Friday, May 07, 2004

Happy Mother's Day!

It's not today, but as I may not stay sugary-sweet all through the post I decided it would be nicer of me to post my greetings a little early, so there's time for the wounds I inflict to close by Sunday.

The Sunday that is the one day of the year when mothers are celebrated. The second Sunday of May as the Mother's Day began as something totally different from today's celebrations: it was created in the United States 150 years ago by one Anna Jarvis to organize a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her Appalachian community. Julia Ward Howe (the author of the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic) borrowed the idea fifteen years later for peace rallies. She felt that mothers were especially suited for this work. It was the daughter of Anna Jarvis (also called Anna) who finally got the day made into a national holiday by Woodrow Wilson in 1914, though she supposedly regretted all her work later on when Mother's Day became increasingly commercialized.

Not all countries celebrate Mother's Day or celebrate it at the same time. The United Kingdom has its Mothering Sunday earlier in the spring. It began as a day when young women who worked as domestic workers could go home to see their mothers. It is an older holiday than the American one, but the earliest Mother's Day of all is probably the spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of some of the gods and goddesses that I know so intimately. Never met Rhea, though.

A special day for mothers sounds such a nice idea that I'm immediately suspecting some sort of a heinous plot. And there may be one: if you see enough Mother's Day commercials and ads you will soon learn that mothers are all-sacrificing and completely trustworthy; that's why they need a box of chocolates once a year. This heinous plot, and I don't mean the commercial one, makes all less-than-perfect mothers feel guilty, and that's 99.9% of us. What's more, the impression these ads and commercials give (me at least) is that any mother who doesn't think that one day off each year is a sufficient compromise for all the unending sacrificing and trustworthiness must be an ungenerous mean-spirited harridan.

As you may notice, I'm not too keen on Mother's Day. Yes, it's lovely when small children give their mothers home-made presents and scorched breakfasts, but it gets a lot less lovely when the whole society writes mothers off by having them fanfared for a period of few days and then forgets all about the job of mothering for the rest of the year. Besides, the media always uses the Mother's Day as an opportunity to bash women: either not enough of them are becoming mothers or too many of them are out there working rather than at home with their children or they fail in one of the zillions of other ways that journalists can think up. What we need is a reversal of the time spans allowed for Mother's Day and the rest of the year: one day a year that is not a Mother's Day.

I am a mother myself, though the rules for goddesses are somewhat different. For one thing, nobody dares to criticize me for the excess heads and tails that my children have. My offspring have all done very well, if I say so myself. The only one I worry about a little is Cerberus. He is such a yes-monster, always kowtowing to Hades and always working, working. He can't even come to see his poor old mother on this one day of the year when mothers are celebrated; no, he has to guard the entrances to the Underworld. Who would try to sneak in on Mother's Day, I asked him. George Bush? But my pleas fell on deaf ears. Cerberus would stay away, again. He sent me the same old card, of course, all about the all-sacrificing mother who now gets a card in return. Rubbish, total rubbish. I had a ball bringing him up, and when I needed a break I took it. No self-sacrifices there.

I probably should not have shared this with you, my dear readers. Anything mothers do will be used against them, and I can already see the headlines: "Goddess mother out gallivanting; son develops three heads."