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Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day Isn't All Brunch and Flowers

Julie Owsik Ackerman

For a few years in my early thirties, Mother’s Day was painful day for me. Not yet a mother, I felt sad, excluded, the subject of scrutiny. Maybe no one asked the impolite question out loud, but as I gained five, six, seven years of marriage, I heard the question loud and clear: are you ever going to have a baby?

I didn’t know the answer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mom, or if I could handle it. I’m glad I waited as long as I did, because motherhood has proved just as challenging as I imagined, though more rewarding also. I need all of the wisdom and patience I gained in my first 35 years of life to parent my son, and sometimes it’s still insufficient.

Mother’s Day can be painful for other reasons too: maybe your mom has died, maybe you’re struggling with fertility issues, maybe your mom was absent or abusive. Then there are the ever-present holiday expectations, fed by the media, and corporations who stand to benefit. “What do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” my husband asked me several times this week, with panic in his eyes. Battling a sinus infection, I’d been too tired to think about it. But by Tuesday, I figured I should give the poor guy some guidance, so I told him I wanted to sleep in, go to breakfast and receive some kind of gift. I appreciate having a sweet husband who wants to do something nice for me. I also know that on Mother’s Day, as every day, it’s my job to make myself happy. Feeling I need x expensive gift to feel valued on Mother’s Day is a trap, and I refuse to be ensnared in it.

Over the past few months, I’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, The FeminineMystique, The Mommy Myth. I’m starting to realize not only how difficult motherhood is, but how little our government and society support mothers. So what I really want for Mother’s Day is a culture that values mothers, not by putting us on some pedestal like the Virgin Mary, but by providing what we need to raise happy healthy children: good daycare, maternity leave, flexible job situations, a living wage, health care.

That would be a good start. And okay, some eggs benedict too.


  1. After spending most of my career in H.R., one regret is that I could never convince my employers to develop more flexible work schedules. Because I was in HealthCare, the response was often, "Nurses can already work 2 or 3 shifts a week."
    To me job sharing is a win-win--having automatic back-up because two people know a job. Not sure why more employers don't embrace it

  2. Mary Frances FoxMay 11, 2013

    Julie, as always, I marvel at your honesty. At 56. single, childless, I often feel irrelevant. Mother's Day could exacerbate that. I wanted to be a mom, but I was a purist: I wanted to be married to the father BEFORE I got pregnant. After I threw in the towel on that notion. I considered being an adoptive single mom. But the issues you raise gave me pause. So, on Mother's Day, I celebrate my mom, a recovering alcoholic, my Aunt Renee, my sisters who are great moms no matter how "tough" their kids think they are, and all the moms and grandmoms I know. Heck, I get to go out to breakfast WITH them!

  3. Julie, Sounds like we all need to move to Sweden to get your wishes for women. I read something on Facebook this morning that gave me pause. It said to hit Like if your children have defined your life. I have a son, whom I love, but to think that having him defined my life? Not me.

    I'm looking forward to today... walking in Philly at the Komen with a few thousand Moms and Mom fans; spending time with my Mom and getting treated to dinner cooked by my son in the company of his future bride's family.

    Enjoy your brunch.

  4. Thanks, Broads. Sweden sounds good, Chris. Or here's a thought, improving women's lot right here at home? Big job, I know.

    My very wise mom said when holidays are painful for her, she tries to make them special for someone else. Brilliant. Just another reason why we should celebrate Mother's Day, because so many of us are blessed with amazing moms.