I have never celebrated Mother's Day, regardless of what country I'm living in. I've always thought it was patronising twaddle invented solely to placate women and pretend that people actually value the work they do. I do know the origins of Mother's Day have been suggested in the possible Christian appropriation of a Roman celebration and that it possibly developed into celebrating the Virgin Mary. But, let's be honest here, the later tradition of allowing servants to return to their "mother's church" for one measly day a year isn't a celebration of motherhood. It's patriarchal-capitalist appeasement with very little intrinsic value. It isn't a recognition of the work women do, both waged and unwaged; nor is it a recognition of the [frequent] serious consequences to childbirth.
Mother's Day, in its present form, is merely a another capitalist-patriarchal tool to beat women over the head with. It remains nothing more than a depressing attempt at brain-washing women into believing that 'their' work is valued. Women's work has never been valued. We still do the majority of the childcare and housework whilst in paid employment. Women's volunteer labour runs community centres, playgroups, and children's activities. We run the fund-raising committees of the PTA. Women are the parents who volunteer to chaperone school trips to the zoo; who stand in the rain selling soggy cupcakes to buy new footballs for the school; women spend their Saturdays bagging groceries with Girl Guides to pay for camp and women do the unrecognised labour on which political campaigns are won.
One day a year where we get a Hallmark card and some flowers doesn't even being to compensate us for our work; that's assuming we get the day. After all, most of us are mothers as well as daughters, so whose day is it? Is it really 'mother's day' when you spend the whole day cleaning your house and cooking for your mother-in-law? Is it really your day if you still have to do the grocery shopping and plan the menu for the week? Just how many women get one whole day off when they are responsible for nothing and no one? When their partners do the work without expecting to be patted on the head for remembering to brush the children's teeth or take the kids to the park for an hour?
What really annoys me about 'Mother's Day' is the sanctimonious nincompoopery which gets brought up time and time again: "A mother is a person who when there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie". This appeared on my twitter feed last year, numerous times, as a retweet by someone called Tony Robbins who, I assume, is some deeply irritating celebrity that I have never heard of. Motherhood shouldn't be about sacrificing everything that makes you human in order to ensure no one else misses a piece of pie. I like pie. And, frankly, if an adult can't work out how to share those four pieces of pie so that everyone gets some then they should forfeit their piece. Not me.
Being a mother is so much more than sacrifice and we need to start reclaiming it properly instead of allowing Hallmark to run it for us. I don't want some flowers that will die in a week or chocolate that I have to share with everyone else lest I be mistaken for being selfish. I dislike being patronised and fobbed-off with cheap tat. I want motherhood (in all its forms) recognised and protected. I want maternal healthcare to be considered a major public health issue. I want women with PND to be able to access support. I want real legislation protecting maternity leave. I want universal and free at the point of access childcare. I want schools to be funded properly so I don't need to waste my weekends fundraising to buy pencils. I want universal access to birth control and abortion. I want infertility and miscarriages to be treated with respect. I want women who choose not to or who can't have children be respected for being women. I want a real healthcare system that cares for elderly, disabled and vulnerable family members properly.
I want fathers to support their children: both emotionally and financially. I want the CSA to actually work and men who refuse to pay be punished. I want abusive men prohibited from fucking over their ex-partners whilst pretending to have 'access' with their children. I want men who commit domestic violence to be punished. I don't believe men who commit domestic violence make good fathers. If you cannot treat your partner with respect, then I don't trust you to do the same to your children. I want men to start doing 50% of the childcare and housework. Until men start doing this, I don't believe they should be entitled to 50% residency. If you want joint residency, you get off your backside and do it before your relationship breaks down.
I want sexual violence and rape to be prosecuted within the full extent of the law. I want an end to prostitution and trafficking by criminalising the men who buy women's bodies. I want an end to pornography. I want the men who profit from the sexual exploitation and torture of women to be prosecuted and their assets seized to pay for rape crisis centres and domestic violence services. I want my daughters to grow up never having experienced sexual bullying. As Andrea Dworkin famously said, I want a 24 hour truce where no woman experiences rape.
For next year, I don't want a box of chocolates or some cut flowers. I want an end to patriarchal hypocrisy. I want all women to have the chance to healthy and happy everyday. Not one measly, pathetic day a year.
Follow Louise Pennington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LeStewpot