyone that isn’t that happily married middle class woman, who often aren’t recognized with gift or praise on mother’s day, aren’t mother’s that should be celebrated at all.
This is the real issue, for me anyway. Mother’s Day celebrations alienate more women than they include. It feels like a day to mourn the millions of women/people that aren’t honored or recognized, rather than celebrate my mother or have someone celebrate me. Most moms would agree regardless of our differing gender, class, caste, or income that the best part of being a mom happens in the little moments, every day, rather than the gifts or breakfasts we get on a Sunday in May.
In order for me to accept Mother’s Day as a legitimate moment to celebrate and feel honored, far more women would have to be included in this tradition. One day, I hope to see mothers of all gender and class honored and I hope to see it via real respect for a woman’s right to choose. Because this isn’t a day that is just for those nice middle class women on the television -it’s for all women, and the best way to honor them, is by continue to work toward reproductive freedom and equality and respect for mothers of all gender, caste, and class.
So this Sunday when you are telling your mother you love her, or remembering your mother, or wishing you could be with your mother, think about the many people that aren’t included in this tradition, and find a way to change that. Volunteer at a place that helps women and children that are survivors of abuse, donate to causes that provide support to single parents and low-income mothers- places that help with education resources and job placement. If you’re at the table with your family, simply mention and begin a discussion about the people that aren’t included in the Mother’s Day celebrations and ask people to consider the way it would feel to be so shunned.