I wrote on the About page for this blog that I will be writing about almost anything that is even remotely related to language, because that’s where my primary interest lies. I did, however, ask you, dear readers, to allow for the occasional rant. The following isn’t really angry enough to be called a ‘rant’, but it is certainly an expression of displeasure that is not, technically, related to language. So here goes nothin’.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the United States and I have a little bit of bone to pick. I know, I know – it’s sheer lunacy to write anything but glowing, wonderful things about Mother’s Day, and I might get some grief for this. I mean, what kind of heartless bitch doesn’t love mothers? Let me assure you, I’m not a heartless bitch and while I don’t indiscriminately love all mothers, I do love my own mother. Sure, she may have been the cause of half of my neuroses that would have driven me to spend thousands on therapy bills, but in her defense, she’s also probably responsible for the “suck it up and work it out on your own” attitude that I have, which saves me thousands on therapy bills. So we’ll call it even.
I was wished a happy Mother’s Day several times yesterday by a number of strangers. I just smiled, not even saying “Thank you” because that would have been disingenuous, since I don’t actually have any children. I knew they meant well and didn’t deserve any snarkiness from me, but at the same time, it irked me.
I have nothing against mothers or Mother’s Day itself, unlike its founder, Anna Jarvis, who grew very unhappy at how commercial the holiday quickly became, and spent much of her life trying to undo what she had unleashed. I have no intention of arguing some feminist manifesto of why Mother’s Day should be abolished, because I don’t think it should. But the fact remains that I have conflicting feelings about it.
I think what bothers me about the massive fuss over Mother’s Day is that it makes me feel like I’m back in high school, not being invited to the cool parties, or getting bumped into in the hallways because no one notices that I’m there. I wouldn’t care so much at all if there were something else to look forward to that I could take part in, but there isn’t.
If you look at the types of cards offered for various occasions, you’ll see religious events (Christmas, Easter, Bar and Bat Mitsvahs), national events (Independence Day, Thanksgiving), biological milestones (birthdays, illness, death), or achievements (Congratulations, graduation). The rest of the cards are to essentially concerned with celebrating personal life choices. These are different from achievement cards, because it doesn’t matter how well you’ve chosen or performed at something. They are simply marking the fact that you have made a certain choice for how to live your life.
Judging from the card selection, it seems the only choices we value in society are screwing up (and thus needing an “I’m sorry” card), or anything to do with relationships and reproduction. So if a person has never fallen in love, gotten married or had any children – for whatever reason – there is no celebration of life choices that he or she can look forward to.
You may say that what we celebrate on Mother’s Day is the work that mothers do, the commitment they show to their families, and the love that they shower on us, their children. I would say that this is a great, noble reason because mothers like this certainly do deserve to be heaped with praise. I seriously believe this. Good mothers should be recognized.
But if this really is what we are celebrating, then crappy mothers should get bupkis today. There are women who are clearly abusive to their children, or who stand by and let husbands or boyfriends abuse their children. They should never get flowers or a free meal on this day. There are other women who teach hatred to their children, or who tell their kids that they are stupid, worthless, and will never amount to anything. There are women who would rather spend money on clothes than get decent food for their family. There are women who force their children to live out long unfulfilled dreams of celebrity or riches, regardless of what it does to those children. And some women’s crappiness might not be as obvious, but may still end up doing more harm than good for their children. Do these all these women deserve special recognition? Just because they’ve procreated?
(FYI, I have the same beef with crappy fathers in regards to Father’s Day? How many assholes get to celebrate and receive gifts in return for being emotionally distant, abusive, or remiss in their familial obligations? Just because their swimmies hit the target?)
Look, I’m not suggesting we get rid of Mother’s Day. As I said, good mothers work their asses off and deserve the recognition. And I suppose it would be a little difficult to enforce the “If you’re a crappy mom, you get no flowers!” rule. All I’m saying is that maybe other people deserve their due as well, and not just because they have made certain traditional choices that coincide with Hallmark card categories. It’s not just that some women who don’t want kids might feel a little left out, and want their own day of celebration. What about women who can’t have children but desperately want them? Or a woman who had to give up a child for adoption because she knows he will have a better life without her. Some women come to this country and leave their children for years, all for the sake of a better life that they would never have if she stayed with them. Mother’s Day must be heartbreaking for these women.
Are we unworthy of notice all on our own? Are no other life choices as valid as traditional family roles?
And no, no, this isn’t just sour grapes because I want a fuss made over me or I have something against women who have children. Please, give me the benefit of the doubt; I’m intelligent enough to form opinions that are not simple reactions to my own circumstances.
I think having a family can be pretty great if that’s what you want, and doing a good job at taking care of that family should be recognized. But I’d also really like to see some cards that celebrate “I Didn’t Marry That Asshole” Day, or “I’m Following My Dream!” Day, or “My Job Helps People” Day. Because I think those are some pretty awesome life choices as well.
An even better (and more likely) scenario would be that we start to hype up International Women’s Day, which had its centennial anniversary this past March 8th. That way, instead of validating only one life choice with a $28 billion dollar industry, we can celebrate the remarkable fact that we have choices! Maybe some of the money siphoned from Mother’s Day could go towards the work of ensuring that all women around the world someday have that same power that we do: to make our own choices for our own lives, and to have those choices recognized.