I’ve been a mother all my adult life. I’ve been a feminist almost as long. I’ve always felt conflicted about Mothers Day. This doesn’t seem to be true of most feminists anymore, if it ever was; it’s my nature to find conflict under every chair and bed – still, I don’t see how any woman today can feel a hundred percent comfortable on this fakokta holiday.
The public expressions of sentiment alone are enough to make you barf. This morning one of NPR’s personal odes began “A mother’s heart is as big as the world.” What utter bullshit! I’m old enough now so this crap rolls off my back – but as a twenty-one year old mother of two who felt overwhelmed, inadequate, and burdened, that kind of stuff made me feel guilty and freakish, and I’d bet anything that young mothers still react to stereotypes of motherhood that way.
My son took me out to dinner last night rather than tonight, at my request: I can’t stand going to restaurants crowded with ladies in polyester dresses wearing corsages. Now who’s stereotyping? But the truth is, depending on the restaurant, they do tend to attract homogenous populations. In traditional slightly upscale places you’ll find big prosperous families, with the eldest mother wearing a pink suit and the inevitable corsage. The hip Berkeley establishments are full of kids in strollers and high chairs, the women dressed casually, not a corsage in sight. The dim sum place on the water in Emeryville will be mobbed for brunch, with a combination of young and old matriachs and offspring, alike in ethnicity and wearing their finest. Oakland mamas down on Jack London Square wear big hats and bigger corsages.
I wouldn’t know which group to join. It’s just me and my son; my daughter down in LA dislikes the day for her own reasons—the family conflicts inherent in any holiday—so I’ve never pressured her to spend it with me. I think they do a big lunch thing for his mother. I don’t really want to know: typical for schizoid people like me, I’d be jealous. I don’t want to go out, I don’t want my kids to feel obligated—yet I’m jealous she’s doing something with the other mother.
My own mother died a little over three years ago. When she was alive I dutifully sent cards—we’re a card-crazy family—and, when I was flush, flowers. She was in Florida; there was never a question of spending the day together. Since her death I’ve continued to send cards to my aunt, my daughter, and my sister, but this year I didn’t. I just didn’t have the energy or motivation or whatever it takes to make Mothers Day cards. (I’ve been making my own cards on my iMac for years, and they’re way more clever than store-bought, even if I say so myself. My mother wanted me to go into business with them.)
My younger grandson’s card arrived, but none from the rest of the family: a postal fluke. Then again, he’s the only one in that family who actually likes me. I’d be thrilled if I thought he’d gone out and got his own card, but of course he didn’t. It’s the one thing I do like and want on this day–Grandma cards. The kids have no idea anyone would object to Mothers Day, and I don’t want to be left out.
That’s the trouble with this holiday: You can’t come out as politically opposed, you’ll just seem like a bitter crazy curmudgeon (ahem). Besides, what’s the political agenda? Wages for Housework I guess—but nobody’s marching for that anymore.
So go call your mother—even if she’s a feminist (or even if she’s a bitter crazy curmudgeon).