RSS Feed

Mothers Days on Dirty Laundry

Posted on


This year I’m spending Mothers Day without cigarettes, having quit at the beginning of April (4th I think). It’s put me into an even crankier mood than usual…yet while I’m most often complaining about having to celebrate, this year I’m worried my son hasn’t planned anything, and might not. What’s wrong with me?! My friend Christine says I’ve confused my kids with my Mothers Day rants, and I ended up fighting with her, possibly the first time ever. When we hung up the phone I went through all my M Day blogs to see if she’s right. I decided she’s not. The reader can judge for him or herself. Here are my Mothers Day posts, going backwards, for as long as I’ve been blogging. I’m afraid some of the links no longer work. And, a  small amount has been cut, nothing important.


The World Mothers’ Index

Every year around Mothers’ DaySave the Children issues a report on the State of the World’s Mothers, an analysis of the quality of life for women and children, taking into consideration access to resources; nutrition; rates of infant mortality, and more. According to this year’s report, the best place to be a mother is Norway, while the worst is a no-brainer–Afghanistan.….The USA comes in at #31 – not terrible, but shouldn’t we be nearer the top?

Dirty Laundry’s Mothers’ Index

Last year I conducted a short poll on DL asking mothers how they felt about this holiday… here are a few of readers’ remarks…

It was always my mothers birthday around Mother’s Day…but now I have to defer to my mother-in-law, which of course I resent. So on Sunday I’ll be eating take-out with her in her apartment…after all, she is 90 years old, and my husband’s mother and my son’s grandmother…

Hate it! I hate being dragged to a crowded restaurant where everything is tense and rushed and so f**king pastel and with other people’s children running amok. Why can’t I have a Father’s Day kind of day – sleep in, wear crappy clothes, and grill something?

Love it! Breakfast in bed. Flowers. Schmaltzy but fun.

I am not that happy on Mothers Day, since I lost my mom on that day. It’s been many years now, and while I still miss her, I just smile for the sake of my children and grandchildren…

 Now that my children are parents, they kind of forget how important this day can be for me. It’s a hard day…

Finally, in my recent review of Susie Bright’s memoir, {as I point out} both of our mothers lost their own mothers at an early age.

Mothers Day Poll

I’m wondering: You mothers out there, do you like Mothers Day? Is it a relaxing day for you, or is it a burden? If you do like it, why? and if not, why not? This is purely to assuage my curiosity, but it’s possible I’ll want to write something if the answers get interesting; if I do, I won’t use anyone’s name. So please be honest. This is, after all, the Age of Transparency (you know, like the Age of Aquarious. Sing it out!).

Do you enjoy Mothers Day? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yes. It’s relaxing.

No. It’s a burden.




Here we are again, people. Another year, another Mothers Day.

The truth is, I’ve never known exactly how I myself feel about it. When you have a feminist analysis of the world, everything becomes some sort of conflict. And Mothers Day, which is about…the primero women’s issue, is rife with conflict. When I first rejected all conventional wisdom four decades ago (ouch!), my perspective on this day was cut and dried: we’re oppressed as mothers all year long – hard work, no pay, no respect – and then they give us one lousy day…

Unfortunately, this analysis leaves no room for reality. It doesn’t take into account the children, or any familial dynamics. I mean, what do you say to a ten-year-old who carves “MOM” into a wooden block  and presents it to you as a gift? Do you refuse the burnt toast and watery coffee they ceremoniously deliver to your bed Sunday morning? Grumble about oppression and the patriarchy? Of course not: like every mother, conventional or not, you wipe the tears from your eyes, force down the toast, and plant the MOM paperweight on your desk where it remains for the rest of your natural life…

… Because I don’t work a 9-to-5 job, from which most holidays bring relief, I pretty much hate all of them. I kinda like Thanksgiviing for the food, and Passover for the celebration of freedom (and the food), but in general I find holidays intrusive. With the media amped up…there’s no escape from awareness of an upcoming holiday … You have to do… what everyone else is doing…Otherwise you’re a grouch, a curmudgeon, negative, a traitor … and if you manage to avoid doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing… Don’t think for one minute you’re going to feel liberated. The culture brainwashed us long ago, so we feel guilty if we choose not to participate. And if, say, you have nobody to spend the holiday with, you feel sorry for yourself. It doesn’t matter that I don’t want to go to a crowded restaurant tonight…if neither of my kids wants to take me, I’ll conclude it’s because I’m a wretch…

But do have a lovely day, ladies, how ever you choose to spend it.

PS: Somehow I neglected to mention another difficult aspect of this day: the billions of people whose mothers are no longer on the material plane… holidays bring a sharp reminder of who’s not here, a list that grows longer every year.


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 bullshit! I’m old enough now so this crap rolls off my back – but as a 21-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 and corsages. Now who’s stereotyping? But the truth is, depending on the restaurant, they do tend to attract homogenous populations. In 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…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 if 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, and 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…My younger grandson’s card arrived, but none from the rest of the family: a postal fluke….It’s the one thing I do like and want on this day–Grandma cards.

The trouble with this holiday is 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? 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.


As the media does every so often, CNN yesterday reported the latest calculation of what mothers would earn if they were actually paid, in cold hard cash, for their labor. That number today would fall somewhere between $117K and $149K per year, a figure arrived at by estimating the average hourly wage for the various tasks involved in mothering: cooking, nursing, chauffeuring, etcetera. Of course, this “news” was delivered by two giggling anchors: they didn’t take it seriously, or expect their audience to either. Mother’s work is done purely out of loooooove.

Never mind that we pay nannies, nurses, housekeepers, day care providers, even the teenager next door for babysitting. And never mind all those studies proving, pretty definitively by now, that women lose income over the course of a lifetime when they spend years mothering. Or that they’re sometimes left to fend for themselves during hubby’s midlife crisis, if not sooner. We seem, as a society, to be terrified of this issue. We seem to think that if mothers were paid for their work, the family as an institution would crumble.

Back in the 1970s the International Wages for Housework Campaign, a network of women in Third World and industrialized countries, formulated a list of ambitious demands “for the unwaged work that women do to be recognized as work in official government statistics, and for this work to be paid.” More active in places like Australia and England than in the U.S., the movement never went anywhere, and today it’s all but dead: an Internet search dug up articles that were either decades old, or in fringe publications promoting things like socialism or anarchy.

In 1990 the International Labor Organization estimated that women do two-thirds of the world’s work for 5% of the income. In 1995 the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report announced that women’s unpaid and underpaid labor was worth $11 trillion worldwide, $1.4 trillion in the United States alone. No doubt these figures are much higher today. Even more mind-blowing is the system by which governments compute productivity. In If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Marilyn Waring explains the complexities of our economic system, which “counts oil spills and wars as contributors to economic growth, while child-rearing and housekeeping are deemed valueless.”

Motherhood isn’t devalued in monetary terms only. In the early 80s I enrolled in Empire State College, part of the State University of New York, to complete the requirements for my Bachelor’s degree. ESC was a school of independent study, and…life experience counted for credit… School policy excluded mothering as a field of study (of course), but my mentor thought that raising a child with a disability, and what I’d learned of the medical and social work systems as a result, might be credit-worthy. So I wrote up papers for credit in that and a number of other fields. Here’s how I did: For writing : a whopping 32 credits. For public relations: 9. For fundraising: 12. For political activism: 15. For raising a child with a disability (after a debate on whether to allow it): 3. No comment!

I don’t know why…people think wages for housework is a ridiculous concept…All I know is, whenever some idiot anchorperson laughingly tells me what I would have earned as a mother if my work had been deemed monetarily valuable, I go into a violent rage…

Happy Mothers Day.



During the past few days a lot of people have been landing on my blog as a result of searches for anecdotes on motherhood. It must be confusing—here they are, trying to find something nice or funny to put onto Ma’s card, so they google Erma Bombeck, and find themselves in the middle of one of my rants.

I feel obliged to say a few words on this, er, sacred day, given how much I write on the subject of motherhood. This isn’t easy, since I am, to say the least, ambivalent about Mothers Day… Could any day arouse more confusion in a feminist mother than this annual mawk fest? Of course we want recognition for the job of mothering—but setting aside one day a year … is like Black History Month: we’re so neglected the rest of the year we need a special time to get noticed.

And the way we get noticed! Flowers, hearts, perfume, candy—name something sweet and frilly, chances are it’s a Mothers Day gift. The sentiments on Mothers Day cards are enough to make any mother, feminist or not, sick. I just saw a TV commercial that said moms “always love us, are always warm…” Nobody on the planet loves another person one hundred percent of the time. Nobody is always warm. It’s too much hype to have to live up to.

Well, it was too much for me, anyway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I liked my kids, sure, but I did not like my role as a mother…sometimes {now} I look at young mommies who’re having fun and regret that I let myself miss out on it. More guilt, more regret, more shame….

I sent my kids mixed messages about Mothers Day, the result being that they never knew how to deal with it. If I hated the day so much, they were afraid to acknowledge it. If they didn’t acknowledge it, I felt worse. My daughter, now a mother herself, seems to have figured it out: she sends me a card, sometimes a gift, and always a card from the grandsons, which is the thing I most treasure. My son’s still so confused I have to issue direct orders: today I’ve asked him to take me to the movies…

Happy Mothers Day Everyone!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: