Thanks, Mom, for the years of sacrifice, needless anxiety
07:28 AM CDT on Friday, May 8, 2009
Like so many other influential figures in American history, Anna Jarvis was something of a crank.
Independently wealthy, with no kids or husband to occupy her attention, she spent her time and energy on a furious lobbying campaign to establish the official celebration of Mother's Day in 1908.
She then got mad because people were not celebrating the way she thought they should, so she spent the rest of her life (and her fortune) trying unsuccessfully to get the observance canceled.
Jarvis, who wound up quarrelling publicly with (among others) the floral industry, greeting card producers, the U.S. Postal Service, organizations of war mothers, New York Gov. Al Smith and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, believed the observance she had worked so hard to establish was co-opted and commercialized without her consent.
It has become fashionable to agree, and to deplore the purchase of flowers, candy, cards and elaborate buffet luncheons for Mother's Day.
"Give Anna Jarvis what she fought so hard to create a day with no shopping, no donations, no greeting cards," wrote one Canadian columnist last year. "Sit down with a piece of paper, and write a love letter to your mother."
That's awfully earnest and sweet, but if you wrote Mom a love letter last year, she knows how you feel. She might like another one, but she might also like an indulgent box of chocolates and I'm not talking about a Whitman's Sampler from the drugstore, either. I'm talking Godivas.
Besides, I don't know about yours, but my mom really likes flowers and greeting cards and swanky Sunday brunches. What's not to like?
She does not expect this stuff. If asked, I can predict with absolute certainty that she will say, "There's nothing I need," and, "You don't need to spend your money on me." It's from the secret handbook they give out at the maternity ward.
What I would really like to see is a new line of Mother's Day greeting cards, each of which expresses a variant on one of two themes: 1. Don't feel guilty, because it's not your fault; and 2. I turned out OK, so you can quit worrying.
These cards would effectively get to the heart of the weighty burden that so many American mothers carry, the cultural compulsion to run themselves to exhaustion on the emotional gerbil wheel of anxiety and guilt.
A Forbes essay this week explored the guilt experienced by wealthy professional women (the writer called them MATTs, for "moms at the top") over their failure to care for their kids all day, even though they can afford to pay somebody else to trim the crusts off organic peanut- butter-on-whole-wheat sandwiches.
It's the inversion of guilt experienced by stay-at-home moms, who worry that they should be working so they can send the kids to private school while role-modeling self-actualization and achievement.
Then there are the countless ranks of hardworking, doing-the-best-they-can moms who aren't MATTs and who can't afford to stay at home, either women who, when they have a spare moment to devote to worry, spend it marinating themselves in guilt over their failure to perform both roles with effortless perfection.
This is the present I would love to give my mom, and to all moms: the gift of absolution from needless guilt over the past, and a permanent exemption from unnecessary worry about the future.
There are certainly exceptions, but maternity by and large implies a large measure of sacrifice and selflessness, and I, for one, am grateful. Flowers and luxury candy are the least we can do.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "write3chairs" wrote:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-5JvACzGp8If you can stay with this to the end, you will hear something wonderful.
> Thanks, Mom, for the years of sacrifice, needless anxiety....
I hadn't heard or thought about this song in years! But today,
as I was walking along a forest trail, it started playing in my
mind, out of the blue. I have no idea why or where it came from.
It was just ... there. Anyway, I thought to share it with you all.