Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mothers' Day

Better late than never, sez I, so here's a post that I'd kept timorously on draft this past week.

At Feminist Mormon Housewives:
If I could imagine a job advert for a mother it would say:

Carer wanted.
Hours - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Length of Contract - the rest of your life. Pay - $0.
Description - Will involve feeding, changing diapers, cleaning vomit, cleaning house, washing clothes, driving, teaching, cooking, bathing and other things as needed

No one I know would respond to that, but mothers do all that and more.

At my ward, Mothers' Day occasioned a pageant of distributing roses during Sacrament (our Mass equivalent) to all those women who were or had been mothers. I don't know exactly how the deacons (altar boys) made the decision, or whether some non-mothers of roughly child-bearing age might have been embarrassed or humiliated by having been so honored. The distribution of roses was usually accompanied with tributes to mothers who overcame difficulty, annoyance, and humiliation for the grander purpose of nurturing the next generation.

Rebecca at Feminist Mormon Housewives has a point: this work is underacknowledged, and a rose from the church once a year is a silly tribute.

Still, I'll never forget the moment when my own mother was finally moved to comment: "They make it out to be such a sacrifice, but, you know, I really enjoyed watching you grow up." Maybe the comment was enabled by hindsight, but watching her with her grandchildren, I think rather not.

My mother mothered with glee; she thought we were neat at our weirdest stages, and she was our best audience for our silliest endeavors. Maybe it's the hippy buried deep within her--she was, after all, a student at Berkeley in '69. Whatever the causes of her gleeful mothering, my siblings and I surely profited from it.

So, Mothers' Day, yes, a good holiday, particular if it can have any impact on policy debates about how to write rewards for childcare-givers into tax codes or labor regulations. As recognition of struggle, I support the cause of emphasizing the work of raising children.

However--and mind you, I'm writing as someone who has yet to become a parent--I prefer my mother's glee to the leaden appreciation of sacrifice.


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