Why, as adults, do we over-analyze holidays? Christmas is too commercialized, dressing up for Halloween might offend other religions, or Valentine’s Day is so hurtful to the single people. This weekend, it’s Mother’s Day that appears to be on the chopping block. I’m still trying to figure out where people came up with the idea that Mother’s Day is celebrated to recognize the perfect mother, with the June Cleaver pearls and the dust-free living room, whose devoted husband and children have placed her on a pedestal as the angel of the household. I don’t know what day they’re used to celebrating, but it sure as heck is not my vision of Mother’s Day.
The Modern Mother’s Day began to be significantly recognized in the US by 1914. There had been earlier 19th century attempts to recognize a day for mothers, largely due to the idea that there should be a “Mother’s Day for Peace” to protest the atrocities of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. However, the event that allowed this day to be formally recognized by governments began with two sisters mourning the loss of their mother. At a time when most women remained in the home, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis worked tirelessly to teach American women basic nursing and sanitation skills, and her efforts helped to save lives on both sides of the American Civil War. When she died in 1905 her two daughters, Anna and Elsinore, missed her terribly, and felt that children fail to appreciate their mothers enough when they are still around to receive said appreciation. Therefore, a campaign to establish an official Mother’s Day began, concluding with President Woodrow Wilson encouraging United States citizens to display flags on the second Sunday in May “as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country”.
So, let’s summarize:
• Previous Mother’s Day celebrations were tied to a need for peace and a wish to leave a better world for their children
• The official holiday began as an act by two sisters who loved her mother deeply and wanted the kindness of all mothers recognized
Now, nowhere in that summary does the word “perfect” appear. We do not celebrate Mother’s Day because a mother is the epitome of womanhood. We celebrate to acknowledge that mothers deserve to be recognized. Now, some might argue that Mother’s Day is also too commercialized (and Anna Jarvis would agree with you, based on the way she protested this commercialization in her later years). However, if it’s the commercialization that bothers you, I say change your perception of the holiday. Forget the Hallmark greeting cards. Create your own family traditions. Just quit complaining about how Mother’s Day does not demonstrate “real” motherhood. We all have different definitions of what that “real” is, and we would do well to remember that mothering is the most important job a person can be faced with, and a little recognition now and then for a lot of hard work shouldn’t hurt anyone.