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11 May 2014

Why I Do not Celebrate Mother’s Day and Two Myths About Motherhood

Painting: “Charity” (1878) by William
Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). 
Image part of public domain. 
Sometimes, I think of myself as a well-adjusted happy Norman Bates living with his perky mother. Therefore, all guests are safe and we are a Woody Allen comedy than an Alfred Hitchcock horror flick. 

It is Mother’s Day and yes, I am sure that you have just posted your heartwarming greetings on Facebook for everyone to see. You have just told the world how wonderful your mother is and how she has been a force of power, good and inspiration to you.  That is what Mother’s Day is all about, celebrating mother in all her glory, and her resiliency against pain.

I have not greeted my mother today and I will never. I once gave my mom a Mother’s Day gift before, but she just put in on display and she never used it. It is now on our shelf collecting dust. However, she appreciates more the monthly bills that I pay, the daily low-sodium / low purine dishes that I cook, the daily monitoring of her blood pressure, the occasional treats that I bring home and so on. For my mother and me, every other day is Mother’s Day, sandwich with “I Hate Mother Day” or "I Hate My Son Day." We fight. We bicker. We get on each other nerves. We hurt each other, but we also stick together no matter what, even if the cheesiness is non-existent. One of the most important realizations in my life as I grow older is that my mother is not just my mother; she is a woman, and a human being.  To treat her as just my mother is to belittle her as a person.

As a cynic, I find Mother’s Day celebration a tad bit condescending. We praise mothers for being “super moms” and “wonder women,” when in reality, they are not, and some of them do not spend their waking hours trying to be the perfect moms. They are human beings. They make mistakes; they have doubts; they have flaws. Each mother is unique. They have their own dreams, some of which they may have given up to raise us. They have triumphs and defeats. However, unlike men, we consider these human traits as weaknesses on the part of women. Thus, when a young woman chose to be a mother, society immediately puts her on a pedestal and gives her advice on how to be a good mother.

This article is not about that. This is written by a child who wants to tell young mothers out there that some myths about motherhood should be scrapped.  Do not beat yourself up fitting the stereotypical role! Your kids will not love you for it, only society will. You are not raising society. You are raising your kid.

These are just two myths, but there are more. I am sure you readers can figure out the rest.  However, let us not be sexist about this, this also applies to fathers, gay or straight.

MYTH #1: A MOTHER WHO KEEPS A CLEAN HOUSE IS A GOOD MOTHER

Being obsessed about keeping a super clean spotless house is a recipe for raising an anal-retentive child or the opposite, a disorganized slob who cannot seem to see the difference between a pigsty and his room. Children make mess because (get ready for this new scientific discovery) they play. Yes, they do, those little playful demons! Why were parents not told in advance that children like to play? That little bit of information was not included in the parenting manual. Those scheming gynecologists did not inform would-be parents in advance! Eventually, a mother has to make a choice. Keep a spotless abode by hovering like a Nazi Martha Stewart in her house and reprimanding her child for every spot of mess on the floor or on the furniture. Sure, her perky neighbors will lavish her with praises for having such a magazine picture perfect house, complete with fresh flowers, but her children will just remember their house as a horror abode where Mrs. Clean reigns with an iron fist. 

Alternatively, a mother can let her child play and have fun together as she looks out for any signs of creativity in her child's daily play activities. Even better, encourage her child to develop his or her innate talents. Certainly, telling kids to clean up after their mess is necessary, but telling your kids to go outside and play because he or she is messing up your beautiful “American Beauty” house is a classic evil Annette Benning move. We all know what happened to Thora Birch in the movie “American Beauty” in the end.

Keeping a clean house is good, but obsessing about it because it is what mothers are supposed to do is another thing. Remember, the hours you spent cleaning may be used to do other worthwhile things with your child, or with yourself. Read a book or go out with your child.

Based on my observation, children will not remember a mother for keeping an über clean house. Children remember mothers who let them be kids, and maybe, even play with them and clean up together.  Grown-up children do not reminisce and say, “Remember that time when mom told us to clean all the 20 banisters on our stairs, that was fun!” No, grown children remember the time when they made a big mess with their mom in the kitchen baking cookies, and eating the terrible cookies afterwards and laughing about it. Or making the floor dirty because you created many clay people and things using Play-Doh, or real clay.

My friend once told me a story about a mother who is obsessed at keeping her house immaculately clean that her children grew up preferring leaving the house than staying at home. Her children walked on eggshells at home. They grew up not equating fun and comfort in the house. Fun lies beyond the walls of the home. The mother eventually had a change of heart in her late sixties and became a born again Christian after realizing that her children resented her. Still, she remains to be obsessed in keeping things clean, this time around her soul. One of her children also grew up as a “clean freak,” many times worse than her, and he ended up losing his wife because of his self-righteousness and rigid “morality.” Cleanliness is never next to godliness because even God got dirty from time to time.

MYTH #2: A TRADITIONAL STAY-AT-HOME MOM WHO COOKS THE BEST DISHES IS THE BEST MOM EVER!

Yes, they are if you like living in the past, say, a hundred years ago.  Frankly speaking, I hate the past no matter how beautifully nostalgic you present it to me. Slavery, racism, sexism, religious fundamentalism and homophobia all reigned supreme in the past. You have seen images of smiling moms with beautiful aprons and holding perfectly baked pies, well, not all of them are smiling in the inside. I know for a fact that some of them would like to hurl those sweet pies at the world shouting, “This isn’t the real me! This is society’s drug prescription! Who wrote this f***ing script? I will slit his throat with my butter knife!”

“A pedestal is as much a prison as 
any small, confined space.” 
(Gloria Steinem).
For more info about the image,
Feminist activist Gloria Steinem said, “There will be no roles other than those chosen, or those earned.” Therefore, being a stay-at-home mother is only good if the woman chose it for herself. Similarly, being a working mother is also good if she chose it. Life is never linear. We are faced with many choices along the way, both men and women, single and married. Certain events will force us to change our plans but I think the key is we have the right to choose a path when we face a fork in the road.  Many women have told me that they were happier when they made their own choices: to be a mother, to be single, to be a working mother, to be whatever they wanted to be, or just be allowed to make mistakes, like men.  They became better women and better mothers when they do not feel they have to fulfill a prescribed role for a woman.

Do not buy that apron if you hate it. Do not stay at home if you feel it is stifling. Do not bake that cake if you hate baking. Ignore people who say a mother must do this and that.

I do not remember my mother for cooking the best meal, or baking the best cake. In fact, I do not think she has ever baked cake or a pie. I think I baked the first pie in our house. However, I remember her for bringing home cakes after work. That made us all smile.  

It is Mother’s Day. Who cares! We will not be celebrating it. Really, just a day? One day is easy. Try maintaining a good relationship with your mother on a daily basis without killing each other, that is more important. Lavishing your mother with gifts and praises for a day and leaving her alone the next day is not a celebration. Brutally speaking, it is tokenism.  To some people, Mother's Day is just payment for the 364 days they did not show up. Unless of course, you are forced to be physically separated from your mother, as in the case of OFWs. 

Now, if anybody demands that I must celebrate Mother's Day, I will slit his or her throat with my butter knife, which is warm because I just baked a pie. And I am a man, and yes, I like baking pies. I chose it! Just like many women who chose not to bake pies.

Ring! "Oops, pie is done. Anyone for a slice?"

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