Just like my post for International Women’s Day, I want to do more and encourage more for Mother’s Day than just buying Mom flowers or chocolate or wishing her a “happy mother’s day”. Mothers need rights and suffer through the same sexism of other women, but with an additional layer that’s rarely touched upon. How will chocolate or flowers ease someone’s oppression?
When I was in Elementary school, one year instead of the traditional art project or craft fair where we would buy our moms useless trinkets or coffee mugs, we instead made coupons. The coupons said anything from: “this coupon is redeemable for one hour of alone time” to “redeem this coupon for a week’s worth of housework” or “your child will wash the dishes tonight” and the list continued. In its own small way, this set of pieces of paper, no more valuable than monopoly money, did something no other mother’s day gift could: it recognized the strictures surrounding mothers and sought to alleviate them.
Mothers do too much to even try to name it all-I know my mother did, and still does, make great sacrifices for me and my brother-and mothers are oppressed to a higher degree.
There’s a great book on feminism called “Full Frontal Feminism” by Jessica Valenti (founder of feministing.com). Although it is informal in its presentation (it reads with a smart and witty voice, short chapters and the facts she provides never bog down the material but enhance it, although as a warning she tends to swear and be blunt) it is a worthwhile read for anyone wanting to know more about modern feminism and the issues facing women in the world today.
There’s a full chapter on the injustices facing mothers. Valenti quotes a study done by the University of Connecticut and the University of Minnesota which showed that:
not only do moms feel undervalued by the people in their lives, but they also don’t feel appreciated by society in general-nearly one in five moms said she felt less valued by society since becoming a mother (162)
And this is just feeling undervalued as a person. In terms of being undervalued in the work force, married women with children make 73 cents to the man’s dollar, single women with children make 56-66 cents to the man’s dollar, and women without children make 90 cents to the dollar.
Women are told to have children and be super-moms, but once they have children they’re in a worse social position than they were before. They are then undervalued at home and at work.
This is why the coupons idea was so phenomenal. My teacher recognized that mothers go through so much in their daily lives that a box of chocolate and one day out of the year can never make up for the sacrifices mother’s make for their children or the harassment mothers put up with on how to be a good parent. The coupons took Mother’s day and turned it into a week, a month, or however long it took for those coupons to run out. It took some responsibility off of mom’s shoulders and distributed it around to the rest of the family.
Now mom has a chance to do something for herself for an hour and not feel guilt ridden.
My brother and I are adults now and I am so proud to see my mother living her life. I regret that we didn’t take more responsibility sooner and let her have her own life and her own identity when we were much younger.
My mother is a healer, a yoga teacher, a health coach and a woman who is not defined by her biological function of producing my brother and I. When I hear about the schooling she does, the belly dancing classes she’s enrolled in, the friends she Skypes with, I’m reminded that she has every right to be an individual.
Motherhood should not force women to give themselves up some standard, or lose their individuality in an effort to raise children.
If you’re interested in finding a mother’s day gift, try to find something that addresses the core of mother’s day: that mothers need to be valued and respected. Give mom a day off from chores and let her know that you appreciate what she has done for you and your family. Let her know that Mother’s Day may only be once a year, but motherhood is a lifetime and should be treated with dignity.
For more information on the rights of motherhood visit:
This blog is dedicated to my mother, who is the most positive influence I could ever ask for in my life. Thank you.