My child was born towards the end of May, so this year marks the first Mother’s Day that I will experience as a fully fledged mom. Being a mom has, overall, been really, really great to me, and so it seems like a celebration is in order. Moms also tend to do a hell of a lot of invisible labor in their families, and in a culture where domestic tasks are consistently undervalued, it makes a certain amount of sense that we would want to take a little bit of time out to say thanks and give moms a break. I’ll admit that, though our son is just under a year, my wife and I joked about requiring that he bring us breakfast in bed (we like our hash browns extra crispy kid, take note). And yet, when I think about it seriously, that’s not really how I want to spend Mother’s Day. In fact, rather than lounging around and basking in the glow of motherhood, ideally I would like Mother’s Day to be the first time I take my kid to an anti-war demonstration. There’s a simple reason: my feelings, as a pacifist, about the history of Mother’s Day, are more important to me than the overwhelming “moms wants a break!” feeling I have each and every day.
I’m a history nerd, and so where things come from and how they got to be the way that they are today is a major interest of mine. Once, when I was single and only had a cat as a dependent, for fun one summer I read an entire ancient Greek history textbook. I did all of the reviews alone in my apartment, and it was fantastic. But, despite my interest in history, I never thought twice about Mother’s Day. I just assumed that it had always been a Hallmark Holiday, a commercial ploy to get people to “appreciate” their moms a little bit more by spending money on Greeting Cards, chocolates, Precious Moments figurines, and flowers that would be dead within a week.
I wasn’t relieved of this assumption until I started attending my local Unitarian Universalist (UU) church. As a non-Christian, I didn’t expect to find myself in a church in the first place, and I definitely didn’t expect to learn much there. But the UUs are a studious and rather accepting bunch, so one Sunday I found my gay butt sitting in a pew listening to a sermon on the history of Mother’s Day.
Having a child did change my outlook on life, just as it does for so many parents. I look at him, at my sweet innocent little baby, and I ache for him to be safe, to be well, and to be loving and kind so that others can be safe and well also.
I wish I could find that sermon, the first Mother’s Day sermon of my life, but sadly I think it is no longer online. I sat in awe, as it was explained that Mother’s Day started, not as a ploy to sell cheesy greeting cards, but as an important part of the anti-war movement. The Mother's Day Proclamation was an appeal to all of womankind ("woman" being assumed to be synonymous with mother) to resist war and bloodshed. There’s a lot to critique in that notion, especially from our modern vantage point (plenty of women are not mothers and are perfectly happy with that, and plenty of female leaders turn out to be just as warmongering as their male counterparts, for starters) but knowing a bit of the history made me feel connected to the holiday in a way I never had before.
Especially as a person who hates war, it made me feel powerful and strong to have something in common with early feminists who spoke out against the evils of warfare. For the first time, Mother’s Day felt like something I could be a part of, even though I didn’t yet have kids of my own.
When I think about it from that perspective, there is nothing that I want more than for Mother’s day to be a day of learning for my child, a day to reflect on the work we have done and the work we still have to do to make a more peaceful world.
I believe that holidays are important, they are part of how we mark the passage of time and communicate our values to our kids. When I think about it from that perspective, there is nothing that I want more than for Mother’s day to be a day of learning for my child, a day to reflect on the work we have done and the work we still have to do to make a more peaceful world. Of course the struggle for peace is about more than just motherhood, but I can’t deny that for me, those things are connected. Having a child did change my outlook on life, just as it does for so many parents. I look at him, at my sweet innocent little baby, and I ache for him to be safe, to be well, and to be loving and kind so that others can be safe and well also.
I think that is the essence of Mother’s Day for me.
We live in a complicated time, and my child will grow up in a world in which many things are unsure and uncertain. This Mother’s Day falls during a very busy time for my little family, and truthfully I don’t know if we’ll have time to do much celebration or observance at all. But for this Mother’s Day, and all the rest of the Mother’s Days while he is under my roof, I want nothing more than to show him what resistance looks like, what peaceful strength looks like, and that we love him enough to try to make the world a better place for him.