Summary: Society’s ongoing demands for special recognition is making seeing one’s mother on Mother’s Day the equivalent of “Where’s Waldo”.
Just 101 years ago, on the brink of World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day.
In its original format, it seemed like a nice, sweet, uncontroversial idea. Each person would make time to thank and honor their own mother for the love and effort they expended in bringing them into and up in this world.
Within a few months, many of those American mothers would be mothers-no-more, as over 100,000 American men died in combat. Americans reached out to those bereaved parents, and implicitly changed the singular “Mother’s Day” to “Mothers’ Day” in plural (as preferred by President Wilson over the wishes of the holiday’s creator, Anna Jarvis).
It did not take long for other societal changes to creep into this Sunday in May.
The first foxes in the henhouses were commercial opportunists. Merchants of flowers, candy and greeting cards convinced us that buying-was-caring, and that their wares were welcome with women, while warm wishes were watered down gifts.
They exploited the public “MotherS’ Day” and advocated that every mother you ever knew was important to recognize. Gone was the one-to-one heartfelt communication from child to mother. On came mass media and mega merchandizing.
This was much better for businesses, as now husbands were expected to buy more significant gifts for their spouses. Before long, jewelry and fashion accessories became the normal gift from a spouse, while the flowers remained a welcome gift from children. Meanwhile, terms of endearment became shorter than Twitter, as the space for sentiments was just the accompanying notecard.
As society expanded the definition of MotherS’ Day, many people came forward to demand their own recognition. The LGBT community called for more coverage of people who would not have historically been considered mothers. Others called on society to account for recognizing women with every conceivable iteration of motherhood or non-motherhood. It is now commonplace for a person grabbing a quick bite to be told by the cashier to call their mother.
How did all of this societal noise get introduced when the day was intended to be a direct communication between child and parent? Can American society soon expect extreme feminists will assault Mothers’ Day and try to replace it with a single gender-neutral Parents’ Day, the way they are destroying urinals and gender distinct bathrooms?
Hillary Clinton wrote a New York Times bestseller book in 1996 called “It Takes a Village” in which she argued that all of society is needed to raise a child. It would appear that our society is now demanding its acknowledgment in return. Perhaps you can simply use a megaphone and thank your mother in the crowd.
It is perhaps not surprising that the by-product of declaring a public day to have a private communication would eventually destroy that private moment and insist on the public’s inclusion.
However, I do hope that people can move past the cacophony of societal demands and advertising blitz to carve out time for personal expressions of thanks directly with their moms.