The Vagenda

The Mothers’ Day Gift I Really Want


I love Mothers’ Day, because I am a mother and I love getting stuff. Just kidding – I love Mothers’ Day because I have a mother as well, since everybody knows that us mums are too busy enjoying the gift of giving to actually enjoy, y’know, the gift of chocolate or champagne or any of that stuff that, ahem, pales into significance when you have the love of the child. Give, give, give. You can’t escape how much we give – it’s all around you, us mothers busy giving and having a lark about it. Sometimes we give so much we’re exhausted, we don’t look as happy as we might, and our cute and funny children end up saying things like, as happened to me this morning, ‘Mummy, when I go upside down it looks like you’re smiling’. Sweet. 
The rampant ‘giving’ is just part of it; it’s obvious that people change radically when they become mothers, and morph into part of a homogeneous soup – as evidence, I present to you the ‘Mother’s Day gifts’ table of all and any store.  We squish one baby out (ouchies) and whoops, we need a fun scarf!  Quirky soaps! Little cute cooking aids! and what has now become known in my house as ‘more fucking handcream’. What else? Cupcakes and cute bunting (careful, Ms Spooner). Preferably everything in pink, obviously faux vintage, and covered in flowers because mothers love flowers. (I do actually love flowers, but I don’t think it’s related to the status of my womb. It didn’t develop when I had a foetus in utero.) It’s all darling, but the truth is that what we really want is a cup that makes people think you’re only drinking apple juice, and a little smoking hat that keeps your hair dry when you’re hiding out by the bins in the rain having a fag. Which I think I just invented. 
This year, we’ve had opportunity, by dint of their proximity, to examine the different reactions to Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day. No prizes for guessing which of these two days has Hallmark scurrying to their ‘mawkish sentiment’ cupboard, digging out the ‘special lady’ slush, when actually every child from ten years old upwards really wants to give their mother a card which says ‘I came out of WHERE? EW THAT’S GROSS’. It doesn’t seem to matter that Mothers’ Day is an American invention; we’ve adopted it with the same fervour – I think I mean fervor – that has us decorating pumpkins and trick-or-treating when we used to do so much more wholesome things on Halloween, like get together with friends and try to contact the evil dead with a Ouija board. It’s purely commerciality, a gifting opportunity (and yes, I did use ‘gifting’ as a verb. It’s irony, people) wrapped up in a sentiment that society dares one to ignore or dispute. After all – don’t argue – it’s so easy to celebrate, because everyone has a mummy and everyone loves their mummy. Whereas International Women’s Day has its roots in the more tricksy area of socialist politics, and sadly, not everyone has an International Woman. (I’m reminded at this point, ironically perhaps, of my father who took pedantry to new heights with his pronunciation of yoghurt in the Swiss way, because that is origin-correct. See also and v. embarrassingly: pizza, cul de sac and rucksack. My father annoyingly insisted on pronouncing The French Lieutenant’s Woman with the accent on Lieutenant, not on Woman, because the story was about the Woman, not the Lieutenant.  He would definitely have enjoyed messing about with the stresses on International Women’s Day just to wind me up. Tangential but possibly important.) 
It is SIMPLY CRAZY that women have two days of being celebrated while poor men only get Fathers’ Day which shouldn’t really exist at all because oh I dunno, men. Two whole days after centuries of domestic slavery (which will, ironically, be celebrated by the aforementioned kitschy cooking aids)? The ‘obvious solution’ is to conflate the two, I have heard some particular wankers in society cry. And while that probably isn’t the most enlightened idea of the century (see our previous post on International Women’s Day Q&A), I do find something cynical about the hysteria of Mothers’ Day. In truth, I would much rather switch the emphasis to Women’s Day, which is much more inclusive, and hey, inclusivity means a bigger commercial opportunity anyway (hello again, Hallmark.) Because just coz I’m a mummy doesn’t mean that I want to be defined that way. In fact, it most likely means that I’ve been defined that way for the last hundred million years, and I’d rather see myself in a diverse set of women than squashed into the increasingly stereotyped box of a baby-maker.
Maybe it’s up to mothers to start this Emphasis Revolution from Mothers’ Day to IWD (not the most excitingly named of revolutions, but the 20th century took up all the cool ones and now you’re going to have to deal with low-level linguistic and/or calendar-based victories) – oh come on, let’s.  We’ve already established that being a mother is all about the giving. So transferring the grandeur from a day that celebrates us in order to get a day that celebrates, well, US again, sounds like a good deal to me. I’m pretty sure that counts as a win/win situation. And it probably won’t even turn you communist.
I did some market research on this concept – a feasibility study, call it what you will – my family called it lunch. My teenage son said, during one such discussion, that ‘it seems the legitimacy of a woman is only anchored in this world through her bearing of children’. Seriously. And that right there was the Mothers’ Day gift I actually wanted: an open, thoughtful young man whose intellect obviously wasn’t entirely destroyed by having a mother who secretly invented smoking hats. I couldn’t have articulated that better myself – and the fact that my boy said it made me a very happy mother and woman, for which I really don’t need a card.

9 thoughts on “The Mothers’ Day Gift I Really Want

  1. Mother’s Day isn’t an American invention at all, although the name is. It’s actually Mothering Sunday and it’s been around for centuries.

  2. What Kirst said. Also, I found a lot of these sentences too long and really hard to read (and I’ve spent my morning marking essays written by hungover 19 year olds).

    Your son sounds awesome. Well done on doing women proud, and raising him right.

  3. Come to Italy. International Women’s day is commercialised to fuck here.
    Men and women going around shouting ‘Auguri’ at each other and everyone buys anything that has little yellow mimosa flowers on it.
    Teenage girls compete with their classmates on who gets given the most mimosa by the boys and women are gripped by a hen-night-like frenzy in special nights at the pizzerias with strippers and willy straws and what not.
    Here it feels like it further cements gender stereotypes and roles, not a day which raises awareness of the international struggle for equality.

  4. The commercialisation and calling it Mother’s Day I’d say is an Americanism. Also, men get more than one day – snidey comments about every day being a man’s day aside, there is International Men’s Day in November. A useful thing to know for when some comedian appears and goes ‘Why don’t men get an international day then?’. Because you can point out that they do, and that if they cared so much about it they’d already know that, so nyer to them.

  5. Even the American Mothers’ Day was founded not as a commercial enterprise but as a day of activism for peace. Julia Ward Howe, a 19th-century activist and anti-slavery campaigner, wrote an “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world,” later known as “The Mothers’ Day Proclamation,” which included the following call to activism for peace:

    “Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

    From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, Disarm!”

    The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail & commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesars but of God.”

    Then capitalism got its hands on the idea of Mothers’ Day and now it’s all about handcreams and breakfast in bed.

  6. (This was written 6 years after the end of the American Civil War. So all that stuff about bewailing the dead, and “what is left of home,” is from her personal experience.)

  7. Wow. I’m ashamed to say I’d never actually questioned the notion of ‘mothers’ day’ in this way. I do agree that it’s bizarre that society puts so more focus a commercial event than on one which promotes equality. And yet… when it came round this year but it kinda kicked me and my sister into action and reminded us to get our mum something special, ’cause she’d had a pretty rough few months. I know we could have done this anyway, but the celebration itself allowed us to make more of an event out of the gift… Can’t we keep the days separate and allow women to have it both ways?