Last year, the UK spent £1.6 billion on Mother’s Day. On all the flower bouquets and pretty cards perfect for her. Obscured by this commercialised, rose-tinted celebration of Mother’s Day are the wider issues surrounding motherhood.
It is Mothering Sunday morning and we tell our mum it’s her one “day off” from all domestic tasks. Today is about her. From carnage in the kitchen to carnations in hand, breakfast in bed is served. Pastel coloured cards with cursive lettering thank Mum for her love, for all “the little things she does”, the times “she wiped your tears” and cured you with her hug.
Father’s Day cards tend to thank Dads for being role models, “Super-heroes” even, evoking the qualities of leadership and strength. The unsubtle exhibition of these sexist stereotypes shapes individuals’ perceptions, reinforces gender roles and can have troubling consequences for mothers and fathers alike.
Mother’s Day ignores the unequal gendered division of household labour. Instead, the maternal role is exulted and celebrated as admirable.
What about the other 364 days of the year? What about the social experience of motherhood? Mother’s day is of course a chance to celebrate mothers, but it is also an invaluable opportunity to consider the trauma Motherhood can exact on many women.
To all the forgotten mothers. To the mother who has lost her child, to the child who has lost their mother, to the incarcerated mother, to my stepmother, to the single parent acting as mother and father alike, to the suffering mother. To all these silent mothers. Let us remember to value them on Mother’s Day this year.
Every day, approximately 810 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 94%
of maternal deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. This year I choose to value these forgotten mothers. The women who experience a motherhood which comes hand-in-hand with suffering.
The Mothers’ Day Movement (MDM) believe in making a difference for women across the globe. It asks people to shift their priorities of giving for Mother’s Day away from cards and flowers and instead, honour their mothers by making a donation to a designated charity every year. This year their chosen charity is Circle of Health International (COHI), an international humanitarian organisation providing maternal health care in settings of crisis and disasters globally.
In 2020, an earthquake that hit Puerto Rico has meant mothers are unable to access the required medical services because of destroyed infrastructure and transport systems. COHI has worked directly with the midwives, nurses and physicians in order to provide Puerto Rico with the necessary medical care to these mothers.
Maybe we can do more. Maybe in the UK we need to look at redefining our customs and celebrations of Mother’s Day. We could look to other cultures. Peru, for example has a unique and admirable tradition where thousands of people gather at cemeteries to celebrate all of the mothers who have passed away. Alternatively, in Russia Mother’s Day is celebrated on International Women’s Day and they regard it as a day to honour women and reflect on the goal for gender equality.
This year I believe we can change our tradition of Mother’s Day for the better. Why don’t we spend time with our mothers, share love with them, and choose to spend our money on supporting the mothers that suffer from motherhood in some way? We can dismiss the consumerist, sexist gifts we are expected to buy and do something that promotes equality for mothers.
Image credit: one_life via Pixabay