Call me a curmudgeon if you will, but I just have to confess that I loathe mothers’ day. Not, I must make clear, because I have any issues with my own mother, or because I received a traumatic paper cut from a mothers’ day card in utero, or any other deep seated psychological trauma. Indeed, I also loathe Fathers’ day, Christmas, and sometimes even birthdays.
It’s the myth that these “celebrations” are actually about relationships in any way that drives me nuts. Let’s be perfectly honest here: Mothers’ day is not about mothers. It’s about massive consumerism and obscene profits. It’s about selling stuff.
We are bombarded with marketing that makes it quite clear: to express our love for our mums we must SPEND. Because dollars are a measure of love, apparently. Whether you “say it with flowers” (bought, of course – not home grown, unless you are under 5, when you might just get away with it) or “treat mum to a day of pampering” (not by you – paid for by you, but delivered by strangers, because that’s so much more meaningful), buying stuff “shows your mum how much you care”. Your devotion is best measured in dollars.
Even worse are the ads showing Mum receiving a “bad” gift. Here we ramp up the pressure – failing to pick the right gift is a failure of love. Don’t risk it! Spend more.
I hate feeling pressured to buy a gift at a particular moment, whether it’s a hallmark holiday like mothers’ day, a birthday or Christmas. If I find the perfect gift for someone I care about, I love to buy it and bestow it immediately, and then not fuss about arbitrary calendar deadlines. Sadly, I usually don’t do this, because the pressure to conform is strong, and not everyone thinks this way. So I usually save up the good gifts for birthdays and Christmas, where they get swallowed in the rush, and I bow to the pressure to come up with the goods according to those arbitrary markings on the calendar.
While there are some positive sentiments around events like mothers’ day and Christmas, these too can often become a source of stress for families. If Christmas is a time to spend with family, which family? Many people face the traumatic juggling act of deciding which family to spend it with, or they drive themselves to distraction trying to spend a part of the day with each branch of the family, incorporating those complex sub-branches where Doris and Aunty Beryl can’t be in the same room, but each expects more of your time than the other, as a measure (again) of your devotion.
Regardless of the arbitrary nature of designating one particular date on the calendar as important, the precise day is often treated as fundamentally crucial – businesses market it aggressively, restaurants clamour for your business that day of all days, and the pressure ramps up.
I am all in favour of expressing my love and appreciation for the important people in my life. But I like to do that as a spontaneous reflection of how I am feeling at a particular moment. Not on demand at the ringing of a bell. Woof.