Mothers need more than flowers

(Originally posted 5/7/2016, re-posted Mothers’ Day 2021.)

Mothers’ Day is one of those Hallmark holidays that I mostly despise. As a mother, as a daughter, I have generally taken the attitude that the day exists to enrich flower and greeting card companies rather than to genuinely celebrate mothers. Mothers, of course, are people too, and none of us would be here today without them.

However, I have come to appreciate that Mothers’ Day has become a day, a season even, where we see in the dominant discourse a tiny opening for discussion of the conditions of women and children, and how life for mothers can be improved.

For several years, the charity Save the Children ran a “State of the World’s Mothers” report. Liberation News reported on this report more than once (here and here). In a nutshell, one of the best places in the world to be a mother turns out to be (drumroll please) socialist Cuba! When you combine free, quality healthcare, leading to very low maternal and infant death rates, virtually 100% literacy and high levels of education for women and men alike, access to adequate nutrition and more, you get healthy, happy mothers and children.

This year, Save the Children skipped the international report. Instead, in conjunction with Shriver Media (yes, that’s the Kennedy cousin and former first lady of California Maria Shriver) Save the Children surveyed 1,000 U.S. mothers and has issued a report “Celebrating the Resilience of Today’s American Moms.” Where’s the apple pie? All cynicism and disgust at the somewhat jingoistic slant to this story aside, there is data worth examining in the report.

  • Only 15% of U.S. moms believe the U.S. is becoming a better place to raise children while 53 percent believe it is becoming a worse place to raise them.
  • More than half report living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Two thirds of working moms believe that U.S. business culture makes it “nearly impossible” to balance work and family.

On a more positive note, one third of moms say that “caring” is the most important value they want to see in both their sons and daughters. They also value  intellectual curiosity in both sons and daughters. Roughly half the mothers surveyed said their families would benefit from more affordable health care (51%) and good retirement benefits (49%.)

These statistics seem in line with other indicators that people in the U.S., particularly younger people, are becoming consciously disenchanted with capitalism, and more open to socialism. This is a phenomenon we see in the outpouring of support for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Along the same line, mothers, who are people too, (I can’t say that enough) see today’s capitalist society as harmful to children and families. They simultaneously endorse caring and egalitarian values for their children and express their desires for pro-family programs that meet human needs.

This makes for a good Mothers’ Day (or any day) discussion.

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