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Mother's Day - What does it mean to you?

Whether you are full of happiness and gratitude on Mother’s Day or experience sadness (or any other emotion from heartbreak to anger to guilt), Mother’s Day is a day that conjures up much emotion - understandable as it is about the person who quite possibly had the biggest impact on our lives, positive or negative.

What do we know about Mother’s Day? Alesandra Dubin, in an article entitled ‘The Origin of Mother’s Day: 5 Surprising Facts About the Holiday ‘(, informs us that “Mother’s Day traces its roots back to wartime traumas and includes plenty of controversy”. The concept of a celebration of mothers dates to the late 1800’s as a Mother’s Peace Day, an anti-war movement to spread “unity across the globe”, to be celebrated yearly by women meeting to listen to sermons or readings, sing, and pray for world peace (hmm . . . that might not be such a bad idea today). But the modern-day celebration is generally attributed to Anna Reeves Jarvis who, after her mother died in 1905, wanted to honour her and other mothers as a group. The first celebration was in a church. The day was made a national holiday in 1914. Today, Mother’s Day has morphed into a commercial ‘success’ with $25 billion being spent in the USA on flowers and gifts. But Anna Reeves Jarvis saw this coming, and she aggressively fought commercialism and was even charged for public disturbance! Unfortunately, she spent all her money on her anti-commercialism crusade and died, penniless, in a sanitarium at age 84.

I imagine that there are as many kinds of celebrations for Mother’s Day as there are mothers., in an article ‘The five mother types’, tells us that mothers can be divided into groups: the perfectionist, over-controlling and anxious mother; the unpredictable, anxious, emotional mother; the ‘best friend’ mother who struggles with boundaries; the ‘me-first’, self-absorbed mother; and the ‘complete’ mother who combines the best of all of the other four categories, is “committed to motherhood”, is “emotionally balanced”, and helps her children achieve their independence.

And then,, in a somewhat lighter article ’15 Different Types of Moms - which one are you?', identifies 15 (yes, 15) types of mothers: the helicopter moms, the competitive moms, the wine moms (!), the ideal moms, the workout moms, the exclusive breastfeeding moms, the pessimistic moms, the free-range moms, the cool moms, the social media moms, the working moms, the fake mom friends, the hot mess moms, the exhausted moms, and the crunchy granola moms. (Hey! I did not make this up – and being, or having had, any type of mother is not a bad thing; the point is to be aware of what kind of mom you are, or have, so that you can understand and build on family relationships). The titles are self-explanatory but read the articles if you want more detail (and to see if you are the 'wine mom'!).

Of course, no mothers are always 'complete’ mothers; but if any of these mother-types goes to the extreme, that can cause all manner of trauma. On a day of celebration, let’s not forget that there are many people who did not grow up with a mother or whose mother was incapable (for whatever reason) of the act of mothering. In my career in human services, I saw both sides – on the one side, hurting people who suffered from either a lack of healthy mothering or from the complete absence of a mother and, on the other side, mothers who harboured so much guilt about their inability to raise their children due to their own dysfunction that their self-destruction into drugs and alcohol and mental health worsened. It was a vicious cycle. And the yearly reminder of Mother's Day was torture.

So, what to do on Mother's Day? Maybe those who are heart-broken due to the lack of a ‘mother’, can be grateful for the ‘birth mother’ who endured pregnancy and birth. Maybe they can be thankful for the tough decisions that birth mothers sometimes have to make in letting other people raise their children. And some people only have sweet memories of mothers passed on. But I imagine that the word 'mother' goes far beyond the person who birthed us. In some cases, maybe we need to acknowledge a different kind of ‘mother’ altogether. Some people might need to celebrate mother figures, the person who stepped in to help when they were needed. Maybe some people need to celebrate the very concept of mothering – the love, the guidance, the stability, the predictability – in a world of hurt. Some people might need to celebrate Mother Earth. Some might need to celebrate women who lead the way in whatever field and motivated them in a certain direction. Some might need to celebrate the beautiful mothers in the animal kingdom who instinctively know how to nurture. And some might have to celebrate themselves, for breaking cycles and being the best mother they can be. Let’s remember, too, that mothers might be step-mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, non-traditional sexual identity mothers, or man-mothers. There are so many possibilities.

So, just as for so much of the world today, let’s keep an open mind this Mother’s Day. If we were fortunate to have, or be, the 'complete’ mother, let’s not put pressure on other people. There is already enough emotion attached to the day. We can celebrate however and whomever or whatever we choose, or choose not. Some will be holding traditional celebrations with flowers and food; some will be celebrating sweet memories of mothers passed on; some will be grasping at helpful thoughts to bring meaning into a difficult day; others will be celebrating non-traditional concepts. The stereo-typical mother role might not be as prevalent as it once was. Remember, it did not even start out as a day to honour only our very own female birth mother. There are so many configurations that can be celebrated.

Happy Mother’s Day – however or whomever or whatever you celebrate.


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