About Mother’s Day – aka Holidays Out of Control

Of all the negative traits of capitalism, the co-opting of holidays is one of the most insidious and destructive to our bank accounts and our relationships. 

It’s almost mother’s day – and what was started in the United States during Civil War days to bring honor to a mother deeply loved by her daughter has become a day that causes bitterness, strife, guilt, and all the things that mothers hate so much. Articles circulate the World Wide Web applauding moms as the jewels of the planet or rebuking pastors about not making those who are not moms feel bad.

It is all exhausting

A woman named Anna Jarvis started this holiday. During the civil war she worked hard to promote peace between moms on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, women with either Confederate or Union loyalties, recognizing that they had far more in common then they disagreed on. She loved her own mom deeply and grieved when she died, working to commemorate her by promoting a day to honor mothers. Although it took several years she pushed the idea through to Congress and in 1914 the first official Mother’s Day was recognized, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.

Jarvis would later be enraged at the commercialism of the holiday, throwing a “Mother’s Day Salad” onto the floor of a restaurant and walking out in disgust as well as trying to rescind the holiday.[Source-The Founder of Mother’s Day Later Fought to Have It Abolished http://shar.es/Sy61D ]

Her beloved idea had spiraled out of control and she was appalled. Her idea of the holiday was “a visit home or writing a long letter to your mother.” She is quoted as saying “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”

Let me be clear: I love holidays as much as anybody. I love family, I love getting together, I love tradition. And I love being honored on Mother’s Day.

I also love mothers – a spot soft as velvet is in my heart for mothers everywhere. We have been gifted with so much but there is a cost.

What I don’t love is what we have done with holidays, turning them – all of them, not just Mother’s Day — into opportunities to spend money, times where we feel guilt, experiences where we are left with a sense of inadequacy or inability to do things “right.”, times of mourning our singleness or grieving our losses.

I didn’t grow up under the shadow of Hallmark. There were no card stores in Pakistan and no television shouting at me that “if he loved me he would go to Jared’s”. No stores did campaigns of pink or blue and there were no florist’s shops – just street hawkers with their glorious Irises and Day Lilies sold on the mall of the town of Murree. I feel fortunate that my formative years were free of these images.

Despite this, I have become a product of the society where I currently live and it is sometimes terrifying.

I don’t want to be that mom that imagines her children don’t love her because they forget a card or a phone call. I don’t want to be that person that spends money she doesn’t have to get things other don’t need because of advertising that excels in digging into the human psyche and finding the cracks in our well-oiled armor. I don’t want my holidays and traditions to be characterized by green and red M&M’s and bunny rabbits; by large pink “Remember Your Mom” posters and guilt-ridden stress; by silver hearts from Jared’s and kisses beginning with Kay; by Hollywood and Hallmark telling me what my family, my marriage, my love, and my Mother’s Day should look like.

I want to own my holidays – I don’t want my holidays to own me. 

How can we take back what has been strategically taken from us? How can we reshape our thinking and our expectations so that the goal becomes fun memories and healthy interactions , holidays reconstructed with less money, less stuff, fewer expectations and ultimately more fun?

Can we be brave enough to live counter-culture, set our own agenda our own traditions? Can we turn off the television with its brilliant messaging that tells us how we are supposed to celebrate, that lures us in with soft porn Victoria’s Secret ads and super glossy symbols of false love ? Can we turn down our hearing aids so we are not affected by the insidious words that tell us “this – this is how it’s supposed to be – and it it isn’t then something is wrong?”

I for one want to live free of the bondage of false images and expectations and reclaim my holidays, my relationships, and my money. Is any one else in ? 

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11 thoughts on “About Mother’s Day – aka Holidays Out of Control

  1. Marilyn, as always I enjoy your thought-provoking post. Jacqueline celebrated Mother’s Day with me last weekend by enjoying a strenuous hike to Havasupai and Mooney Falls. There we were rewarded with quality time, the beauty and serenity of nature, and God’s everlasting love surrounding us. Mother’s Day to me, is any day of the year, when spending quality time with my daughter. May all mothers be blessed with special days/moments spend with their children.


    1. I love the picture of you and Jacqueline surrounded by nature and everlasting love. What an amazing picture you give me. Thank you. And I agree – even when the moments are just text messages it is a gift.


      1. Marilyn, whenever Jacqueline is away, I am thankful for text messaging and e-mailing. It is truly wonderful to be given the gift of motherhood. Petra


  2. Hey Marilyn. What can you do ? Relax ! Love your Mom, your kids, and , as I did eons ago–Wear a pink or red carnation to honor your Mom, while I wear a white one remembering my wonderful Mom and daughter. Much love, Aunt Ruth


    1. Ruth, it’s one of the vivid memories from my childhood. Dad went to the florist early Mothers’ Day to buy a white carnation for himself, because his mother had died, and bright red ones for the rest of us including my Mom, because our Mom and her mother were still with us. That is the biggest thing I remember about celebrating Mothers’ Day back then – It was a very special way to remember and honor our mothers. One of the good things about all those years in Pakistan where they didn’t have a Mothers’ Day is that I still don’t really expect anything, so if I do get a card or phone calls, I’m surprised and delighted! Happy Mother’s Day, Marilyn!


      1. Happy Mother’s Day to my darling Aunt Ruth and Mom!! I love the idea of just a simple carnation. Also thanks for the reminder to not let my frustration ruin the good parts!


  3. PC(USA) church in Washington, D.C., in addition to Alternative Gifts in December is initiating an emphasis for this time of year on Njoro, Kenya, Presbyterian Church of East Africa – programme Orphans and Vulnerable Children — young people cared for by grandmothers (mostly) and extended family. The churches have a partnership, beginning 2007.


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  5. Marilyn, I am definitely in! Heard on the radio station yesterday about how many millions or billions will be spent on Mother’s Day this year and I felt so sad. Yes, let us honor our mothers….but not replace relationship/time/love with gifts. Thanks for your words and reminder of priorities.


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