Save the breakfast in bed, chocolate, flowers, and handmade macaroni necklaces. This Mother’s Day, I’m after something just a little bit more. On a day created to honor and respect all mothers, I feel that we sometimes fall a little short. And so, I humbly present to you my list of alternative Mother’s Day gifts:
1. Maternity Leave. I mean, it’s getting a little embarrassing at this point. We’re one of only four other countries in the world without mandated paid maternity leave. FOUR! We heap a ton of pressure on mothers, yet don’t provide the support they need in order to achieve these high demands. Want to help lessen a mom’s stress load? Skip the gift certificate to the spa and get her some paid maternity leave so she doesn’t need to worry about going back to work right after her body is still physically healing and her baby is still waking up every two hours needing to be fed.
2. Paid Sick Leave. In the same vein, let’s try and institute some mandates paid sick leave. We all know mothers work hard. They work even harder when they need to figure out how to balance a job and a sick child, let alone being sick themselves. Pass on smelly bubble bath and help mom out by demanding paid sick leave. It will help her feel confident that she won’t lose her job if one of her kids gets sick.
3. Destruction of the Following Terms: “Having It All,” “Mommy Porn,” “Mommy Wars.” This one is easy and doesn’t even require wrapping paper. All of these terms incite rage within me. They do nothing to further progress productive discussions around motherhood. Instead they’re divisive, demeaning, and destructive. If somebody could just void them from our lexicon this Mother’s Day I would really appreciate it.
4. Vow Not to Take Part in the Mommy Wars. Even if we get rid of the term, the concept is still everywhere we term. Stay-at-home vs. working moms. Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Attachment Parenting vs. Tiger Moms. ENOUGH! All of this infighting distracts from the actual, legitimate problems we could actually be tackling. Don’t allow corporate media to dictate how we frame motherhood. Take that judgement and focus it where it’s needed — lacking policy and support that would help all mothers.
5. Destroy the “Good Mother” Myth. What better way to make sure that #4 happens? This myth — perpetuated heavily online via Facebook, mommy blogs, Pinterest, etc… — only serves to build up a false ideal that is almost impossible to achieve (especially without #1 & #2). So, instead of a new, fuzzy robe, why not help me in tearing down this myth? Start by providing platforms for marginalized voices. Expand the narrative of motherhood and push the good mother myth to the curb.
6. Start Talking About Parenting As If It Actually Involves Two People. Yes, today is Mother’s Day, but let’s talk about dads. Because in this country, when we say “parenting” too many people actually mean “mothering.” Relying on traditional stereotypes not only erases fathers (and two-father families), but it also makes it harder for women to be seen as anything beyond a mother. With most families having two working parents, we need to be widening the discussion to include fathers as well. Maybe then the load will get a little lighter for moms.
7. Stop Fixating On Our Bodies. I’m over all the focus on certain celebrities baby bumps — whether they’re too small, too big, or just “right.” Don’t you dare get me a subscription to any women’s magazines, because I don’t think I can take another article telling me how to get my “pre-baby” body back. Our bodies are these amazing machines that can create and nurture life. It can take its toll. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to starve myself or pine away for a supposed ideal body. And I’d appreciate it if magazines that concern troll certain celebrity moms ease up as well.
8. Stop Telling Me How Exhausting Motherhood Is — Especially For Celebrities. Yes. Motherhood can be exhausting. I’ve been there. I’ve run on fumes after being up all night. But I don’t really want to hear how a well-paid celebrity is feeling super exhausted (despite her staff of nannies, personal trainers, and chefs). Okay, so I guess I still have a little bit of mother judgment within me.
9. Chocolate. I lied when I said I didn’t want chocolate. I always want chocolate.
Avital Norman Natham blogs at The Mamafesto.
[Image of mother snuggling daughter via Shutterstock]