Mother’s Day: What is the Point?

I had a conversation with my 3-year-old the other day about what, if anything, we were going to do for his mom on Mother’s Day. I suggested a few different options (a cake, a gift, a dance performance, etc) when I noticed my son was not all that interested in exploring the gift options for his mother. “What about my gift?” he whinely inquired, obviously nonplussed by the idea of a celebration occurring without his benefit being considered. I gently explained to him the significance of mother’s day and how it was one day (out of hundreds) that we “honor” moms everywhere. Dead silence, and then he hits back with this rejoinder, “What about kid’s day, I think we should celebrate kid’s day instead.”

I would be remiss if I, the author of a parenting blog, did not make mention of the annual phenomenon of Mother’s Day. It is arguably the biggest and most widely celebrated of all of the holidays to honor a group of individuals (sorry Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, and Secretaries Day) and is a veritable windfall for florists, chocolate makers, and long distance companies worldwide.

For some it is a requisite day to play nice with their mother’s and buy brunch, for others it is a day of humble reverence and respect paid to women who would (and in some cases have) split themselves in two for the sake of their children.

An interesting bit of trivia links the origins of Mother’s Day back to the feminist and pacifist Julia Ward Howe, who in 1870 wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in response to what she saw as unnecessary carnage and loss endured in the American Civil War as well as the Franco Prussian War. Howe’s belief was that it was women who held the responsibility to shape and influence societies on a social and political level.


Here it is in its entirety:

Mother’s Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Long after the memory of proclamation had faded, Mother’s Day became holiday in 1912, thanks to Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia who was intent on having a day of reflection and prayer devoted to motherhood and not a day of commercialized hoopla (sorry Anna). Still, despite the crass commercialization, Mother’s Day lives on and is open to interpretation. People worldwide have their own modes of celebration, and I assure you it is celebrated (not always on the same day) just about everywhere.

So now that you have a bit of history under your belt, how are you going to celebrate Mother’s Day? Will it be a confetti cannon of gifts and resplendent flowers, or is it something a little more humble in your world? Are these days of celebration necessary, effective, or essential in your life, or do you just see them as cynical marketing ploys?

Happy Mother’s Day!

73 comments

Katherine C.

My Mother was grew up very poor during the Depression and there was no money for celebrations of any sort. She LOVED all the commemorative days and made a big fuss over them all, decorating, etc. She loved giving and getting cards, and chose each one lovingly and carefully. It took very little to make her happy, and she graciously and warmly accepted all our gifts, no matter how gaudy or over-the-top they may have been in our younger years, because it meant that we had thought of her. Mother's Day, Father's Day-they are still important and relevant and I wish I had my Mom and Dad still with me to celebrate them. Now I go to the cemetery and put a flower on their graves.

Ann Eastman
Ann Eastman6 years ago

I had never known the early history of this holiday and had always assumed it was a "Hallmark" spurred festivity. Thanks for setting me straight.

Patrick Whyte
Patrick Whyte6 years ago

its important

Andrea M.
Andrea M6 years ago

I look foreword to Mother's Day because it gives me a chance to do something nice for my mom, who lives out of state. I do get a little sad around Father's Day because my grandad recently passed away and my biological father died back in 1992. However, my mother has since remarried and I was happy to have a "new" dad to honor. I used to ask my parents when "kids day" was and my dad would tell me that it's "every day".

Eli Is Here
.6 years ago

Great article. Thanks Eric!!

Lois K.
Lois K6 years ago

I feel kind of sad around Mother's Day, because my mom passed away almost 16 years ago. As a child, though, I loved making gifts for my mother. I think kids should be encouraged to give their mothers homemade cards and gifts, rather than just buying something ready-made. This encourages them to put some thought into the process and to take pride in being creative.

Oh, and your little boy will be happy to know that there IS a Children's Day in dozens of countries all over the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_Day Maybe you can celebrate by taking him someplace special, and by making a donation of food, clothes, or money to a children's charity. :o)

Holly Burns
Holly Burns6 years ago

Mothers day isnt till later in the year for Australians (i think) but yeah, i should really be nicer to my mother, after all she did give birth to me and spoil me every day of my life and still does... so yes i do indulge her in the commercalised stuff but she apprecaites it because most of the time im still bitter towards her for seperating with my dad... any way enough about me, that was really interesting about the history of Mother's Day, i actually really enjoyed it :) Thank you so much for giving your time to tell us that.. i appreciate it :)

carole a.
.6 years ago

My son calls me from the states or sends a card. My mother broke through the barrier to the other side. Interesting article. Reminds me of The Book of Negroes, an actual ships log of Africans sold in America. So many were sold away from their children. It must have been devastating, not knowing where their children were.

Joy Wong
Joy Wong6 years ago

Thanks for the info. especially the history of Mother' s day.

C W
c w6 years ago

Its too commercialised, like all other holidays (valentines!). Why should we focus all our efforts into one day of caring for mum/dad/being romantic? We should do these things all year round and give spur of the moment gifts, instead of "having" to do something on this day. It just makes it a chore. We should appreciate the people in our lives everyday instead of just on holidays