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.