I’ve just seen this weeks ‘Big Issue’ magazine (sold on the streets by homeless people), and the bold heading was ‘MAKE YOUR MOTHER HAPPY – buy this magazine’! This completely crystallised my feelings about Mothers Day. Make your mother happy? Has she made you happy? You’re homeless!!
It is now time for the ‘post-Valentine’s-day-pre-Easter’ campaign to stir up our feelings of duty, obligation, guilt and shame again; and the magazines and newspapers offer us their own advice and ideas about how we can ‘please’ our mothers by buying them something – surprise, surprise!
Why do we have Mothers Day anyway? Perhaps it’s just to keep the on-line shopping carts, in-store trolleys/baskets, and the tills full. Call me a cynic if you must – I’ve been called worse and survived – but surely, if you are fortunate enough to have a mother whom you love, then I suspect she is already aware of this without the need for pink cupcakes or chintzy cushion covers, or over-priced flowers and chocolates……dutifully given on this Sunday 10th March.
What are the consequences of NOT giving/sending your mother a gift and card on this designated day? What’s the worst that could happen, and what does that then say about the quality of your relationship?
The dread is that other mothers will ask your mum what she received from you, and then know (or assume) that your mum has a child who doesn’t care enough about her to follow the mainstream and do the ‘expected’ thing. Then your mother just might be judged, rightly or wrongly, to have not been a ‘good’ mother to you, and that on Mothers Day you get your revenge and publicly shame her for her shortcomings.
Just to be clear, I’m not anti-business, but I AM anti the conditioning, media-persuasion, and guilt-tripping that such a ‘Day’ entails.
If you are one of the lucky minority (apparently over 90% of families are regarded as dysfunctional to some degree – although that doesn’t necessarily imply that the mothers aren’t loved in some way – albeit perhaps a dysfunctional way), who has/had a genuinely loving relationship with your mother then you aren’t a big enough market for the retailers. No, instead they must persuade and shame the rest of us to spend our money in the hope of easing the guilt, shame, sadness and perhaps anger we feel about our relationship with our mothers. They have us in their retail grasp – unless we stop and ‘think’ about what is going on.
Personally, and you may have already guessed this, I didn’t like, let alone love, my mother – in fact we openly despised one another (but she started it of course). In spite of this I used to feel compelled to do what everyone else – my siblings included – did and buy her a ‘Happy Mothers Day’ card. To reduce my feelings of resentment I made sure to search for a card that didn’t have a slushy verse inside. At least doing this felt like less of a betrayal of my real ‘self’ and my real feelings. And that’s the point – authenticity! We are conditioned not to be real, genuine, authentic or honest – as this, we are led to believe, would hurt the feelings of someone more important than we ourselves are. When we ‘learn’ not to be real whilst still an impressionable child what hope or chance is there for us to be real in the future?
It may seem that I am over-reacting due to my own lack of bonding and affection with my biological mother (I viscerally ‘feel’ the difference between what a ‘mother’ should be, and a woman who just happens to have given birth to a child), but the point I want to make is about living our lives ‘as-if’ our genuine feelings, needs and preferences were insignificant, and that we should instead attempt to please someone else. As-if something false were really true. Such ‘as-if’ behaviour is neurotic and it doesn’t sit comfortably with us – until we learn to become numb to its impact. and then go along with the flock and do what is expected of us…and Mothers Day is just a small example of this.
As for me, my daughter knows my feelings, and I have asked her again not to waste her money on a Mothers – or Grandmothers – Day card and instead to buy herself something. I doubt that she will heed my request again this year. She hasn’t been conditioned or emotionally blackmailed by me, but by her peer group and the media – which are still the most powerful influences upon behaviour.
On a different tack I do genuinely feel sympathy for those women who cannot become mothers for biological reasons; and even more so for those having lost a child through enforced estrangement; and ultimately for those mothers who won’t be getting the card and gift because their beloved child has died, in whatever circumstances. I imagine these Mothers Days are an annual reminder of their emotional agony – and that’s another reason to do away with them.
Soon it will be Fathers Day – and there we’ll all go again!
By Maxine Harley www.maxineharley.com www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk www.qpp.uk.com