When I first became aware of Bereaved Mother’s Day, I felt a great deal of resistance to the idea of marking this separation. A mother whose child did not survive is a mother – full stop.
Then I looked up the origins for this movement and I applaud founder Carly Marie Dudley’s efforts. After her son died, Dudley created this day to move the needle around our overly commercialized and sanitized idea of what Mother’s Day represents. She recognizes and acknowledges that being inundated with a forced “happy” message is like a knife in the heart for many women.
The origin of Mother’s Day is not the overly happy and sappy day it is today. There were precursors to the official holiday in the United States dating back to before the civil war. Anna Jarvis lobbied in the early 1900s for a national day to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson nationally established Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. After the establishment of a national holiday, much to the chagrin of Jarvis, marketers seized the opportunity to co-opt the day to sell flowers, cards, and candy. Interestingly, Jarvis began speaking out against the day she had worked to bring into being and by the time of her death in 1948, she had completely rejected the holiday.
I understand that creating a Bereaved Mother’s Day is an acknowledgement of the complexity and diversity of mothers. The intent is to create a temporary movement to change the conversation around Mother’s Day. Eventually (and hopefully), this day will go away because it will not be needed when we embrace the vast spectrum of what it means to be a mother.
Mothers are complicated and a day to honor mothers should be multi-faceted. Thrusting happiness to sell merchandise dishonors mothers. Mothers are kind, cruel, flawed, deceased, an aspiration, separated, bereaved, happy, healthy, heartbroken. Motherhood is an endeavor that creates a vulnerability that encompasses the full range of human emotion from heartache to unbounded joy.
How about instead of “Happy” Mother’s Day next week, we have Mother’s Day? A day that acknowledges all mothers, not with candy and flowers but with respect for the courageousness of bearing children and the sacrifices that entails. We all share this path into this world. In a culture still very much steeped in patriarchy, where female agency and the gains women have fought for are being eroded away, a saccharine Mother’s Day serves to perpetuate the illusion of a veil of perfection that does not exist in reality. Womanhood, in all its forms, is worthy of our acknowledgement.
Let that be the result of Bereaved Mother’s Day.
Photo: freestocks via canva.com and renphoto via canva.com