NOT EVERY MOTHER IS HAPPY
Mother's Day should be more than shallow nonsense
Every year on Mother’s Day I read the original Mother’s Day Proclamation, written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870. It wasn’t created by happy mothers. It was the product of a unique and tragic congress: mothers of sons who died in the Civil War while fighting for the Union, and mothers of sons who died while fighting in the war for the Confederacy, gathered together in mutual grief and sorrow. They wanted the mothers of the world to find a better way. They wanted the mothers of the world to create a world at peace. They wanted no mother ever again to feel the pain that they were feeling.
The official Mother’s Day holiday, established in 1914, would become a parody of that original intent. Many people now take their mother to brunch, buy her flowers, or at least call to say “Hi Mom, how are you?” HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY are the words we usually utter, bandying about the word “honor” a lot; after all, it’s the day we’ve set aside to honor our mothers. But I think the way to honor a woman is to listen to her. The only real way to honor America’s mothers is to take the time to listen to us.
When I listen to mothers these days, I don’t hear happiness so much as I hear deep concern. From terror that their children might not be safe at school, to worrying about carcinogens in their children’s food and toxins in their environment, to economic hardships that impact their ability to provide their children the blessings of a material existence that will set them up to win in their lives, the mothers I talk to aren’t always happy these days. Let’s honor our mothers enough this year to bear witness to the rampant anxiety that so many mothers feel.
Today I honor the Anna Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe and all the women who gathered to create the first Mother’s Day resolution. I also honor all the mothers I know, and those I do not know, who feel as I do the deep concern of American mothers today: a cry of the heart which must no longer be neglected.
America’s children are in crisis, traumatized sometimes before pre-school. There are elementary school principals who have told me they have elementary school students on “suicide watch.” Millions of American children aren’t taught to read by the time they’re eight years old, setting them up more probably for future incarceration than for high school graduation. Death among American children is more often due to gun violence than for any other reason. If you think we have a mental health crisis now, just wait until a generation of children grows up that was praying every morning they wouldn’t be shot at school that day. Traumatized children very often become traumatized adults.
This Mother’s Day, let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s take seriously the deep concerns and fears of millions of American mothers who are feeling that things have gone out of control in America. Their sadness and anxiety isn’t dysfunctional; it’s a functional response to the dysfunctions of the time in which we’re living.
Put this mother in the White House, and things will begin to change.