Mother’s Day is May 9th . Every year, officially since 1914 here in the States, we have been scrambling to show our mothers what they mean to us.
In ancient Rome and Greece, it wasn’t so much Moms being given gifts as much as the goddesses that represented Earth Mother. Goddesses wreaking havoc with empires were taken seriously.
Around the 1600’s England recognized Mothering Sunday, a day that children who had been cast off to work as slaves were allowed to come back and honor their mothers, have a meal and then be cast back until Christmas. It’s hard to picture anyone cutting loose on this occasion.
In the states, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that Julia Ward Howe who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic declared a Mother’s Day Proclamation for all the dead ‘sons’ from the Civil War. Not good enough. No recognition stuck until 1914 when Anna Jarvis, the daughter of an Appalachian homemaker campaigned to have Mothers’ Day declared a national holiday as a tribute to her mother. Lest we give Anna too much credit, she didn’t foresee the runaway train called Commercialism until it was too late. After filing a lawsuit to stop the flower buying madness, she lost and died blind, poverty stricken and childless. Clearly no good deed goes unpunished.
Nowadays we’ve swallowed hook line and sinker the idea that children of a certain age are expected to cough up a good gift for their mom, and no doubt provide a decent meal in the home or a lovely reservation. And for good reason. But at what age can you stop giving coupons that you made in school offering free hugs, or bathing without a fight?
Depends. What it depends on is who else is in the picture buying mom a gift.
A well trained husband or partner will step up to the plate, secretly taking the tots shopping for their beloved mother while teaching them the virtues of giving, even if they don’t have to break a sweat.
In my unofficial poll with Mothers, I found there were around 40% that fell into this category-an alarmingly low percentage. One friend has not only been served breakfast in bed by her school age children, but the breakfast tray often has a small box perched next to the orange juice. She won the prize for most catered to, but then had to admit that her birthday falls around the same time, and is often in the end penalized for the ‘birthday near a holiday’ dilemma.
Another has trained her spouse to purchase gift certificates from spas. Naturally these services weren’t actually for Mother’s Day itself, but a more convenient time when the husband is not available to watch the kids.
A girlfriend in Chicago helps herself to her husband’s credit card and books the spa services so that she feels less inclined to strangle him for his lack of enthusiasm for her Mother’s Day. Another gal I know does get flowers from her husband, but as more of a ‘kiss-ass’ gift since she spends the day with her kids and his mother.
And what about actually getting away from your family? When your kids are small, this is the ultimate gift: “Someone loves me enough to realize I really need to be away from them.” As you become the matriarch, you want your kids around and expect gifts and dinners which are a reflection that you’ve raised them right. Making decent money and spending some of it on you isn’t so much to ask.
In fact, the real big spenders might take you on a trip as was suggested by Forbes.com and Skyscanner: A Guide to the Ultimate Place to Take Mom This Mother’s Day. There was Mombasa in Kenya, and Sierra Madre, Ca, and there was Mamaroneck, NY, no kidding. That’s where I’m going!
But extravagance shouldn’t be the point. An Italian friend I know said that the meal was always at home and that the mothers always wore a corsage. Of course this didn’t preclude any mother from having to do all the cooking. As tradition would have it, white flowers were to honor mothers who had passed and red to honor those that are living. The same has been true in the states except the official flower since the early 1900’s has been the carnation. That being said, I know a few recipients of long stemmed roses that wouldn’t have the same reaction having carnations delivered.
So what is the mom pecking order anyway?
As a mother of young kids who is not too young herself, Mother’s Day is not my holiday in the commercial sense. Year after year my normally generous husband reminds me I‘m not his mother.
Good thing. On that day I still have my own mother and his mother to celebrate. I’m in no rush to be the matriarch with all the immense sentimental responsibilities that come with it. I have a friend who lost her mother and although she is a mother herself told me that she still spends that afternoon at Bloomingdales like they used to do when her mom was alive.
“So I can be with her.”
In the end, that’s all we need.
Kim Berns is a writer and interior designer living in Rye Neck, though her husband insists we say Rye