A critical reflection on Mother’s Day

Mothering itself is marginalised, devalued, and blamed for certain social ills

I am largely ambivalent about celebrating Mother’s Day. On one hand, the assignment by patriarchal society of children’s care to individual women is both problematic and unrealistic. The communal, village approach to raising children is not encouraged here. Mothers often sacrifice hugely to do the maternal work society prescribes yet this problematic practice is naturalised. Beyond this tokenistic, commercialised day for mothers, mothering itself is marginalised, devalued, and blamed for certain social ills. And some mothering is valued even less than others. The parenting of poor women, Black women, single¬†women and lesbian women is often discouraged, judged, disrespected and misrepresented. Further, mothering is unsupported by social arrangements and the state. The failure to allow some mothers to prosper through supported access to higher education, the availability of affordable quality childcare, equal employment opportunities as well as equal pay only serves to limit society from being all it could be through the increased contribution of women.

On the other, parenting work – albeit not only by women – should be recognised, supported and celebrated by society at large. Within the humdrum of everyday parenting lies opportunities to effect tiny bits of social change through what we teach our children, the actors who will shape and colour the social future. By raising children in ways that are conscious and radical – such as demonstrating to our daughters and sons the equality of the sexes, and raising girls and boys to resist modes of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ that are constraining and harmful – we can challenge the reproduction of degrading notions of gender. We can do the same for warped understandings of ‘race’, sexuality and much more. Of course, this is no easy task in the cultural context. And this responsibility belongs to all of society, not just mothers. Nonetheless, the radical potentiality of mothering is not highlighted enough. If something is worth celebrating today, it is this.

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